By Dave Fidlin

Corrrespondent

After several reviews, a Whitewater panel has agreed to advance a $9.865 million budget for general operations in 2020 to municipal decision-makers.

Throughout October, the Finance Committee has been undertaking line item and department-level reviews of the broader municipal budget in meetings with city staffers. The final comb-through of the draft document occurred Oct. 22.

City Manager Cameron Clapper and Finance Director Steve Hatton will present the final markup of the document to the Common Council this coming Tuesday, Nov. 5.

At the conclusion of the last Finance Committee meeting, the revenue and expense sides of the general fund ledger were in sync with one another.

“I think we’re in reasonable shape,” Hatton said at the conclusion of the meeting. “We’re on track.”

Based on the plans in motion, the city is looking to increase taxes to fund general operations. A year ago, the city levied $3.96 million in taxes; the plan for the upcoming year is to levy $4.14 million.

Several representatives were on hand to discuss their specific budgets at the most recent committee-level meeting. Police Chief Aaron Raap was among them.

Public safety, which long has been one of the largest recipients of the municipal budget, is a capital-intensive aspect of operations — a fact city officials emphasized throughout the discussion of the department’s short- and long-term fiscal needs.

One of the Whitewater Police Department’s two major budget requests — upgrading radio equipment — is included in the 2020 budget. For now, the department’s other major ask of upgrading the evidence garage is on the backburner.

In his discussion with the committee, Raap said he understood the realities at play but expressed hope further spending requests will be honored in the years ahead.

“I feel confident that Cameron and Steve are doing the best with the amount of money we have,” Raap said.

Another potentially large capital request is to increase the size of the City of Whitewater’s sworn force, which currently stands at 24 officers.

Raap said he would like to eventually add two new officers to the department, pointing out the last time the department added an officer was 11 years ago.

“Things have changed, times have changed,” Raap said, pointing to the rationale behind eventually increasing the department’s size. “I’m going to continue to push for it.”

Clapper and others throughout the discussion said several factors, including restrictions imposed at the state level, limit how much the city can increase property taxes, meaning many decisions need to be addressed within the framework of the existing budget structure.

Based on the plans in motion, public safety comprises $3.541 million of the $9.865 million budget. By comparison, other departments include administration ($1.538 million), parks and recreation ($754,496) and neighborhood services/planning ($306,404).

After the council gives its review of the committee’s recommended budget, elected officials will hold a formal public hearing Nov. 19 and likely will act on the document immediately after resident feedback is heard.

 
 

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