Ripon City Administrator Lori Rich shared a favorable budget proposal with the Common Council last week Thursday, one that saw the city’s debt burden continue to decline, taxes go down and a balanced budget without making any cuts this year.
It came during the first of at least two budget hearings before it is brought to a public hearing Tuesday, Nov. 10 during the regular Common Council meeting.
Rich noted as the city was putting the budget for 2021 together, its goals were “to limit our levy increase per the state’s restrictions, continue all of our existing programs at the current service levels, replace outdated equipment and keep our new borrowing below the amount of principal being paid off on our existing debt, so we can continue that nice downward trend.”
The city was able to do just that as the positives of net new construction generated property tax revenue of $17,822, a projected increase in state shared revenues, a decrease of almost $19,000 in debt payments, a $13,000 savings for it not being a presidential election year and a lower-than-expected premium increase (3%) for health insurance helped cover the negative of a 3% increase in wages, which amounted to approximately $63,533.
Challenges for Ripon in the upcoming years that Rich noted in the budget proposal last week Thursday included stagnant or declining state revenues, increases in general operating expenses, continued levy limit restrictions, limits on certain fees, expenditure restraint, continue evaluating operations, possible service cuts, finding new revenue and clarifying its mission and targeting its resources.
Following Rich’s presentation, which took roughly 20 of the 35 minutes that the meeting lasted, Ald. Al Schraeder asked if the council could see a needs/wants list from all the departments so that it could possibly shift funds from one place to accommodate some needs that would expand services and programs in other areas.
Ald. John Splitt asked about adding at least one bulk dump day back into the budget after it was taken out last year, noting he’s heard “a lot of … negative comments on that.”
He also asked about the health-care savings if the city would go to 8% of premium and 10% premium charge to the employee instead of the straight $80 a month and how much extra that would generate for the city.
Ald. Jim Werch highlighted the fact that the $1 million grant the city received for the Vermont Street/Parkway Terrace road construction project, along with the money from separate loans, will enable the Public Works department to do other projects in 2021.
The budget will be discussed again Monday, Oct. 19 and, if necessary, Monday, Oct. 26, before setting the required public hearing for the Tuesday, Nov. 10 regular meeting.