Property tax pending council approval

Kimberly Wethal, Editor-in-Chief

City of Whitewater residents will see an increase in the property tax mill rate in the fiscal year of 2018, should the Common Council approve the budget in the form it was presented at the Nov. 7 meeting.

Several operations within the city took a decrease in their proposed budgets from the current fiscal year – the public works department is anticipating $55,915 cut, and the emergency preparedness budget is down by $2,082, almost a quarter less than their operating budget this year.

Regardless of cuts to departments that Cameron Clapper, manager for the City of Whitewater, said could operate with fewer funds, the tax levy is proposed at an increase of an additional $126,180 in tax revenue, with mill rate increase for city residents in both Walworth and Jefferson Counties.

The additional tax revenue would raise the entire tax levy to $3,473,800, a little over 10 percent of the entire 2018 budget of $32,458,344.

The mill rate, calculated as the cost in taxes per $1,000 in property value, would increase by $0.09 to $6.07 for city residents who live in Walworth County. Jefferson County’s mill rate would increase by $0.21 to $6.14.

That means a city resident in the Walworth County would pay $910.50 on a home valued at $150,000. Any home worth $300,000 or more would pay $1,821.

For residents that live on the Jefferson County side of Whitewater, they would pay $921 on a home assessed at $150,000, and $1,842 on a home worth $300,000.

Taxes for the City of Whitewater have been steadily increasing since 2004, as the state has continuously offered less in financial support. In 2004, the state of Wisconsin contributed $4.8 million to city operations, or 57 percent of the overall operating budget; today, the state budget only allows for $4.5 million in assistance, totaling only 49 percent.

It hasn’t helped that other sources of revenue for the city have either remained fairly stagnant or have decreased, and has left city residents footing the bill. As a result, local taxes have gone from 27 percent of the city’s revenue in 2004 to 38 percent for the upcoming fiscal year.

The combined budgets for the city’s departments is expected to increase by $49,016. Decreases in the operating budgets for information and technology services, emergency preparedness and public works help to offset an increase of $60,181 for City of Whitewater Police, $14,380 for Finance and Risk Management and $16,793 for general administration.


Washed-out wages

City employees might be looking at a 1.5 percent wage increase for the 2018 fiscal year.

They shouldn’t be going on shopping sprees anytime soon.

The increase in wages, while meant to keep salaries competitive with other municipalities in the area, serves another purpose: offsetting a decrease in contributions to employee healthcare costs.

In the 2018 budget, it’s projected that employees will be paying 3 percent more of their healthcare costs, up from the 12 percent they currently pay with their healthcare benefit packages.

Three new employee positions have also been written into the 2018 fiscal budget. The city would transition a human resources coordinator from a part-time position to full-time, add a city comptroller position that would oversee management and accounting responsibilities in the Finance Department and an additional clerical worker for the police department due to an increase in open records management duties.

A temporary library position was eliminated for the 2018 budget.


Looking forward

The City of Whitewater has some plans on the horizon.

A new website design for is anticipated at the cost of $5,700 a year. A new website will provide a “refreshed image” for the city, Clapper said, and make navigating the website easier.

The city is also looking to develop a long-term financial plan to serve as a foundation for future planning efforts, a management system to track citizen inquires and feedback and the potential for a library expansion.