Town of Gibraltar electors voted 16-11 last week to increase the tax levy by 14.82 percent, primarily to service the debt the town is undertaking to finance projects related to the highway and beach project. The 2019 budget calls for a town levy of $2,174,614, an increase of $280,634.60.
The higher tax levy will represent an increase of around $37 for each $100,000 in assessed value, according to the town’s assessed valuation in a 2018 Department of Revenue report.
“It’s not a terrific amount of money but there was quite a bit of discussion on the projects at the meeting,” said town chair Dick Skare. “A lot of that is project-related.”
The town’s total revenue and expenses is only increasing by 1.9 percent, but lower revenues elsewhere are being made up by an increase in the tax level. In 2018, the town transferred $265,000 from the capital improvement fund and had $64,254.75 in unused road funds carry over. Those funds are not part of the 2019 budget, so they are being made up with an increase to the tax levy.
A capital outlay plan discussed by the town board at its Nov. 12 meeting includes approximately $8 million in project expenses through 2019, including $2 million for the beach expansion and $6.01 million for the upcoming highway project.
Townships in Wisconsin are unique in that residents of the township – not elected officials – must approve their own tax levy. The relatively narrow vote in approval of the tax levy reflected a concern about rampant spending on a variety of projects all at once.
“I didn’t vote for this budget from the get-go,” said Gibraltar town board member Steve Sohns. “I think it was more than we needed to do.”
Sohns is particularly concerned about the way the town’s tax levy will compound on the Gibraltar School referenda that passed on Nov. 6. Two levy increases (one to reconstruct the library and the other for recurring expenses), will represent an approximately $50 increase in property taxes for each $100,000 in assessed value.
“When it first came out that Gibraltar School is going to have a referendum on this I thought of it right away,” Sohns said. “People are going to be getting hit harder.”
The majority of the increase in the tax levy is due to an increase of $266,729 in debt payments. Public safety costs will also increase $26,638 following the hiring of a fire chief and reorganization of public safety personnel.