Home » News » Green Bay » Tie goes to the mayorCouncil splits 6-6 on 2023 budget, tax rate

Tie goes to the mayor
Council splits 6-6 on 2023 budget, tax rate

By Nick Wood
Acting Editor
GREEN BAY – After a contentious few weeks of debate over Mayor Eric Genrich’s proposed 2023 budget, the Green Bay Common Council on Tuesday ultimately passed a trimmed-down version of the spending plan on a 6-6 tie vote which was broken by the mayor.

The Nov. 15 meeting was a continuation of a special budget meeting last week that ended with a 7-5 vote that directed city staff to come up with plans to reduce the proposed levy — the amount of the budget funded by property taxpayers — by 20%.

Genrich’s original proposal called for total expenditures of about $125 million, up nearly 7% from 2022.
The proposed levy was about $68 million, up about 10% from this year.

But due to a recent city-wide revaluation of property values that saw increases anywhere from 30 to 70% or more, the proposed mill rate, or the cost to taxpayers per $1,000 of assessed property value, dropped 20% from $9.80 to $7.84.

For the owner of a $150,000 home at the 2022 mill rate, the city portion of the tax bill was about $1,470.
If that same home’s revaluation rose by the average mid-30% to $200,000, the lowered mill rate would still have meant about a $100 increase in taxes.

Ald. Jesse Brunette

City Council President Jesse Brunette led the charge over the course of nearly 10 hours of committee and council debates this month to chip away at the levy through spending cuts.

He proposed a laundry list of cuts, ranging from a couple thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars, including holding open the position of Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator for a savings of about $90,000 between salary and benefits.

That hot-button issue is one of several that have divided the council along ideological lines, and it consumed nearly 20 minutes of debate during the 2-hour meeting.

Ultimately, Ald. Brian Johnson’s motion to fold all the piecemeal cuts into a single “omnibus” motion that outlined both increased revenue and more generalized spending cuts got the final budget to the roughly 20% levy reduction.
“There are only two ways to reduce the levy,” Johnson said. “You can grow revenue or you can reduce expenses.”

Ironically, it was skyrocketing interest rates that helped cushion the blow.

Assumptions about the city’s expected interest revenue at the time the budget was put together over the summer have gone up by nearly $200,000 and with future rate hikes on the horizon, that number may grow.

“We’re passing a budget that sets the mill rate,” Johnson said. “We have an incredible amount of flexibility after that. Things can change, and when they do they will come before this body (for a budget amendment request).”

The elephant in the room was the complex interplay between using one-time money from the the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and how that affects the formula for state-imposed spending restraints which limit how much local governments can increase spending year after year.

Ald. Brian Johnson

Due to rising inflation, the state formula for 2023 allows for an unprecedented 8% revenue increase, but using ARPA funds to pay for budgeted expenses does not count toward the baseline for subsequent year increases.

Johnson said he was not necessarily advocating for maxing out the allowed increase this year, but cautioned the council that plugging in one-time ARPA money to fund ongoing expenses would set the council up for structural deficits and more pain in the future.

“It ties your hands for next year, and you’ll be forced to eliminate positions next year,” Johnson said. “This is just as much about fiscal intelligence as fiscal responsibility.”

The final approved budget reduced the mayor’s proposed expenditures by about $2 million, bringing it to a total of $123 million.

Between revenue increases and spending cuts, the levy was reduced by about $840,000, which further reduced the mill rate to $7.58.

Voting in favor of the plan were Alders Jim Hutchison, Bill Galvin, Craig Stevens, Randy Scannel, Johnson and Mark Steuer, who was persuaded to side with the ayes.

Opposed were Alders Jennifer Grant, William Morgan, Steven Campbell, Chris Wery, Melinda Eck and Brunette.

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