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Baraboo homeowners to see city taxes rise slightly in 2020

Baraboo homeowners to see city taxes rise slightly in 2020

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Baraboo taxpayers will see an increase in the city portion of their tax bills next year.

After about four minutes of technical difficulties and a presentation by Finance Director Cynthia Haggard, Baraboo Common Council members passed the 2020 budget Tuesday.

The new levy increases the tax rate to 11.33 per $1,000 of home value. The owner of a $100,000 home in the city will pay $1,133 in their city portion of property taxes. In 2019, it was 11.08.

No public input was given during the budget hearing. The council approved the budget 8-0 with no discussion. Michael Plautz was absent.

“One of the driving forces for the levy is the equalized value,” Haggard said. “Equalized value increased 0.61% over the prior year.”

The total 2020 budget will be $18.85 million with the levy contributing just under 47% of its revenue — $8.79 million, an increase of 3.36% or $286,000 from 2019, Haggard said.

Roughly $1 million was budgeted for street projects. A surplus of $600,000 from an undesignated general fund balance was applied to balance the budget and hold down the tax rate, Haggard said.

The city had more than 1.2% net new construction over the last year, which dictates per state law how much officials could raise the levy.

The proposed new debt for 2020 is about $2.7 million, Haggard said.

As part of the 2020 budget, the city will now contribute $30 per capita to the Baraboo District Ambulance Service. Haggard said the increase of $361,000 will be a 25% increase over 2019. Council members had argued over contributing to the service after concerns over whether BDAS was financially stable.

The Ambulance Commission pushed for the amount to boost reserves to ensure the replacement of equipment, particularly ambulances. The Baraboo District Ambulance Service serves the towns of Baraboo, Fairfield, Greenfield, Freedom, Excelsior, Sumpter, the city of Baraboo and the village of West Baraboo. The city, at 67%, is the biggest financial contributor.

Council members will convene Dec. 17 for a special meeting regarding the audit of BDAS. They approved the $30 per capita, which officials said would add roughly $36,000 to the service’s reserves, on the condition of being able to first see the results of the financial review. Concerns arose last summer about the viability of the service after Jess Seefeld, who is tasked with pursuing unpaid bills returned from a military deployment to find her duties had not been performed since she left a year earlier. The outstanding number needing collection grew to $1.2 million.

The proposed 2020 budget had a shortfall until Nov. 12 of about $31,450 with the elimination of the facilities manager position. Haggard explained that roughly $67,000 would cover the overage, with the remaining funding designated toward contracted services to be outsourced in the wake of the removal of the position.

Council members agreed to implement a citywide vehicle registration fee, commonly referred to as a wheel tax, of $20 to provide about $188,000 for road maintenance. A street light maintenance fee will likely provide about $155,000 in revenue to offset the cost of maintaining street lights. Both were approved as part of the 2020 budget.

The council also:

  • Recognized City Administrator Ed Geick for 15 years in his position in light of his impending retirement. Geick said he loves the city and wishes Baraboo a bright future.
  • Approved the Baraboo Improvement District budget of $47,900 on unanimous vote.
  • Approved the Alma Waite budget for more than $26,000 on unanimous vote.
  • Approved the 2020 airport budget of more than $320,000 on unanimous vote.
  • Approved the sanitary sewer utility budget for more than $1.75 million and set user charges on unanimous vote.
  • Approved the 2020 water utility budget of $2.43 million on unanimous vote.
  • Approved the 2020 stormwater utility budget for more than $786,000 on unanimous vote.
  • Approved the 2020 tax incremental finance funds for the city’s four TIF districts on unanimous vote.
  • Approved 2020 budget funds for 18 sources that are not funded by the levy, like taxi services, the capital equipment fund, Friends of the Library and segregated parks fees, among others, on unanimous vote.
  • Revised the permitted and condition uses in a B-2 neighborhood business zoning district ordinance on its second reading in a unanimous vote.
  • Appointed Jason Kent to the District 4 council seat until the April election and approved a mayoral appointment of Kent to the Finance and Personnel Committee.

Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget.

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