Keeping to a City Council guideline, if not a rule, to end Council meetings on the same day they began, aldermen ended their public Nov. 14 meeting at around 11:30 p.m., after a straightforward regular meeting and an intense budget discussion. The City Manager’s budget contained a 7.91 percent increase in the City’s portion of the property tax – about 20 percent of the overall tax bill. Some homeowners who itemize deductions on their federal tax returns may receive a benefit from by deducting their personal property taxes.
The top priority for most aldermen appeared to be restoring the forestry-worker positions that City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz had proposed eliminating. By outsourcing the removal of large trees, Mr. Bobkiewicz said, the City could eliminate the four positions and garner some savings. Forestry department officials who analyzed the impact of the proposed cuts identified 38 services that would not be performed if the positions were eliminated.
Several residents at the citizen comment portion of the meeting spoke in favor of restoring the positions. Two residents spoke in favor of making more cuts, saying that people in the private sector were suffering and that City workers should share in the sacrifice.
Aldermen voted to restore the forestry-worker positions. To cover those costs and to try to find additional revenues in order to keep property taxes down, aldermen voted, among other things, to do the following:

  • Transfer the cost of collections of overdue fines from the City to the violator
  • Increase the cost of refuse collections by $4 to $14.95 per month for large carts and by $1 to $7.95 per month  for small carts
  • Increase parking-meter rates by $.25 across the board, bringing the rates to $1 per hour in the downtown area and $.75 per hour in the outer business districts
  • Increase the projected revenues from taxes on athletic events
  •  Revisit the revenue projections from the real estate transfer tax

At tonight’s meeting, 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 15, aldermen are expected to consider whether or not to outsource crossing guards and ways to decrease the property tax increase by about 3 percent. The way Mr. Bobkiewicz presented the budget, the property tax increase was split into two places – the police and firefighters pension funds and the General Fund, or main operating budget –  with a 3 percent increase for the General Fund and a 4.91 percent increase to make the actuarially required contributions to the police and firefighter pension funds. Alderman Jane Grover asked Mr. Bobkiewicz to propose ways to “decrease the General Fund” tax hike.
By law, the City must approve a balanced budget before Jan. 1, the beginning of the City’s next fiscal year.