The Mount Pleasant Village Board Monday night approved a $16.9 million budget that calls for an 11.8 percent increase in the village's property tax rate, which will add about $55 to the tax bill of a typical homeowner.
The vote on the 2013 budget came after trustees approved a staff-recommended proposal to .
Unlike a special budget meeting on Nov. 2, there were no fireworks or lengthy discussions Monday. Instead, village staffers made copies for residents of five different budget amendment ideas for closing the budget gap that surfaced after the budget was initally presented.
Four of the scenarios were designed by trustees — Karen Albeck, President Jim Majdoch, Harry Manning and Sonny Havn — and one was put together by staff members and ultimately passed.
Only Manning voted against the staff-recommended amendment, which preserves most capital purchases, including a new ambulance; air conditioning and a sprinkler system at Fire Station 10; five squad cars; bullet-proof vests; a new snow plow and salt spreaders; and a new lawn mower for the joint park the village shares with Caledonia. The budget also calls for hiring two firefighters.
The only significant change is that the roads budget has been reduced from $1.3 million to just more than $1 million by reducing the amount levied for projects and transferring $300,000 from the village's capital fund.
Overall, the village's budget is up 5.6 percent over the 2012 budget of $16 million. The property tax levy of $14.4 million is 6.7 percent higher than the previous year.
The tax rate is projected to increase from $6.62 per $1,000 assessed value to $7.40 per $1,000 assessed value — an 11.8 percent rise. However, because residential property values went down an average of 9 percent this year, the owner of a home assessed at $209,000 — the average value in Mount Pleasant — will see a $55 increase in village taxes when the bills are sent out in December.
"Is this a great budget? No, but it is as fair as we can make it under the circumstances," said Trustee Gary Feest after the vote.
Manning, though, feels like the village shouldn't burden property owners any further.
"Our proposed increase is 6 percent, double that of Racine Unified. The money comes from real estate taxes, people paying big increases and so many people don’t have the means to pay more taxes," he said. "The other taxing authorities have held down taxes and I'd like to see us hold it down, too."
In the end, though, trustees voted to go with the staff's plan. In supporting the proposal, Feest saw it as a good step toward putting the village on better footing for the next budget. Specifically, he pointed to reduced state aid and imposed levy limits that only allow for increases equal to how much new growth a municipality experiences.
"Lowering the levy restricts the our ability to provide services that residents demand," he said. "My point is, we could have gone higher but we stayed here and we should stay because of the state so next year we don’t have to borrow and cut services."