De Pere passes city budget with split vote
By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – At its Tuesday, Nov. 17, city council meeting, the City of De Pere held a virtual public hearing on its proposed 2021 budget, and no one spoke.
The budget – with total expenditures/revenues totaling slightly more than $25 million each – passed with a 5-2 vote.
Alders Dean Raasch and Kelly Ruh voted against the budget as is, while alders Dan Carpenter, Mike Eserkaln, Jonathon Hansen, Casey Nelson and Amy Kundinger voted in favor.
Alder Shana Ledvina was excused from the meeting by Mayor James Boyd.
Raasch and Ruh wanted portions of the budget reallocated for park security after a few recent vandalism incidents in the city.
“I’d like to thank everyone who took part in the process,” said Boyd in his opening speech. “This budget is structured to meet the ongoing municipal service needs of our community during the COVID-19 pandemic and to position the city for a strong economic recovery and growth, as the impacts of the pandemic recede.”
The 2021 budget includes an overall 1.9 percent increase in general fund operating expenditures when compared to 2020.
The budget maintains the existing level of municipal services provided to the community with a 3.8 percent property tax rate decrease.
The 2021 budget’s total tax levy is $15,072,288 – 1.89 percent higher than in the 2020 budget.
The new tax rate is $6.50 for every $1,000 in assessed property. This is 26 cents lower compared to the tax rate of $6.76 from the previous year.
“This budget also provides funding to promote a better understanding of our individuality and differences as citizens in our community and to promote opportunities for our residents to discuss our differences in a manner that promotes dignity and respect for everyone,” Boyd said.
Boyd said all city departments were directed to submit 2021 budget proposals with minimal increases in expenditures, excluding capital equipment and projects.
“We also asked departments to not exceed the previous year’s operating expenditure level and increase revenues by an additional 3 percent,” he said. “The management staff did an excellent job of meeting this requirement while maintaining the integrity of municipal services.”
Boyd said the city will experience a moderately higher increase in tax base growth in 2021 versus what was experienced in 2020.
“The state has maintained local government property tax levy limits that restrict the city’s ability to raise revenues for municipal services and infrastructure,” he said. “The state’s continued implementation of unfunded mandates, coupled with levy limits, requires the city to adjust fiscal policies to reduce municipal services, increase service fees or create alternative revenue sources to balance the city revenues and expenditures.”
Boyd said the budget continues to emphasize economic development throughout the community by including funding for downtown building façade grants, tax increment district development grants and $16,000 for the development of a comprehensive bike/pedestrian plan to promote the community.
“This budget also continues to emphasize public safety by including another $420,000 (in addition to $420,000 of funds previously budgeted in 2020) to fund one-third of a new fire department ladder truck scheduled for replacement in 2022,” he said. “The budget also calls for numerous street resurfacing projects throughout the city.
We recognize the need to closely align municipal service levels with community needs while meeting state-mandated levy limits and matching the community’s overall willingness to fund municipal services. This can be accomplished by soliciting information from the community and utilizing that data.”
De Pere Health Director Deb Armbruster gave the board an update on COVID-19.
“As of (Nov. 17), the city has 1,655 cases of COVID-19 and six deaths,” she said. “Ten people are also hospitalized.”
Armbruster said the health department has completed a vaccinator application.
“The way it looks right now, there are two vaccines (from Pfizer and Moderna) close to being authorized,” she said.
“There are pros and cons to both of them, but it looks like they’ll be a possibility soon. The government will have levels of who would get vaccinated first. The first responders – hospital staff, EMS – would receive them first, and then they’d move into long-term health care facilities. The vaccine won’t be well supplied in the beginning, so the masses won’t get vaccinated anytime soon.”
Armbruster said testing with Prevea is still being conducted at the Brown County Fairgrounds, and Bellin Hospital is testing at the old Sears building in Green Bay.
St. Norbert College’s last day of classes for the year will be Nov. 25, and students won’t return to in-person learning until early February, Armbruster said.