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Oak Creek — The common council passed the 2017 budget Dec. 9 following a public hearing which includes a slight drop in the tax rate.

Bridget M. Souffrant, city finance director, said the budget maintains 2016 service levels while still dropping the tax rate by four cents. The total levy is $19,878,080 with the tax rate at $6.60 per $1,000 of property value.  In 2016, the tax levy was $19,566,773 which had a tax rate of $6.64 per $1,000.

For example, a $196,000 home would pay $1,293,60 to the city in 2017.

"Residents are paying less for city services than you may be paying annually for cable or your cell phone bill," Souffrant said.

Alderman Steve Kurkowski checked and said his cell phone bill is about three times more than what they will pay in city taxes which he said is "scary."

The budget includes. $4.7 million in capital expenditures with no new positions, special initiatives, or projects. It includes an annual $4 stormwater fee increase. Additionally, the budget has a $117,000 projected surplus.

Revenues increased by $375,000 from 2016 to 2017, Souffrant said, mainly due to an increase in transportation aids.  Oak Creek is getting a $314,000 increase from state and had $311,000 in new growth.

"We were able to increase our levy by the closure of TID 4 and our new growth," Souffrant said.

Unfortunately, offsetting those amounts saw a reduction in commercial revenue mostly due to interest earnings and the way the city now accounts for developer charges and engineering costs of our projects, Souffrant said.

The city has chosen to participate in expenditure restraint program again this year. General fund expenditures increased by 1.15 percent or $266,000 which Souffrant called a "truly minimal increase." She said contract wage increases for unions and a small increase to others were part of the increase. The largest increase was a mandatory increase with Wisconsin retirement for duty disability. The general fund for 2017 is $12,941,185.

Council comments

Kurkowski challenged department heads to "do things differently" to "save a buck or two."

"We need to be proactive to get more police officers out there because of all the new development we've had," Kurkowski said.

Alderman Mark Verhalen said it's also up to the council to find more ways to save money.

Mayor Steve Scaffidi said the city maintains the highest level of service in the area and he appreciates the work done by staff, saying it's not easy.

"We're not doing anything magic, but we're doing the best we can," Scaffidi said.

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