Jul 28, 2014
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Loss of State Aid May Mean Service Cuts, New Fees in Fox Point

With estimated shortfall of $71,000, small cuts won't cut it anymore, according to village manager.

Loss of State Aid May Mean Service Cuts, New Fees in Fox Point

Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget is going to cost the village about $137,000 in state aid, and Village Manager Susan Robertson says it's going to take more than small budget cuts to address that shortfall.

"We’ll have two choices. We can either cut our services, or we can increase revenue, and for a community like ours that’s not growing, that typically means the use of fees, or some combination thereof," Robertson said.

The state Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that with Walker's proposed budget, which is still pending in the Legislature, Fox Point will lose 50 percent of its municipal aid, and 15 percent of its transportation aid, for a total loss of $137,400.

However, Walker's separate budget repair bill requires most public employees to contribute more toward their pensions and health care insurance. Those changes should result in additional savings for the village, but it likely will not offset the loss of state aid.

And that means the village will look at more ways to reduce expenses.

"For us, I think a lot of the cuts will be bigger ones because we have cut all the little things," Robertson said. "That’s a lot of money. I’m not going to be able to find that by cutting a supply budget by $500 here and there. We’ve already done those things.

"It’s going to require something more significant," she added. "It’s going to require cuts in services, and if people don’t want a cut in service, then they’re going to have to pay for it by fees. That’s the only other alternative."

Some of the cuts the village has already made include reducing the hours at Village Hall and the police station, eliminating drainage ditch maintenance, and increasing fees for permits and instituting new permits.

"We try to take the most conservative approach, the one that’s going to have the least impact," Robertson said. "Since I’ve been here, this is probably the most serious foray we’ve had by the state government into taking away home rule authority to make decisions about its services."

While some villages, like nearby Bayside, are considering postponing some capital improvement projects, Robertson said all options are still being considered. However, if staff reductions are required, there may be new problems.

"Of course, the other thing to think about, if we have to cut staff, we’re not going to have people to oversee many capital projects, so it will have some effect," Robertson said. 

And some of those projects include items like the Bridge Lane Ravine Footbridge, street repaving and building repairs. 

"What’s disheartening, somewhat, is we have really good employees who work really hard for the village and try to provide the residents the best level of service they can," Robertson said. "Non-union employees have not had a raise for two years. In essence, they’re getting a 5.8 percent salary cut" because they will be required to pay more for health care and pensions.

"The 5.8 percent salary cut only includes paying for the pensions. The 12 percent employee contribution for health insurance payments doesn't happen until 2012," Robertson said. "In Fox Point, non-union employees hired since January 2004, have paid a 15 percent employee contribution. Non-union employees hired prior to then have pay a 5 percent employee contribution. They are the ones that would see the contribution increase to 12 percent."

"There’s certain positions that may be vulnerable to people leaving for the private sector where they can make more money," she said. "Then some of our quality may be impacted."

But one program that was not eliminated in Walker's budget was the expenditure restraint grant, a monetary incentive that municipalties can receive for limiting spending growth.

"That’s like $90,000 for the village. That was one of the few good pieces of news," she said.

Robertson said while she says the numbers by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau are usually "pretty close" to what Fox Point will likely lose, the village is running its own numbers and will have a more solid idea of the financial picture the coming weeks. She will present the Village Board with her findings at its April 12 meeting.

"We’re in this business to serve the public and we’ll still try to do the best we can," she said.

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