Ashwaubenon village board hears 2022 budget overview
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – An overview of the 2022 village budget to be voted on later this year was presented last month by Village Manager Joel Gregozeski.
“When it gets to the brass tacks, if you will, on the bottom dollar, ultimately decisions have to be made, priorities have to be set, and ultimately, there’s probably going to be situations where reductions, cuts or maybe holds are going to need to be made on proposed spending,” he said.
To do that, Gregozeski recommended eliminating programs or services versus having poor or marginal quality of programs or services.
“We don’t want to say, ‘Well, garbage collection, why don’t we just pick up half the garbage collection, and then the other half we’ll leave sit,’” he said. “You’re not going to do that. You’re either going to provide the service as a whole at a high-quality level, or you’re not.”
As much as reasonably possible, Gregozeski said village services that provide a private benefit should be supported in whole or at least in part by fees and charges for those services.
“A building permit is a good example of that,” he said. “Although it benefits the community to a degree, it really benefits the individual that’s constructing that project to ensure that it’s done in a safe manner that meets building code.”
Gregozeski said he wouldn’t recommend across-the-board cuts or reductions.
“I think that’s kind of a lazy approach toward the handling of your budget dilemmas, and it’s really unfocused,” he said. “Really what we want to do is focus on priorities and policy.”
When department heads put together budgets for next year, Gregozeski said they will do so “to meet a current level of service and then also plan for the ultimate replacement and improvement of existing assets.”
“All the plans that we’ve developed and adopted over the years have some type of project or recommendation in them,” he said. “By and large, the department heads are pulling those recommendations and implementing them through the budget.”
Gregozeski said certain departments or certain services take priority or precedence over others.
“Some departments may take a larger burden or percentage hit, when we’re making those tough decisions, than other departments,” he said. “It’s no slight to that department head or that agency, but sometimes we just have to understand that our priorities have to be somewhat unfair, if you will.”
Gregozeski said any service changes, reductions or adjustments to line items in the budget should be looked at from a sustainable point of view.
“Every year we have a recycling revenue line item that accounts for the commodities that we receive for any recyclables that are taken to the county,” he said. “Municipalities are notorious for hyperinflating that number or deflating that number to kind of meet their overall budget needs because it can be at times a volatile market… Next year, you’re going to be in a much worse situation if you haven’t developed a sustainable way to fund a service.”
Gregozeski said the village’s budget priority will be maintaining current assets versus new assets.
“We want to have high quality, whatever we have,” he said. “Even if it’s a minimal thing, it’s got to be of high quality, rather than having many things that are marginal or poor quality.”
Gregozeski said any reductions should not curtail the delivery of core services to meet legal requirements.
“We do have legal requirements that are written in either (state) statute or municipal code, and we have to meet those obligations,” he said. “As an example, we have to provide ambulance service. We have to provide fire protection. We have to provide police protection. How we do that may be up for debate, but at the end of the day, we have to provide it.”
The board is scheduled to take final action on the 2022 budget when it holds a public hearing at its Nov. 23 meeting.
Last November, the board approved the 2021 budget with a tax levy of $12,714,769, an increase of $156,251, or 1.24%, from the previous year.
Of the total tax levy, the budget resolution designated $9,784,368 (77%) for the general fund, $2,149,261 (16.9%) for the debt service fund, $756,140 (5.9%) for the capital projects fund and $25,000 (0.2%) for the special revenue fund.