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Clintonville cuts tax levy

Tax rate remains same

By Bert Lehman

Even though the city of Clintonville’s total tax levy decreased for 2024, the tax rate remains at $11.72 per $1,000 of equalized value, the same as it was in 2023.

Clintonville City Council passed the 2024 budget at its Nov. 14 meeting, The total levy is just above $2.5 million, while last year’s tax levy was just under $2.7 million.

When City Administrator Caz Muske presented the proposed 2024 budget to the Clintonville Finance Committee on Nov. 13, she said 35% of a resident’s tax bill is directed to the city of Clintonville. The remaining amount is directed to the Clintonville School District, Waupaca County, Fox Valley Technical College, city’s tax incremental districts (TID) and special districts.

Residents will pay $937 on an $80,000 home for the city’s portion of their tax bill.

She added that when the initial 2024 city budget was put together, it originally called for a tax rate increase of 97 cents, but she said city staff worked to get the budget to where the tax rate would remain at $11.72.
The tax rate is broken down as follows: $7.66 for the operating levy and $4.06 for the debt levy.

Fund balance

City policy stipulates that the city’s undesignated fund balance be 30% of general fund revenues, Muske said.

She described this fund balance as a fund to use for emergencies.

The 2024 city budget would leave around $1.8 million in the city’s undesignated fund balance.

“Even though that’s over what we legally have to with our finance policy, based on our history it makes sense to stay at that level,” Muske said.

Muske said the city has averaged around $1.5 million in that fund in recent years.

Muske said that fund should be used for one-time projects, and not reoccurring expenditures.

“You don’t want to rely on your fund balance for something you know you have to dip into every year,” Muske said.

To keep the tax rate stable, Muske said the 2024 budget uses special fund balances to fund portions of the budget, but the use of these special fund balances in 2024 would be less than they were in the 2023 budget.

City expenses were decreased in the budget by including lower employer contributions for HRA health insurance plans and requiring an increase from 15.5% to 16% in employee contributions for health insurance premiums for non-manager and non-union employees. Employee contributions for health insurance premiums for management positions was lowered from 14.5% to 14%.

“This specific tactic also helped with that wage suppression we discussed a couple of meetings ago,” Muske said.

The amounts of subsidies the city has to pay also increased, Muske said.

This includes subsidies to the Clintonville Area Ambulance, Clintonville Area Waste Services (CAWS), Manawa PTF/Waupaca County PIC, and the Clintonville Library.


Muske added that the city will utilize an increase in shared revenue from the state of Wisconsin.

“Thanks to our state legislature, there was an Act 12 that was passed that increased what our shared revenue, which is aid that we receive from the state, which hasn’t been increased in over a decade, so that was very helpful for this budget,” Muske said. “However, just because we’re receiving more revenue, that doesn’t mean our expenditures decreased.”

Health insurance for city employees increased 4% and insurance for workman’s compensation increased 8.2%, Muske said.

The budget also included a 3% cost of living increase for city employees. This does not include any salary increase due to the city’s STEP program for wages, which averages roughly 2%, Muske said.

“You’re looking at a total of up to 5% for employees if they’re eligible for the STEP,” Muske said. “So, employees will see averages between 3-5% increases in salary.”

City’s assessed value

The city’s assessed value decreased from last year by $2.2 million. Because of the value decrease, Muske said the city is receiving less in taxes. Even though the city’s tax rate in the 2024 budget is the same as it was in 2023, the city will bring in $400,000 less in taxes because of the decrease in the city’s assessed value.

“Our reevaluation will help us raise that gap and get us back to an equitable value within the city,” Muske said. “This is another reason why we’re going to have this reevaluation process and project next year, because it’s vital or we’ll continue to see that value decrease.”

Muske added that the reevaluation is also being mandated by the state of Wisconsin.

“But it will also stabilize our taxes, and create equity with all the properties within our city limits,” Muske said.

Compensation study

When summing up the budget, Muske said, “The department heads did a really good job trying to keep the tax levy stable, and in anticipation of the compensation study that is implemented in 2024.”

That compensation study could increase the tax levy in next year’s budget.

“We anticipate a levy increase in response to the study that will be conducted next year,” Muske said. “That was the goal, was to keep it (tax rate) as stable as possible (in the 2024 budget), knowing that not only the operational levy was going to increase in response to the compensation study, but also our debt levy is going to increase going through this next borrowing cycle.”

The 2024 city budget that passed does include funding up to $15,000 for a compensation study for city employees. The governmental fund, which is covered by the operational tax levy will fund $8,571 of that amount, with the remaining $6,428 to be paid by the enterprise fund, which is covered by user fees, Muske said in an email to the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette.

The approval for the compensation study came from the council when it passed the budget. There was no separate agenda item to discuss the compensation study. Council members could have discussed the compensation study approval when discussing the budget, but none did.

“It is common for the City to pass various projects within the budget without a specific agenda item,” Muske told the Tribune-Gazette.

She said it was agreed to by the Clintonville Finance and Personnel Committee that a compensation study is needed, and it should be implemented in 2025.

“In conclusion, while the 2024 Salary and Wage Project was discussed at Finance and Personnel Committee Meetings and Common Council Meetings concerning the budget, it was not required as its own agenda item due to it being reviewed and approved by Common Council during the approval of the FY2024 Budget,” Muske told the Tribune-Gazette.

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