By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – Green Bay taxpayers will see a small increase in their property tax rate for the third year in a row under Mayor Eric Genrich’s administration.
The Common Council voted 10-2 Nov. 9 to approve the $116.4 million city budget for 2022, which has a $3,443,487, or 3%, increase from last year’s $112 approved budget.
Alderpersons John Vander Leest and Jesse Brunette opposed.
The budget had the largest margin of approval by the council since Genrich took office in 2019.
It calls for a tax rate of $9.80 per $1,000 or property value, an increase of 8 cents from the previous year.
This is the smallest rate increase (.74%) passed under Genrich in the last three years.
It was 2.77% in 2021 and 3.3% in 2020.
“I haven’t voted for a budget in probably six years,” District 8 Alderperson Chris Wery said. “This one, I think (Genrich) did a reasonable job keeping that increase pretty low and not disrupt things and put some things back together that were important. So, I’m happy to vote for this one.”
The budget includes a tax levy of $58.07 million, a .8% increase from $57.5 million a year ago.
Director of Finance Diana Ellenbecker said the levy represents 50% of the budget’s overall funding.
Of the total tax levy, the budget designated $44,135,160 to the general fund, $154,600 to capital projects, $9,690,579 to debt service, $1,248,000 for transit and $2,835,175 for workers compensation/general liability/sick escrow.
Genrich said the city’s equalized value increased 8.8% to $8.05 billion.
As part of the budget, council members approved the use of a portion ($655,000) of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) loss of revenue calculation allocation to fund one-time building and equipment repairs or new equipment.
Some of those include: $15,000 for City Hall repairs, $36,000 for Joannes Pool slide repairs, $248,477 for equipment repairs and replacements, $12,000 for six computers for the engineering department and $64,000 for two engines for the police marine unit.
District 9 Alderperson Brian Johnson opposed using one-time funds.
“I posed this at the committee level, and I’m going to pose it here too,” Johnson said. “It’s really predicated on this conversation we’ve had about spending one-time money to balance a budget, and as I’m looking at some of the items that are allocated here in this equipment repairs, these are things we use on a regular basis… When I look at the ARPA funds, I really see this as this one-time opportunity to do something impactful for our community.”
District 1 Alderperson Barbara Dorff said there are plenty of funds left to make impactful changes, but the funds help make these repairs now.
“These are one-time fixes,” Dorff said. “This helps us so we don’t need the levy any more, and I think our citizens will appreciate not having higher taxes… I think we have a lot of ARPA funds left to do the magical and wonderful things that Alder Johnson, and a lot of us, believe that we can do, but I’d like to have the tax rate stay as low as it is, and use these funds so we don’t have to raise that levy.”
The budget also adds a handful of new positions, including an assistant city attorney, electrician, network specialist, GIS analyst and conservation corps coordinator, as well as the reclassification of the human resources director position to chief operating officer.
Alderpersons also voted 10-2 to include an additional $1,680 to the 2022 Common Council budget to implement a 2% increase to council salaries starting in April 2022.
“The only time we can address wages for elected people is before the next election, so this wouldn’t be for us, it would be for whoever comes into office next,” Wery said. “The last time we had an increase was in (2008)… It’s been 13 years. I think the modest 2% for the next two years is certainly not out of line.”
Ellenbecker said a 2% increase would be $198 per alderperson, per year.
“Since this would be prorated starting mid-April, you’d be looking at $140 per alderperson, or $1,680 increase in the 2022 budget,” she said.
The council took it one step further and approved an annual 2% increase to take place automatically going forward.
Ellenbecker said the full year impact will be about $2,376 each year.
“This is what the (Green Bay) School Board did a few years ago,” Dorff said. “The School Board salaries also had not been raised in years and years and years. What they did instead of just raising it by an amount (each year) they’ve tied it to a percent to (increase annually).”
Residents will again see an increase of around $1.24 in their water bill as alderpersons approved 88% of the forestry budget be paid for through the storm water utility, a decision made by the council last year.
Genrich said if the decision was made to discontinue that, it the tax rate would have increased 1 cent to $9.81.
“I can understand that (some alderpersons) feel that some people are disgruntled, but either way we are paying,” District 4 Alderperson Bill Galvin said. “Either way, there is going to be an increase – either a levy increase or a storm water increase. Either way, we are paying. I am not in favor of taking any contingency, one-time money. We made that mistake in the past, and we are still paying for that now.”
Remaining ARPA funds
Alderpersons postponed a vote on a resoultion to adopt the city’s plan for use of ARPA funds until after the Nov. 30 Finance Committee meeting.
Utilizing the $655,000 in the 2022 budget, the city has just more than $23 million left at its disposal.
Genrich sought community feedback – through a months-long survey and two town hall meetings – in regards to preferred uses for the ARPA funds.
The proposed ARPA framework includes:
• $10 million for capital needs (roads, bridges, etc.) and organizational priorities.
• $6 million for affordable housing development and small business support.
• $3 million for stormwater/climate resilience.
• $2 million for crime prevention/neighborhood enhancement.
• $1 million for arts/culture/tourism.
Interim city attorney
Bungert has been with the city since 2014, when she was hired as an assistant city attorney.
In 2017, she was promoted to deputy city attorney.
“With Joanne, we have someone who is very well-seasoned and experienced, and I think many of you have worked with her, especially on the Protection and Policy Committee,” Genrich said.
Human Resources Director Joe Faulds said Wisconsin Statutes require cities to have a city attorney, which is the reason for the interim appointment.
To fill the position long-term, Faulds said the position has been posted, and external and internal recruitment is underway.
“Typically, we’ll have two rounds of interviews,” he said. “We’ll have input from the council, we’ll have input from staff and other directors, and then typically, I think, then we would have a meeting with the mayor with final candidates. I don’t know if there will be a whole lot of public input, but I do know there might be some interested attorneys or former judges in the area that might be able to give input on what we are really looking for in a city attorney. So, that is really the process we are looking at, and then once the mayor and the interview panel selects the final candidate, that position will be appointed by the mayor and for confirmation of the Common Council.”