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Tax bills to be higher, despite tax rate drops: Beaver Dam adopts trash utility to reduce budget

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Beaver Dam City Administrator Nathan Thiel, left, confers with Mayor Becky Glewen on Monday night at City Hall following the approval of the 2023 city budget by a 7-4 vote.

Beaver Dam taxpayers will pay more in 2023, despite lower tax rates in every jurisdiction.

On Monday night, the 2023 city budget was approved by a 7-4 vote at Beaver Dam City Hall. Ald. Joe Bonnet was not present.

With a proposed general fund of $19.2 million, after $6.3 million in revenue, there will be a tax levy of nearly $13 million. Adjustments successfully removed $751,000 from the operating budget, balancing revenue with expenses for an overall tax levy decrease. Equalized property values in the city (without TIFs) increased by $159 million.

The total equalized tax rate, including city operations and debt, stands at $9.44 per thousand dollars of equalized assessed property value, down 21 cents from 2022. The net tax rate, including county, schools and technical schools, stands at $21.20, down $1.04 from 2022.

The $557,000 reduction to the levy with the creation of a solid waste utility will translate into a $63 reduction in tax rate for the owner of a Beaver Dam home of median value ($166,300, up from $144,400 in 2022).

Total property taxes stand at $3,526 for a median-value home, up $314 from $3,212 in 2022. The city portion of that bill is $1,569, up $176 from last year.

The approved budget addresses a million-dollar shortfall. While some alderpersons objected to the idea of a solid waste utility, others believe it is a practical solution given the tightness of the budget and steadily increasing costs.

“The city was faced with a significant deficit this year and I think that the council acted with prudence, wanting to make sure that we’re able to provide the essential services required by all of our citizens,” said City Administrator Nathan Thiel. “They will continue the progress that we have made as a community. I think that the decisions that were made are going to put the city in a good position moving forward to secure our financial future.”

The $19.2 million budget includes $2.5 million (12.5%) for general government, $8.9 million (45.5%) for public safety, $1.8 million (9.4%) for public works, $1.9 million ((9.5%) for library and recreation and $4.5 million (23%) for debt service.

Ald. Mick Fischer warned, “We have to keep a close eye on that debt service number, because that’s the one that can get out of hand real quickly.”

A new public works and parks garage and street projects cost the city $13 million, to be paid off in 10 years. Annual impact on debt service is $1 million.

Thiel said, “Over time the plan is to decrease that debt service and we’ll see that in tax impact. Currently we’re working to secure that rainy day fund (fund balance) that will position us well. Also, we’re playing catch-up with a lot of capital projects that were delayed in years past. So we’ll continue to see improvements in the community that our residents will be proud of.”

In order to set up a solid waste utility, the city was required to reduce the levy by $557,000. The remaining levy, and $751,000 in budget adjustments, will place the city under tax revenue limits while helping to build a fund balance (reserve) that was utilized last year to reduce the 2022 levy.

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