PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Responding to financial strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing workforce shortages, Platteville city leaders have approved a budget that will increase taxes, but not as significantly as they initially anticipated.
Meanwhile, the city hopes to retain staff and maintain the capacity to attract new staff members, and it has crafted a $17.7 million budget that focuses on increasing staff pay across multiple employment categories.
“This budget is not requesting any additional staff. It is not requesting any type of big programs,” said City Manager Adam Ruechel. “We are trying to invest in the employees that we have.”
The city’s property tax rate will increase to $8.27 per $1,000 of assessed value, meaning an owner of a $150,000 home would pay about $1,240.50 in city property taxes annually, a $37.50 increase relative to 2021.
Residents also will see sewer meter charges increase from $15.45 to $16.22 per month and a volume rate increase from $4.75 per 100 cubic feet to $4.99.
The additional revenue is being funneled into operational staffing costs along with supply and equipment contracts.
The proposed budget includes an across-the-board 1% wage increase for nonunion city staff at a cost of $19,903. Police officers will see a 4% wage increase, increasing expenses by $27,900.
“When we have been recruiting to bring in new officers, it certainly has been a struggle,” Ruechel said.
Wages for recreational seasonal workers will likewise increase, adding $10,500 in costs. The city also has increased the base rate of pay for multiple employees, at a cost of $32,000.
After two years of flat or declining cost, health insurance expenses increased $76,000.
The city’s road salt contract likewise increased by $35,000.
The budget also includes about $3.5 million in major infrastructure projects and equipment purchases, including the reconstruction of Cedar and Hickory streets and Gridley Avenue at a cost of about $1.3 million.
Although the city received about $1.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds — which will finance projects including sewer repairs, a streambank stabilization project and installation of a citywide camera system — it lost revenues due to the pandemic, including about $55,000 in interest income.
Normally, the city collects about $125,000.
“Unfortunately, with COVID-19 we’ve seen the opposite,” Ruechel said. “Interest rates are now at an all-time low, which is great if you’re borrowing money, but not great if you have money in your savings account.”
Wisconsin imposes a tax levy limit, which is based upon net new construction that occurs within municipal boundaries. Construction enabled an $18,140 increase to the tax levy in the 2022 budget.
“In order to receive additional revenue, we as a city need to continue to grow,” Ruechel said.
Council Member Kathy Kopp previously worried that she would be unable to convince property owners that increasing the tax rate for the purpose of retaining staff and purchasing salt was necessary.
Weeks later, she said with additional research, she could better explain the city’s position.
“It’s industrywide, everybody is having to make some adjustments to keep their staff,” Kopp said.