City Council finalizes 2017 Rhinelander budget
Expenditures of $8,949,675 approved
BY KEVIN BONESKE
The 2017 Rhinelander city budget is now a done deal.
The City Council gave final approval Monday to general fund revenues and expenditures for next year budgeted at $8,949,675. The projected balanced budget in 2017 had been worked on by the city’s Finance, Wage and Salary Committee, which in earlier budget deliberations whittled down a projected annual deficit in the neighborhood of $500,000.
Finance Committee chairman Mark Pelletier said the committee had the task of not raising taxes and made spending cuts to balance the budget.
“Our mil rate was actually able to drop a little bit – not very much,” said Pelletier, who noted the budget calls for the city property taxes on a $100,000 home in Rhinelander to drop $7.40 to $1,046.15.
“I would like at this time to thank everyone from the department heads down through all the employees, not only with them working to help with the budget, but that also through insurance changes they ended up giving a little more,” he said.
Changes made related to health insurance for next year include discontinuing payments to employees who don’t use the city’s health insurance benefits and no longer contributing to health savings accounts, while having employees contribute 10 percent of the total in health insurance premiums.
“What we were paying (an employee who didn’t use the city’s health insurance benefits) was actually small in comparison (to the health insurance premiums), and it was a good savings to the city,” Pelletier said. “But we decided if we were going to take money from the HSA account, and not have that anymore, that’s going to directly affect all the employees that do have insurance. I thought it would be kind of hard not at the same time to not also affect those who weren’t taking insurance. That way anybody took a little hit.”
Pelletier also recognized the efforts of mayor Dick Johns, city attorney Carrie Miljevich and especially finance director Julie Ostrander in putting together the budget for the second year in a row without a city administrator. The former Rhinelander administrator, Kristina Aschenbrenner, began her employment with the city in September of last year and was terminated from the position this year in late August.
“This time, somehow, we were able to come up with (spending reductions of $550,000) without actually cutting into services,” Pelletier said.
Though the city tax rate is going down, the total dollar amount to be levied in Rhinelander is actually going up by more than $28,000 to $6,408,183. According to the tax rate calculation worksheet prepared by Ostrander, the city’s total assessed value has increased by almost $7 million to $612,548,900, which made it possible to increase the levy without increasing the tax rate.
The general levy, which accounts for the bulk of city property taxes, had remained the same the previous two years before increasing by $9,067 to $4,605,421. Next highest is the levy for debt service budgeted at $905,264 with a decrease of $11,271 in debt payments compared to the previous year. The city’s airport levy will remain the same at $197,081, while a 1.18 percent increase is called for in the budget for a library levy of $267,446. Ostrander also noted the city is levying more than $400,000 for its Tax Incremental Districts.
As noted in the budget summary, next year’s budgeted $8,949,675 in general operation revenue and total expenses is an increase of almost $9,000 in budgeted expenditures from 2016.