With slowing growth limiting spending options, city leaders have focused on a zero-debt budget this year, and Monday night, the Common Council followed through.
With no discussion, council unanimously approved the city’s 2022 budget and $14.4 million tax levy at its Monday, Nov. 15 meeting, a 1.38% increase from this year’s budget.
Finance committee chairman Chad Kemp said the budget maintains city service levels, contains no debt borrowing, supports parks improvements and includes a 3% cost of living increase to non-represented employees.
The primary limiting factor in Wisconsin municipal budgets is a metric calculated by the state called net new construction, which sets the maximum they can increase their tax levy. This year, that number is just under 2% in the City of Verona.
As Epic’s decade-long growth sport of 2006-16 fades into history, the city has been returning to the rest of the pack in Dane County in terms of growth. Now, Verona is closer to historically slow-growth cities like Stoughton (1.5%) instead of fast-growing ones like Sun Prairie (4%) and Fitchburg (6%).
To adjust, the 2022 budget has no new debt, a significant decrease from the $1.7 million in the 2021 budget (out of $5.7 million total) and $6.4 million in 2020 (out of $9.4 million total).
Mayor Luke Diaz thanked city staff for their efforts during a tight budget process that started back in June, with a goal of holding the line on personnel.
“Especially thank you for getting the no debt borrowing, that's quite the accomplishment,” he said. “There were probably a lot of people being told ‘no,’ and I really appreciate it and I think it's going to put the city in excellent fiscal shape going forward.”
By law, the city is required to send tax bills by the middle of December.