Tax rate to drop by 7 cents per $1,000
BY KEVIN BONESKE
After no one spoke at the public hearing Monday night, the Rhinelander City Council approved the 2018 city budget.
Interim city administrator Keith Kost said next year’s budget has no cuts in services with a “very small surplus” expected at the end of the year.
“I think from the city staff’s standpoint, and (finance director Wendi Bixby’s) standpoint, we’re very happy with it,” Kost said.
As noted in the budget figures compiled and presented to the City Council by Bixby, next year’s general operation budget calls for $8,934,036 in total estimated revenues and $8,902,617 in estimated expenses for a projected surplus of $21,418.
Bixby’s report noted the changes in general operation revenue for 2018, which has an overall reduction of $9,534 from the 2017 budgeted amount, include an estimated reduction of $7,000 for special assessments, a $15,000 increase in commercial inspection fees, a $15,600 utility allocation increase related to administrative costs, a projected $7,000 increase in the workman’s compensation dividend and a $100,000 decrease with debt service money not needed to balance the 2018 budget.
The largest expenditure in next year’s general operation budget is for public safety with a total of $4,227,864, a 3.9 percent increase from the 2017 budget. Of that amount, $2,280,266 is for police, a 4.46 percent increase, and $1,947,598 for fire, a hike of 3.25 percent.
The budget figures Bixby provided note the general levy, which accounts for the bulk of city property taxes, will remain the same as the previous year at $4,605,421.
Next highest is the levy for debt service of $908,124, an increase of almost $3,000 in debt payments. The airport levy is remaining the same at $197,081, while a $1,243 increase is in the budget for a library levy of $268,689.
When also factoring in Rhinelander’s tax incremental financing districts, the total amount to be levied for city purposes comes to $6,398,251. That’s a decrease of almost $10,000 from the previous year.
Based on the city’s total assessed value increasing by more than $3 million to $615,760,800, Rhinelander’s tax rate comes to around $10.39 per $1,000 of assessed value, a decrease of about 7 cents per $1,000 from the previous year. For an owner of a $100,000 home, that would translate into the city tax cost dropping from $1,046.15 to $1,039.08.
Mayor Dick Johns pointed out the council’s action to approve the 2018 budget only affects the city’s portion of the overall tax bill for property owners in Rhinelander.
“The only thing that gets confusing is when the taxpayer comes in to pay his taxes, he says, ‘I thought you lowered the taxes,’” Johns said. “The city lowers it, but you don’t know what school district (tax) is going to be, or the county.”
Johns said the time and effort spent by department heads on the 2018 budget “supports the best interest of the taxpayers,” also noting the city “did not have a huge increase (for health insurance) as we saw last year.”
Finance Committee chairman Mark Pelletier said the process to put together the 2018 budget “went really good this year.”
“It wasn’t that we came off that far ahead…,” Pelletier said. “Keith worked well with Wendi on this and the department heads came in with their bare-bones budget right off the bat, which made things a little easier to deal with. Everybody did a great job.”
Pelletier said keeping the city’s health insurance costs down for next year “saved us.”