City of Delafield – After a spirited debate, the common council reached a compromise on hiring two additional police officers during the Nov. 21 meeting at the which the council also adopted a $14 million budget for 2017.
The 2017 budget includes a less than one-half percent increase in the tax levy and a decrease of 6 cents in the tax rate.
The tax levy of about $6.03 million represents the amount of real estate taxes the city will raise to pay for government operations, debt service and library operations.
The tax rate is the amount an individual homeowner or commercial property owner pays toward the levy based on the assessed value of their property.
The budget will result in the owner of a home assessed at $400,000 paying about $1,793.36 in city taxes, about $24 less than the property owner paid in 2016.
The 2017 tax rate is $4.42 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation compared to last year’s $4.48 per $1,000 assessed valuation.
The reduction in the tax rate, despite the levy increase, is the result of a nearly 2-percent growth in the city’s approximately $1.3 billion assessed valuation tax base.
The hiring of two additional police officers and the proposed expansion of St. John's Park generated the sharpest debate among the council members.
The initial budget proposed by City Administrator Tom Hafner included one additional officer, although Chief Erik Kehl had requested two additional officers.
Each additional officer costs about $97,000 in salaries and benefits, and Hafner did not think the city could hire two officers in a fiscal year and maintain a tax levy that was within state-mandated limits.
However, Hafner allowed Kehl to present his case to the council for two officers during an Oct. 18 budget workshop.
Kehl explained that the department has been short one officer since 2011, and the department has been experiencing an increase in the number of emergency calls.
Without an additional officer, the chief said, the department’s ability to serve the city would be jeopardized.
In addition, he noted, since the department does not have a detective, each patrol officer has to do his or her own investigative work.
He said the hiring of a second police officer would help the department in the future create a detective position within the existing ranks.
The discussion about hiring the second officer carried over into the November council meeting, at which Alderman Kent Attwell urged the council to delay a decision.
Attwell said he opposed hiring a second officer until Hafner could provide the council with assurance that there was sufficient money available to pay for the officer.
Ultimately, the council accepted a compromise that a second police officer would not be hired and until after July 2017.
Hafner and Finance Officer Marie Williams explained to the council that by delaying hiring the second officer, the city could save half of the approximately $97,000 in salary and benefits.
They recommended the city pay for the remaining approximately $48,000 in salary and benefits with excess cash reserves and money the city anticipates saving by refinancing some of its debt.
Attwell, who chairs the Lake Welfare Committee, was also a central figure in the debate over proposed expansion of the St. Johns Park.
The city recently acquired a residential lot adjacent to the park at 826 Genesee St.
The park and recreation commission has proposed development of a small park and kayak-launching area on the land at a cost of $171,560, half of which would be paid for by a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Attwell argued that the lake welfare committee thinks the cost and scope of the park commission’s plans are too extensive and expensive and a less-aggressive park development could be implemented on the site for less money.
Alderman Chris Smith, who chairs the park and recreation commission, persuaded the council to leave the funds in the budget until the plans for the property are developed and the council has a change to review them.