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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo Town Board Working To Balance Budget For 2022

Issue Date: October 14, 2021

At a budget workshop session on Tuesday, Oct. 12, Peshtigo Town Board worked long and hard on finding ways to bring estimated expenses of $1,030,835 for 2022 into balance with estimated income of $1,005,833. Based on discussion at the meeting, Treasurer Marsha Rettke will prepare a balanced budget to be presented for preliminary approval at the Town Board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 19 for publication prior to the annual meeting and budget hearing in November.

At the start of the workshop session, with many board members new to the task of preparing an annual budget, Rettke explained she had prepared this budget based on past history of income and expenses.

"This is not my budget," Rettke told the board. "I'm just giving you my numbers and my estimates of what income and expenses will be for next year." She added, since this is a negative budget, "We will need to do some tweaking."

Throughout the meeting, long-time Clerk Clarence Coble provided insight into what had been done in the past, and what perhaps could be done in the future to close the $25,000 gap between projected income and expenditures. Coble explained the property tax can only be raised beyond state established limits if the public approves in a referendum vote or pass a resolution at a special meeting of town electors.

Coble said due to careful spending and budgeting, the town each year gets the maximum amount of state aid possible for its 87 miles of town roads.

All board members were on hand for the meeting - Town Chair Cindy Boyle and supervisors Cynthia Bauer, Jon Drees, Kayla Furton and Kristen Edgar, along with Rettke, Coble, Fire Chief Mike Folgert, Deputy Clerk Linda Larsen, Office Assistant Kayla Okins and Deputy Treasurer Kelsey Lossett.

At the start of the meeting Folgert and the board discussed the proposed Fire Department budget for 2022, which Folgert said had previously been thoroughly reviewed by the Fire Commission. He said each year they put $50,000 into their budget for capital expenditures, and any money left in that account at the end of the year goes into a long-term fund to pay for future large-ticket items, such as the new fire truck they will need to buy in 2024. Last year the town board took that balance and applied it to road improvements, which is legal but leaves the fund short of what it could have been.

Folgert said a new fire engine might cost $500,000, and he doesn't want the board to be taken by surprise when they are asked to fund it. They try to replace trucks every 30 years, and the current fire engine is a 1994 model.

Next year Folgert hopes to use $6,000 from that fund to buy just one of the new high-tech mobile radios the department needs. He noted firefighter training is state-funded, at no cost to the town.

Rettke suggested putting the Fire Department's unused capital expenses money into the special account now, and board members agreed that might be a good way to protect it.

At Edgar's suggestion, the possibility that the approximately $15,000 it will cost for repairs to the floor drains in the fire station could be paid with COVID funds will be investigated. The drains were not replaced when the fire station was rebuilt in 2007.

Drees expressed some concern about rising fuel prices, and what that might do to the fire department budget, and the town budget in general.

There was some discussion of the increased income and expenses for recycling and garbage disposal programs that apparently happened when people were forced to spend more time at home, and consequently did more cleaning of yards and buildings.

The possibility of raising various license fees was discussed as a way to increase town revenue. Coble said compared with many other municipalities, Town of Peshtigo licenses cost very little. ARPA funds may also be used to cover some expenses, which also could narrow the gap between projected income and outgo.

Coble advised the board that if any board members are to get raises, the money needs to be put in the budget now, and in any case, raises do not apply until the next election term. He also noted that in the past the board had designated a legislative liaison officer to keep an eye on what is happening in Madison, and cautioned, "every two years, the legislators can do to you whatever they want to do."

Coble also suggested the town should consider buying some additional voting machines after the first of the year, to avoid having voters standing in long lines waiting to cast their ballots in the 2022 elections and thereafter.

The Town Boad will have a special closed session meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13 to confer with legal counsel in regard to strategy over litigation or possible litigation on water issues. There is no provision for action after returning to open session.


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