By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — During the Oct. 10 meeting of the Marshfield Common Council, City Administrator Steve Barg gave a presentation regarding the budget for 2018.
“This budget includes bringing us to 67 percent of the amount allowed by state law,” said Barg, “and this has been inching up for a while. This is nothing new, but now we’ve hit a point. … We’re actually going to be exceeding the council’s own debt parameters of 65 percent of the state maximum for borrowing. That starts to get a little bit concerning.
“We’ve done some excellent borrowing in the past few years. We’ve made a number of outstanding economic development projects happen, some public infrastructure projects happen, and some of it has had a very good payoff in terms of what it does for our community, but it still involves debt that we have to pay back.”
Barg proposed a tax increase of 1.9 percent, a figure that is more than 1 percent above what the council authorized in May. The increase would take the tax rate to $9.29 per $1,000 of assessed value, which is below the maximum tax rate of $9.53 allowed by the city.
“Marshfield right now is at $9.12 per $1,000 of value, meaning that a $100,000 home — apart of lottery credit and some of those things — you’d be paying $912 in city taxes,” Barg said. “Stevens Point is $9.94, but they are going through a revaluation, and they expect the upcoming tax year going forward to be $9.30 once the revaluation is done. … (Wisconsin) Rapids is a little under $12, and Wausau is $9.68, but they will be up around $10 based on the budget that they proposed to their council.”
Even with the ability to increase the levy, Barg said that the department heads still needed to reduce the initial budget by $1.3 million to qualify for funding through the state’s Expenditure Restraint Program.
“Even with the 2.6 (percent) this year in the amount that the levy could go up, it still wasn’t easy,” explained Barg. “It required a lot of reducing, but we made it, and by doing so we will get $400,000 or thereabouts in 2019. Again, remember, in 2017 we prepare the 2018 budget, and if you qualify, you get the payment in 2019. It’s kind of a year-lag program.”
Two groups appealed to the council Oct. 10 to include financing for their respective programs.
Wood County Court Judge Todd Wolf asked the council to retain the $22,000 in the budget that covers the cost of a counselor to administer to the drug court program in Marshfield, and Fire & Police Commissioner Andy Keogh reaffirmed the importance of a onetime investment in portable police radios.
The $180,000 cost of the radio equipment had been dialed back to a three-year commitment of $60,000 to help lower the budget.
Budget hearings were scheduled to be Oct. 16, Oct. 24, and Oct. 30 with a public hearing and adoption session on Nov. 21.