The plan to keep Verona from adding to its debt appears to be well on its way.
The proposed budget that’s scheduled for a public hearing Nov. 15 would fund more than $3 million in capital spending without a dollar of increased debt. It would also keep increases related to staffing essentially to cost-of-living adjustments.
Among the city’s planned spending is more than a half-million dollars in replacement vehicles and equipment in the city’s police, fire and public works departments, more than $800,000 in utility infrastructure, a half-million dollars in road maintenance and about $150,000 in new and upgraded sidewalks and trails.
Department heads were informed that with lower-than-traditional growth -- less than 1.5% in net new construction, which sets the city’s tax levy limit -- the city would have little room to add staff. Much of that extra spending capacity (which also can come from miscellaneous state aids and the use of the city’s reserve funds) is planned for 3% cost-of-living increases for both union and non-union personnel.
But even in a tight year, the city is well set up for replacing vehicles and equipment and making maintenance, repairs and upgrades to facilities. That’s a result of the revolving funds the city annually puts more than $600,000 into, courtesy of the closure of the Epic tax-increment financing district starting in 2017.
Simple process this year
Those funds, which reduce peaks and valleys in spending, and the limited growth made for a simpler-than-usual budget process.
The mayor and Finance committee put out broad goals over the summer -- no new debt, the 3% wage adjustment, keep the city’s insurance, rather than looking for cheaper alternatives. After city administrator Adam Sayre and finance director Brian Lamers put together a proposal to fit the available funds, they presented an early draft to the Finance committee Sept. 27 and got minimal feedback, Sayre and Lamers told the Press.
Two weeks later, alders had no questions or comments with the updated proposal, which is what alders will see Monday, Nov. 8, when Sayre and Lamers present it to alders in the Committee of the Whole meeting.
Alders can offer amendments as late as Thursday, Nov. 11, and the proposal goes to a public hearing, and presumably a vote afterward, on Nov. 15.
Keeping things tight
Unlike some years, when department head requests add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars more than is available, there wasn’t much to debate.
The only staffing changes are increasing a half-time nutrition aide for the senior center to full time because of the new agreement with the Town of Verona, cutting half of an administrative secretary’s salary in the Senior Center and reducing to 60% a full-time utility accountant position that’s been unfilled for two years.
The city also had some help in the form of increased transportation aids from the state and $657,000 remaining in the fund balance, all of which is slated for road maintenance and improvements.
To hit the remaining target, for the most part, staff recommended pushing back the purchase of replacement vehicles -- including two fire trucks and a $155,000 wheel loader.