Oak Creek city leaders say they did what residents told them they wanted for the 2013 budget: maintain services with less spending and fewer employees.
The property tax levy of $19 million does not rise except to account for new growth (about 0.9 percent). Officials were also pleased that for the first time in three years, the city did not dip into its reserves to help fund general operations.
The city's budget for general operations, $23.7 million, is $333,700 less than last year, a 1.6 percent decrease.
Part of that decrease comes from savings like the two positions in the Oak Creek Street Department that were eliminated through attrition after the city privatized its garbage pickup.
"Revenues are tight; costs of running a local government do not get cheaper. Those challenges get harder every year," Mayor Steve Scaffidi said. "For the most part we've done a very good job at maintaining services at the highest possible level. I know that because the residents have told me that and other city leaders that I meet with have said the same thing.
"We continue to do more with less, which as somebody that comes from the private sector knows is the mantra for how things are done now."
The tax rate is an estimated $6.51 per $1,000 of assessed property value, up from $6.31 in 2012. That means a person owning a $200,000 home would pay $1,302 on the city portion of their tax bill.
The increase in the tax rate is due to the equalized value of the city dropping by 5 percent.
The city's portion of an Oak Creek resident's tax bill is roughly 25 percent. The school district takes up about 37 percent; Milwaukee County, 23 percent; and the state, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District all less than 10 percent.
Alderman Mike Toman noted the tax levy has stayed relatively flat not only this year, but throughout the previous four years. Taxes in Oak Creek compare favorably to other communities in Milwaukee County.
"It's outstanding the job that (city) staff has done with this budget and over the past five years," Toman said.
Other highlights from the budget:
- Like it did this year, the budget includes $1 million toward redevelopment of the city's lakefront.
- Despite the loss of Street Department employees, officials say snow plowing won't be affected. One position each in the forestry and park maintenance departments went from part-time to full-time, and those employees are required to have a commercial driver's license so they can be tapped to help plow snow. The city was also able to maintain its fleet of snow-plowing trucks.
- Officials project the EMS fund will run a deficit balance of $400,000, despite Milwaukee County's subsidy of $134,000. "The city must decide if it is going to commit resources to EMS services to shore up the fund, restructure service delivery or some combination of the two or the fund will continue to be insolvent," Finance Director Mark Wyss and City Administrator Gerald Peterson wrote in a report to the council.