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VIDEO | City of West Bend proposes tax hike for 2021 budget

October 19, 2020 – West Bend, WI – The City of West Bend is discussing the 2021 budget. On the table is a proposed .09 cent increase in the tax rate which would bring the proposed rate from $7.84 to $7.93.


City of West Bend budget increase in 2020.

City of West Bend proposed budget in 2019.

A majority of that increase would cover a considerable bump in health care costs for city employees, pay raises, along with a large budget expense for the West Bend Police Department which wants to purchase body cameras at a cost of $92,500.
– Chief Ken Meuler is asking for 56 body cameras – one for each officer.
– There will be an annual maintenance contract on the cameras.
– The WBPD will also need new squad cameras/equipment to link to the body cameras.
– Hartford PD, Germantown PD, Kewaskum PD have body cameras.
– The Washington County Sheriff’s Department does not have body cameras nor does Jackson PD.
Below are some highlights from the discussion Monday, October 12, 2020 about body camera request for the West Bend PD.

Below is a letter Dist. 8 alderwoman Meghann Kennedy sent to the council prior to the meeting Monday, October 12, 2020.
Kennedy was the only elected official who presented ideas in writing in an effort to provide alternatives to a proposed tax increase.
Cast iron
Meghann Kennedy discusses tax hike
District 8 alderwoman Meghann Kennedy
An Open Letter to City of West Bend Alderman
RE: 2021 Budget
City Alderman,
              As the Finance Chairman I wanted to openly share my thoughts with you prior to the budget meeting tomorrow (Monday, October 12, 2020), where I will be sharing these thoughts. However, I wanted to give you time to think about what I am saying prior to the meeting and also give you time to think of alternatives, or other creative solutions to the budget you may have so we can have the most meaningful meeting possible.
Right now with the way the 2021 budget is written, we will be imposing a tax increase on our constituents. While some may argue it is a small increase I want everyone to understand I am unequivocally opposed to an increase due to what is happening right now in our community and the impacts we are seeing as a result of COVID.
Layoffs, mandatory furloughs, reduced hours and business closures are common place right now in our community.
Washington County is forcing the county government staff to take 5 mandatory furlough days this year as a cost cutting measure.
Several large Wisconsin companies reduced its staff in 2020 to cut cost, including the #7 largest employer in the state Kohl’s who laid off 15% of its local WI corporate headquarters staff in September.
Within the last year the Wisconsin government ordered non-essential businesses to close their doors for an extended period of time during safer at home and just this week ordered capacity limits of 25% to already struggling businesses.
Data released in late September by the Dept. of Workforce Development showed 713,508 unemployment insurance claims are STILL being processed, that number represents over 98,000 Wisconsinites, and some of those claims date all the way back to March.
Wisconsin unemployment rate has essentially doubled from this time last year.  Currently WI has 6.2% unemployment rate, it was only 3.4% at this time last year.
I do not think it is appropriate for the West Bend common council to raise taxes on our citizens during this time.  Many citizens are trying to sustain their homes and families with less revenue this year.  I think it is unjust for us to turn around and vote to charge more in taxes when with that tax increase the average citizen will not see or feel an increase in services.  It is no secret that a large sum of money will need to go to rising insurance costs for city employees.
I do not think it is fair for me to complain about the taxes going up without offering any solutions, so at this time I would propose we adjust the 2021 budget in the following ways:
Insurance saving measures -still waiting on more information. (Estimated savings TBD)
With library circulation down (-1%) to last year remove some funds in library.  (Estimated savings $30k)
Hold on purchasing body cameras and dash camera upgrades for the police this year (Estimated savings $96k)
Change city staffs pay increase from 2% to 1.5%.  This will be the same increase we gave last year (Estimated savings $30k)
City staff that underwent a wage adjustment this year would not be eligible for the 1.5% increase on top of that adjustment this year. (Estimated savings $13k)
Decrease amount city spends on crossing guards.  Currently we pay 100% of crossing guard salaries and materials.  I propose the school pay 1/3 of this cost and the city cover the other 2/3.  Many other municipalities receive full reimbursement for crossing guards. (Estimated savings $31k)
I have a few other questions out to Administrator Shambeau for some potential cost saving measures that he is looking into.  I look forward to our meeting tomorrow night to go over the budget alongside some of our city staff.
I feel we are extremely fortunate in West Bend to have such a talented and dedicated staff, and I would like to point out all the changes I am proposing to our budget do not call for furloughs or staff reductions in any departments. This is a difficult time for everyone and I think it is only fair for us to make difficult decisions in our government budget just like our constituents are making with their personal budgets.
In Partnership,
Meghann Kennedy
District 8 Alderman & Finance Chair
There will be another meeting tonight starting at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.
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