WAUPUN — Waupun City Council approved its 2020 budget of $7.15 million with little fanfare, but failed to give approval for the use of ATVs and UTVs on city streets after three tied votes Tuesday night at City Hall.

Accountant Michelle Kast and City Administrator/Director of Economic Development Kathy Schlieve presented the 2020 budget.

General fund revenue and expenditures total $5.9 million. The tax levy to balance those figures totals $3.1 million, up $100,000 (3.25 percent) from 2019. An increase of 3 percent is projected through 2024 including total levy, debt levy, levy excluding debt, levy limit and levy capacity. Debt levy will increase from 2021 onward to meet rising capital improvement and other needs.

Expenses will increase nearly $76,000. Wages and benefits will increase $103,000 (2.74 percent overall). The recent switch in insurance plans will save $22,000 in health insurance costs. Non-wage and benefit (operating) expenses will decrease by $27,000.

Challenges ahead, according to Schlieve, include funding for roads and infrastructure, workforce attraction and retention, slow growth, aging population, reliance on volunteers for fire services, managing debt service, levy limits and large swings in the levy rate. The majority of the projected levy increase is for general fund expenses, debt payments and equipment.

The basic tax rate stands at $7.60 per $1,000 of assessed value in Dodge County and $7.70 per $1,000 in Fond du Lac County. As approved, the city’s equalized (considering a 5 percent rise in equalized values) tax rate stands at $7.37 per $1,000 of equalized assessed value, two cents lower than last year. That is the actual rate paid by Waupun taxpayers.

“We’re the second lowest among our surrounding communities, with Horicon being the highest and Lomira being the lowest,” said Kast. “It illustrates how Waupun is an affordable community to live in, and how continuing with small annual increases in the levy keeps these rates stable.”

Schlieve highlighted the ongoing struggle to maintain roads and other infrastructure.

“If you look at what’s happening with road construction costs, they far outpace what we’re seeing with inflation. Hence you saw us take on a debt strategy in 2019, and you’re going to see that as an ongoing part in how we think of funding those things in the future.”

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The budget was approved unanimously.

There was no such luck for a proposed ordinance change to allow use of ATVs and UTVs on city streets.

Members of the Marsh View Riders first questioned allowable hours of operation (from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. in Waupun versus midnight to 6 a.m. on other trails), and the proposed banning of passengers on ATVs inside the city.

A motion to skip a first reading led to a 3-3 tie

“I had numerous calls and emails come over the last week,” said Nickel before casting her vote. “I wanted to give everyone this opportunity to be able to come forth and explain why they are for or against, to get the whole picture of how this can work. I wanted our department heads to do their due diligence, which everyone has done. I’m voting on what I have heard from the citizens of Waupun. In this case I’m voting no. The time limits and noise are a big factor. People are also opposed to having these vehicles on all city streets.”

Following a second tie-breaking nay, Alderman Mike Matoushek proposed accepting the first reading and delaying final approval to allow more citizen input. With that proposal Nickel broke the third tie with a “yes” vote.

With some kind of positive vote Waupun could be connected to the nearby Wild Goose Trail, which is open to ATV/UTV use following winter (or fall) ground freeze. Director of Public Works Jeff Daane warned, however, that Fond du Lac County has tabled all of its access proposals until next year.

Waupun could also limit use to certain streets or roads, and not allow city-wide access. A final proposal will be considered Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

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