By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

An increased financial contribution into the privately run Whitewater Fire Department and potential uses for federal ARPA funds were among some of the items highlighted this week as city officials presented a first-ever biennium budget that is set to kick in on Jan. 1.

On the heels of a preliminary presentation a month ago, City Manager Cameron Clapper and Finance Director Steve Hatton gave a deep dive look into Whitewater’s potential financial operating plans in 2022 and 2023 at a Common Council meeting Nov. 2.

“The road ahead – it’s looking bright,” Clapper said at the conclusion of the presentation to city decision-makers. “But we do have some challenges.”

Several weighty issues face the city in the road ahead, according to officials, including ongoing property tax levy limits and the continued need for affordable single-family housing.

As was previously announced, Whitewater officials are taking advantage of a provision in state statute by adopting a two-year budgeting model that mimics state-level practices. The city’s 2023 budgeting plan will be revisited and potentially modified in a year as pertinent data comes into sharper focus.

The city’s Finance Committee combed through the budget Clapper and Hatton initially presented a month ago and recommended modifications were incorporated into the version presented to the council at the most recent meeting.

The formal presentation is a precursor to an official public hearing on the 2022-23 budget at the council’s next meeting Nov. 16. The document could be voted on and solidified at the same meeting.

In the next two years, city officials plan to increase the general fund – the portion of the budget that fortifies day-to-day operations within municipal government.

In 2022, the tentative general fund clocks in at $10.02 million ($8.98 million toward operations and $1.04 million toward paying down debt). In 2023, the proposed general fund inches up to $10.41 million ($9.26 million toward operations and $1.15 million toward debt).

One area of municipal operations highlighted amid the most recent overview was related to Whitewater Fire Department Inc., the privately run organization that runs the namesake fire and rescue agency.

In 2022, Clapper said the city is poised to increase funding into WFD to the tune of $344,000 to accommodate a shift in the agency’s staffing model, from paid-on-call to hourly. The effort is aimed at ensuring Emergency Medical Services operations are fully staffed.

WFD also is asking adjacent townships to contribute additional funds. Approximately 80 percent of the department’s call volume is within the City of Whitewater, with the balance linked to neighboring rural areas.

Hatton gave another glimpse into the share of federal funds the city is poised to receive through the American Rescue Plan Act that was adopted early this year. Whitewater is to receive $1.5 million of the $2.5 billion allocated to the state.

The city plans to allocate a portion of the ARPA funds toward recouping revenue lost at the height of the pandemic, as well as investing in water and sewer infrastructure, which are among the permitted uses for the funds.

Whitewater’s mill rate in both counties is set to decrease in 2022. In Walworth County, it is decreasing from $6.57 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2021 to $6.36 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in the year ahead.

For the portion of the city that falls within Jefferson County, the 2022 mill rate is $6.41 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, down from this year’s mill rate of $6.55 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

 

 
 

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