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City budget plan includes a dip in levy
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MONROE - The city of Monroe's 2013 budget includes a tax levy that sits at $6.134 million - down just one-quarter of a percent from $6.150 million in 2012.

The budget is expected to go to the Common Council for approval in November.

Comptroller Bridget Schuchart said taxpayers will see little difference in the city tax bill compared to this year. Schuchart is expecting property values from the state in November, and will use those to calculate the final tax rate.

"I think this budget is in a very good place," said Brooke Bauman, committee member. "It's not perfect, but a budget is a plan. I'm proud of where it sits right now. I'm eager to hear public input and full council input."

"I think it's pretty good that we kept it at zero percent (increase)," said Tyler Schultz, also a member of the committee. "I would like to see a decrease, but I think it's time to move it on."

The Finance and Taxation Committee met briefly Tuesday, Oct. 30 to go over the final numbers of the budget, and voted unanimously to send the budget to council.

Members approved several changes - resulting in a nearly net zero impact to the budget they finished Thursday, Oct. 25 - as recommended by department heads and City Administrator Phil Rath.

They made no attempt to reinstate funding for the Green County Development Corporation, which they voted to eliminate from the city budget by a 2-to-1 vote Thursday. GCDC, a non-profit organization, was formed in 1993 as a community development resource for businesses and communities. The city gave GCDC $28,670 in 2012 and $30,000 in 2011.

Mayor Bill Ross sent a memo Monday to all the aldermen urging them to undo that cut. Council members are expected to discuss the defunding at their meeting in about three weeks.

The council is also expected to discuss the reduced budget for the parking ramp maintenance account. Finance and Taxation members cut about $24,000 from that budget, leaving $30,000, with the idea that the ramp will be totally revamped or rebuilt with bonding.

Committee alternate member Tom Miller wanted to keep the entire proposed amount, $54,000, in the budget.

Chairman Reid Stangel explained that, regardless of how the city remedies the ramp's aging structural problem, bonding for the project will be necessary. The city could tax to its limit now and reserve the funds or pay interest on the bonding later, he said.

Miller believed it was the "city's responsibility to do whatever we can to keep it going."

"For a $3 million dollar project, we need to look hard at the budget now - to see how we can build (funds)," he added.

Without any discussion from other members, Stangel and Miller decided to let the issue play out in council. Miller added that it would be brought up then.

The committee also did not pursue the additional levy limit allowed from net new construction, about $28,500 for 2013 and another $30,700 for an allowable portion from 2012. The total allowed net new construction for 2013 would have added about $59,000 to the levy, which would added about $3 of city taxes for a $100,000 home.

The council also did not add about $56,000 to the levy for net new constriction last year. The city is allowed to use about 60 percent of it for this year.

The city must publish a notice of a public hearing for the budget 15 days before the hearing. The council can then vote on the budget, which members usually do immediately following the public hearing. That meeting is expected to be Nov. 20.