Baraboo tax rate declines on $18M 2019 budget

November 29, 2018

Baraboo’s Common Council approved a 2019 budget Tuesday that slightly reduces the city tax rate and calls for no new borrowing. The $18 million spending plan passed on an 8-0 vote.

The city tax rate will drop to $11.08 per $1,000 in property value, down from $11.14 this year. Owners of $150,000 homes will pay $1,662 in city taxes. The tax levy would shrink slightly by 1 percent to $8.5 million.

“That’s a good thing for the city,” said City Administrator Ed Geick.

The budget is based on operational costs rising 1 percent and wages rising 2 percent. Water and sewer rates won’t change. The city’s contributions to employees’ health insurance costs will decrease 3.6 percent without any reductions in coverage.

A 4 percent increase in land value and 1.3 percent growth in new construction helped the city balance its budget. The city’s equalized value has almost returned to its high mark of $864 million set in 2008.

About $2.8 million in money from the city fund balance will be used to make ends meet. Still, the city will retain a fund balance equal to 25 percent of its total budget.

Nearly $2 million in street and sidewalk work that was planned for this year but was delayed due to persistent rains was moved into the 2019 budget. Sections of Washington Avenue, Broadway and Lake Street will be rebuilt. “Some of what we didn’t get done this year will be pushed into next year,” Geick said.

The city’s Alma Waite Fund, named for its donor, will provide $10,000 to Concerts on the Square, $8,500 for sidewalks at the Ochsner Park Zoo and nearly $3,600 to renovate the Boys & Girls Club’s teen center.

Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Karen DeSanto said previous renovations of club facilities have fostered increased involvement from members. “It is a place that is for them,” she said.

The budget calls for no new borrowing, but next year the city will begin planning for a new fire station to be occupied by the Fire Department and Baraboo District Ambulance Service. Meanwhile, Baraboo Public Library leaders are planning for an expansion of their Fourth Avenue facility. The budget includes $858,000 for architectural design.

The only new staff positions proposed are a part-time page for the library and a full-time training officer for the Fire Department. This officer will lead training sessions and respond to daytime calls.

In other business Tuesday, the council granted final, unanimous approval to two much-discussed measures.

It amended city code to require $500 surety bonds from pawn brokers, but not other sellers of secondhand goods.

It also amended zoning regulations for properties along South Boulevard and the riverfront, adding a long list of prohibited uses in that district. These include bus depots, cemeteries, landfills and sexually oriented businesses. The move was a response to a change to state law that gives municipalities little control over activity on private property unless that activity is outlawed by code.

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