Whitewater City Council officially adopts 2012 budget

Whitewater Common Council adopted the 2012 operating budget last Tuesday, in which citizens are faced with a half-percent increase in the tax levy.

The budget was unanimously approved, although councilman Jim Olsen was not in attendance. The District 2 seat was not yet filled during the vote, although junior Stephanie Abbott was granted the seat later in the night.

The proposed budget originally put out by City Manager Kevin Brunner did not contain the .47 percent increase in the tax levy as a cost reduction tactic.

The council debated on the $13,000 increase in the tax levy being used to help fund one of the Community Service Officer positions. The city currently holds two CSOs.

Although Brunner did not include the levy increase in the operating budget, by state law it would have been permissible.

The approved budget will call for a reduction of $130,000 in city spending, which results in a 1.4 percent decrease from the previous year’s budget.

Walworth County tax rates are increasing 0.3 percent. Members in the Walworth County portion of the city will see an increase from $5.21 to $5.23 per $1,000 assessed valuation.

Jefferson County tax rates are decreasing 10 cents, from $5.32 to $5.22 per $1,000 assessed valuation.

Every city department is faced with a four percent cut to make up for the $130,000 reduction.

With each department doing something differently to make up for the cuts, Police Chief Lisa Otterbacher said her department was planning on cutting one of the two CSO positions. Just that cut alone would save approximately $13,000 in the Police Department’s budget.

A CSO deals a lot with parking around the city. Otterbacher said the parking issues dealt with now by CSO’s would become less of a priority in the new budget. She said more of their time would be spent dealing with crimes in the city, such as assaults and thefts.

Councilmen Lynn Binnie and Jim Winship addressed concern with the CSO cut. Binnie motioned to amend the budget, in hopes that the levy would be increased by the .47 percent, which would help finance the part-time CSO position. Winship seconded the motion.

Councilman Jim Stewart motioned an amendment to the amendment offered by Binnie and Winship, suggesting the  CSO position be funded by the city’s funds.

Stewart’s amendment failed on a 3-2 vote.

Following the debate, the council voted on the final 2012 operating budget. The vote passed 5-0.

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