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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Proposed Peshtigo City Budget Comes With Minimal Tax Increase

Issue Date: October 31, 2019

At a long, hard meeting on Thursday, Oct. 24, the City of Peshtigo Finance Committee, Mayor Cathi Malke and Clerk/Treasurer Tammy Kassal hammered out a balanced budget and financing plan for 2020 that keeps the tax rate to a minimal increase of 2.5 cents per $1,000 and provides for purchase of a new fire engine and equipment truck for the fire department, a new squad car, new garbage truck and computer system upgrades for the police department and city offices.

The budget requires borrowing $1 million, to be repaid over 10 years, which will allow the debt levy to remain at its existing rate and prevent large fluctuations in the tax rate.

A budget summary is printed on page 14 of today's Peshtigo Times. Public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 14, to be followed by a special City Council meeting to formally adopt it and set the 2020 tax levy.

Finance committee members present for the Oct. 24 meeting that began at 1 p.m. and didn't end until well after 5 p.m. were Aldermen Debbie Sievert, Michael Behnke and Archer Leupp. Others on hand for at least portion of the meeting were Police Chief Rick Badgley, Public Works Director George Cowell, new Parks and Recreation Director Shawn Northrop, and Edward Degeneffe on behalf of Degeneffe Financial, which has an office in Peshtigo.

Degeneffe was present to explain a proposed deferred compensation plan for city employees in addition to the retirement and deferred compensation plans already available. Degeneffe explained his plan in some details, and said they try to custom tailor it for each party.

Malke said the current deferred compensation plan through Northwestern Mutual is no longer accepting new accounts, so city employees hired in the last six or seven years have no deferred comp plans available to them. After some discussion the committee, with Behnke voting no and Sievert and Leupp voting in favor, approved a motion asking the full City Council to offer all city employees access to the plan offered by Degeneffe Financial and pay the $600 annual fee the firm charges to administer it. Behnke explained he was opposed at this time because he wanted more information.

After an explanation from Cowell the committee approved adding $5,000 to the Public Works Department overtime budget to cover the remaining two months of 2019. Cowell explained his overtime budget for this year is already slightly over-spent, with no provision for November and December, when crews are often called out for ice and snow removal. The committee approved his request to transfer $5,000 to hopefully cover overtime until the end of the year. "We aren't going to just not plow," Malke commented before the vote.

In its oversight role for Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) and UDAG economic development loan programs the committee reviewed reports from the accounts. All payments on outstanding loans are up to date except that of Faucett Forest Products. The RLF fund has $210,176.34 in loans outstanding and a cash balance of $349,525, and the UDAG fund has $2,181,015 in outstanding loans and certificates of deposit totaling $1,370,879. This money is available for loans to qualifying businesses.

Next on the agenda was discussion on financing the recycling carts needed by residents for the automated curbside pickup of recycling that goes into effect Jan. 1. Cowell pointed out approving purchase of the carts is needed because his personnel need time to get them dispersed to residents and businesses before then. Kasal said there was $500,000 available in capital outlay, and the committee approved purchasing from EnviroTech for their low bid price of $58,919 for the total number of carts needed. They come in 95 and 65 gallon sizes. Because time is getting short Cowell was authorized to order the carts as soon as possible, and not wait for Council approval.

Because several disabled city residents had expressed concerns about being able to get their recycling carts to the curb, Malke suggested the city should find some way to help them do that. This will likely be addressed at a future meeting of the Streets and Drainage committee.

The committee then went into its long review of the budget, which continued for several hours and included a number of transfers between accounts and the decision to seek the capital purchases loan before the balanced budget was achieved within levy limit restrictions and with the very minimal 2.5 cent levy increase.

The approximately $1 million to be borrowed will include a 10-year loan to provide $450,000 for a new fire engine, $250,000 for a fire equipment truck, and $275,000 for a new garbage truck. Those numbers are estimated and will need to be finalized when the purchases are made. If there is enough money available within the $1 million limit the city may also purchase crack sealer for the Public Works Department.

Kasal explained the debt payment this year is $220,000, and the proposed loan repayment will allow the same amount in future years. Payments on the $1 million loan would come to about $116,000 a year for 10 years, and payments on the proposed short term loan would be $106,000 a year for two years. Short term borrowing would be used to purchase a new computer server and computers for City Hall, possibly Tough Books computers and updated software for the Police Department, a new squad car and possibly a larger lawn mower and new truck for the Parks Department.


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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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