By Bob Peryea

Correspondent

Interim City Manager Cameron Clapper presented a preliminary budget outline to Whitewater’s Common Council at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Councilmember Lynn Binnie summed up the outlook for next year’s budget by saying, “Thank you. That was very helpful, but not very hopeful.”

Clapper outlined a budget that reflects significant decreases in revenues, which is a continuing trend from past years. He also showed few, if any, automatic expected savings or revenue increases.

Councilmember Jim Winship said the presentation highlighted the fact that Wisconsin has an “out of whack system for funding municipal governments. As long as shared revenue treated us well, it was okay,” he said.

According to information provided by Clapper, state-shared revenue is expected to remain at last year’s level of approximately $2.83 million. This is down from $3 million in 2009.

Utility gross receipt tax revenues are expected to continue to decline as they have for the last eight years.  Transportation aids, which are supplied by the state, could be reduced as much as $50,000. Equalized property value is expected to decline 2.2 percent, also continuing a slide from previous years.

The only expected increase in revenue is in new construction value, which will allow the city to raise its levy by about $14,733.

Clapper pointed to the Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial Acts 10 & 32.

“The Governor spoke a lot about ‘tools’ that these Acts gave us, but the ‘tools’ haven’t been enough to cover the gap,” he said.

The biggest issue that both Clapper and several members of the Common Council said creates this dire financial situation is the city is not in charge of most of its sources of revenue. Intergovernmental revenues, transportation aids and utility shared revenues are all controlled by other government entities.  The only significant part of the revenue stream that is under the city’s direct control is public charges, license fees, etc.

Councilmember Stephanie Abbott summed up the dilemma when she said the only way to work out the budget will be to increase revenue or decrease spending.

“These are choices that are not easy and not popular,” she said.

The budget process will continue through November. Many public hearings and Common Council meetings will be held, during which “tough choices,” as Clapper put it, will need to be made.

The final public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 20.

Clapper also put forth a General Fund Summary sheet that is designed to make understanding the budget simple and easy for average citizens.

“Our current accounting system is an accountant’s dream, but a nightmare for the rest of us,” he said.

The proposed summary sheet is designed to show citizens at a glance where revenue comes from and how much is spent on different items.

 
 

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