Wauwatosa's 2016 executive budget was "healthy" and the proposed 2017 executive budget is "healthier," said City Administrator Jim Archambo.
The city continued its mission to aggressively pursue development with an annual goal of 1.5 percent net new construction through 2020 — adhering to its financial resiliency policy approved in February by the common council. Wauwatosa surpassed the benchmark with 3.05 percent, or about $169.2 million in net new construction in 2016, according to city documents. On a percentage basis, the growth placed Wauwatosa first in Milwaukee County among 19 municipalities.
While development in Wauwatosa has been rampant over the last few years, Archambo predicted it will slow down by 2018. He credited the surge to "pent-up demand" from the recession of the late 2000s.
"The development won't last," he said.
But, for now, the growth is breaking records; 2016 marked the second year that net new construction has been at an all-time high, according to city documents.
Under the proposed 2017 executive budget, the city's general fund would increase 3.11 percent to about $57.9 million in 2017. The actual 2016 general fund was about $56.2 million.
The city's tax levy would increase 2.62 percent under the proposed 2017 budget to about $41.1 million. The tax levy in 2016 was approximately $40 million. Residents will notice a slight increase in their tax rate in 2017, under the proposed budget. After paying $7.62 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2016, residents would pay $7.67 in 2017, accounting for a change of about 5 cents or .66 percent.
According to the proposed 2017 budget, the average household in Wauwatosa, valued at $219,000, would pay about $1,680.65 for the residential city tax portion of the property tax bill — an increase of $11.05 from the 2016 bill. The average homeowner would pay about $140 a month for city services in 2017, under the budget.
Council budgetary changes
The proposed 2017 budgetary changes for the city's common council include the purchase of replacement iPads for members of the Wauwatosa Common Council, and an increase in the travel budget from $3,000 to $6,000 to allow for two alderpersons to attend the National League of Cities conference.
In an email to fellow common council members Sept. 22, Alderman Joel Tilleson, who represents the city's 5th District, said he did not support the request to increase the travel budget.
Tilleson said he was concerned about the lack of specific parameters for how to choose which council members would participate in the educational trips and what the expectations would be, and noted the expense could result "in little more than a taxpayer-funded junket."
"While I am very supportive of appropriating funds for continuing education, those funds should only be spent by individuals who are actively engaged in writing relevant policy," he wrote. "As the legislative branch, (policy-making) certainly extends to (and ultimately rests with) the Common Council. Additionally, we should support alders who seek to become subject matter experts by pursuing accreditation or promoting the city's visibility and standing within an organization. Still, we must concede that we are a part-time council that relies heavily on our full-time staff to draft and present policy proposals."
Other operational improvements included in the proposed budget include:
- The addition of 1,044 hours for parking and traffic enforcement during the early evening hours for the Wauwatosa Police Department.
- Provide an additional 1,460 hours for fire inspections to ensure the Wauwatosa Fire Departmentcan effectively handle the increased workload due to recent development.
- Increase the Wauwatosa Public Library's materials budget by $15,000.
The city will hold weekly budget hearings through Oct. 6 at city hall, 7725 W. North Ave. A public hearing for the budget is scheduled for Nov. 1 and the 2017 budget is expected to be adopted by the city's common council in mid to late November.
Archambo said he planned to be available for the public ahead of the Nov. 1 budget hearing to answer questions.