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Alderpersons Agree to Levy to the Max in 2013

Three of five alderpersons voted for a 2.74 percent tax levy increase, more than the 1.98 percent bump proposed in Mayor Michael Neitzke's 2013 budget.

A majority of Greenfield alderpersons voted to raise the property tax levy above what Mayor Michael Neitzke proposed in his 2013 budget Tuesday.

Neitzke’s budget called for a property tax levy of $21,834,243, but an amendment by Alderperson Tom Pietrowski tacked on an additional $161,204, raising the tax levy 2.74 percent compared to 2012.

Neitzke’s proposal included a 1.98 percent levy increase over 2012, largely to pay off debt.

Alderpersons Karl Kastner and Shirley Saryan backed Pietrowski’s amendment, which called for the additional $161,204 to go to the general fund to pay for public safety while shifting state transportation aids from the general fund to capital projects such as roads.

Alderpersons Linda Lubotsky and Pam Akers voted against Pietrowski’s amendment.

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“Next year (2014) is going to be tough one,” Pietrowski said. “Our operational costs are very tenuous, as the mayor stated. Departments are going to suffer potentially next year if we don’t maintain the dollar value this year.”

Levied to the max

The 2013 tax levy of $21,995,467 is the maximum the city was permitted to levy.

“Once you give up levy, you lose it forever,” Neitzke said. “I could in this budget have a zero-percent levy increase. I could do that. My fear is, if that is done, in 2014 when I expect there to be further cuts in the form of revenue to the city from the state, those (decreased) revenues will cause significant turmoil within the city.”

Neitzke said if more cuts were made by the state in 2013, the $161,000 in tax levy his budget would have left on the table theoretically could have resulted in the loss of two police officers or two fire fighters in 2014. Leaving more levy dollars on the table could have resulted in even more substantial staff or service reductions in 2014, he said.

“Do I want to seem the levy increase? As a taxpayer, I don’t want to see it,” Neitzke said. “But as the administrator of the city, you need to do it to make sure some of the revenue streams continue to flow to make sure that things that are essential and nonessential in 2014 can make it through that rough water, because there will be rough water.”

Neitzke said this year’s budget does not call for a decrease in any city services, essential or nonessential, nor did it require any staff reductions from 2012. Yet the city’s expenditures will drop 5.279 percent from $48.9 million in 2012 to $46.3 million in 2013.

Departments make sacrifices

Individual department heads were asked to submit a zero-growth budget for 2013, which was difficult, if not impossible for some of the smaller departments that have been cut in recent years.

Police Chief Brad Wentlandt, whose department accounts for more of the city’s budget than any other, said maintaining a flat budget was difficult because of contractual raises scheduled for 2013 as well as increases in health insurance costs.

But the department restructured capital equipment purchases including delaying the purchases of SWAT rifles, pistols and re-scheduling the digital upgrade to the city-wide radio system.

Those moves saved more than $300,000, Wentlandt said, which directly offset the increases in salary and health insurance costs.

The department also increased its Community Service Officer staffing and will have CSOs on the streets from 8 a.m. to midnight in 2013.

Derek November 26, 2012 at 04:40 PM
The police department already operates with fewer officers per capita than any other department in southeast Wisconsin. Every employee started contributing 6% to their pension and 12% to their health insurance and got no raise. That's a reduction in their take home pay of about 8%. The average officer makes about $60,000/year and for this we ask them to put their lives on the line every day. When you call 911 because someone is breaking in your house, tell the 911 dispatcher who makes about $40,000/year that she doesn't deserve a raise. When you hear of an officer being injured from a fighting suspect or because their squad was hit by a drunk, tell them they don't deserve a raise.
Str8shooter November 27, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Don't forget they work nights, holidays, and at times days straight. They miss their children growing up. They console abused children and then have to calmly speak with the child molester. And I would actually say 8% paycut is on the low end. Neighbors of mine are both public employees and together took over $9k paycut. I can't imagine taking a loss like that. With the number of Greenfield officers it would only take about a $2 tax increase per resident and each officer would have about a $2k pay increase. $2 out of my pocket isn't going to kill me but a paycut like my neighbors took would so that $2 is money well spent.
L. L. Mullen November 27, 2012 at 03:10 PM
The police department is not the only department in Greenfield, there are others that need to trim the edges.Government(s) on all levels are notorious for wasting money and just like the fat cat CEO's on Wall Street; they want to stack the burden on the backs of "the people" without parting with a DIME themselves. How 'bout a salary cut Neitzke? Lead by example.
KHD November 27, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Paying 12% towards healthcare is still low compared to the average that us taxpayers pay which is 27%. My health care premiums have been going up double digits every year for the past 15 years. The taxpayers are sick and tired of paying our fair share and paying the public employees share as well. I commend our police department and wouldnt be opposed to paying them more. We could cut some positons in the fire department. How many assistant chiefs to we have? They hardly ever have to fight a fire. We should have more medical emergency people, who make less money than a firefighter. Thats most of the calls the firefighters go on any way. Maybe sharing fire departments with other cities is the answer. Again, the most glaring is the Health care costs. Raise premium shares to 25% and raise deductibles and co-pays. They are not even close to what private employees have to pay. Abolish the pensions and go to a 401k retirement plan. We all know the city needs property taxes, but our home values have decreased 20%. The Mayor tried to keep the levy down , but 3 aldermen decided they know better. Do I hear RECALL them. Some in public government have no clue. Better wake up and find some savings, it is there to be had. Have some guts like Scott Walker did.
Str8shooter November 27, 2012 at 09:57 PM
@L.L. Mullen- I don't know all the statistics but I read an article months back that said most municipalities in the area don't even have a full time mayor so that saves a fair amount in salary and benefits. I don't know how much of that is true but it was a previous Patch article.

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