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Safety services affect Dousman budget

Nov. 14, 2012

Village of Dousman - The new Dousman Fire District will have the biggest effect on the village's 2013 budget. Village President Jack Nissen said the new funding formula for the fire district -which includes Summit, Dousman and Ottawa - has Dousman paying $56,000 for its share.

"It's important for people to know that the consolidation was very important for Dousman. Had Summit decided to leave and take the village to another district, Dousman and Ottawa would have been left with the entire budget (for fire protection)," Nissen said.

Each community in the Fire District is required to make annual payments based on the community's population, tax base and number of emergency calls. One concern in coming to an agreement on the funding formula was over calls to Dousman's Three Pillars.

Since Three Pillars is a nonprofit facility, it is exempt from paying real estate taxes, some of which would generate revenues to help pay for fire and medical services. Three Pillars will likely agree on a payment in lieu of real estate taxes (PILOT) to help the village cover emergency calls to the senior center complex. In addition, Nissen said the Masonic Lodge, which owns the facilities, has been taking steps to reduce the number of emergency calls.

"They have put things in place to help reduce the call volume and have reduced it greatly," said Nissen.

The village has budgeted about a $24,000 increase for police services from Summit. However, Nissen said while it affects the budget, it's still about $16,000 less than Dousman maintaining its own police department. Last year, Dousman contracted with Summit for police services, and patrols began at the end of the year. Nissen said he's heard nothing but positive comments about the new police protection, and the village now gets more patrol hours with the new contract.

In more unfortunate news, the village had to make a tough decision when faced with constraints of less state aid and levy limits. Nissen said the village will eliminate a position in the Utility Department. He said the move will save the village about $60,000, but will necessitate a restructure of the workforce from the Department of Public Works to manage operations. He said procedures have already been put in place to handle the change.

Even though the village had little growth in 2012, it was able to increase its levy by $76,000 because it had an increased cost from the fire merger. State law allows for an increase in the levy equal to increased costs for a consolidation of services.

Overall, Nissen said the budget process hasn't been an easy one over the last several years in his small community and in a poor economy. "We have been postponing improvements to roads and other things, but we got to the point that even in a poor economy we can no longer let infrastructure suffer," said Nissen of plans for improvements. That includes setting aside $10,000 for future equipment replacements in the 2013 budget.

The village has not received its equalized value numbers from the state, but Nissen said the village tax rate is estimated to increase about 51 cents per thousand of assessed value. "It would have been a nickel if it hadn't been for increases in police and fire protection," he said.

Expenditures in the 2013 budget are down a hefty 23 percent. The 2013 budget calls for expenditures of about $1.3 million, compared to last year's $1.7 million. Last year, the village borrowed $400,000 for a shared road project with Ottawa creating the year-over-year difference.Next year's levy is expected to be $818,141 compared to $722,380 from last year, a 13.36-percent increase. While next year's tax rate is not yet available, last year's rate was $4.11 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The budget hearing is at 5 p.m. Monday at Village Hall, 118 S. Main St.

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