River Hills passes decreased budget, flat levy and tax rate

Collecting fines and forfeitures may be an issue

Dec. 3, 2012

River Hills - In the coming year, the village of River Hills will spend less than last year and work with a flat tax levy.

The Village Board last week approved an approximately $4.6 million 2013 budget and an approximately $2.9 million levy, down 5.15 and 0.01 percent, respectively.

The village tax rate will stay flat at $6.10 per $1,000 of assessed property value, meaning the average River Hills resident with a home valued at $733,136 will pay $4,472.13 to support the 2013 village budget.

Village Manager Christopher Lear described the budget as "status quo" in terms of village services and operations in the coming year. The biggest savings in 2013, resulting from a consolidation of the village manager and clerk/treasurer roles, will be largely offset by an increase in debt payments next year associated with the village's capital improvement plan, as well as routine equipment maintenance and replacement costs.

"There were some real savings there," Lear said of the staffing change.

Lear and Village President Robert Brunner indicated that the village will try to refinance some existing debt in the coming months, likely through the Wisconsin State Trust Fund Loan Program. Trustee Stephen Anderson suggested that the village try refinancing with a private loan. Brunner doubted that he could find a loan with a lower interest rate than the State Trust Fund, but nevertheless encouraged Anderson to look.

"We should be doing quite well on this overall financing," said Brunner, referring to the 2.75 percent rate offered by the state.

Trustees were concerned, however, by the village's amount of fines and forfeitures in 2012, which are currently 6 percent under budget, with approximately $53,000 outstanding.

"This is a revenue item that we count on for future salaries and other (budget items)," Brunner said.

Police Chief Tom Rischmann said after the meeting that in extreme cases when letters, license suspensions, and warrants don't aid in collection, the state Department of Revenue will intervene through the Tax Refund Interception Program, which diverts individuals' tax refunds to owed agencies. However, according to Rischmann and DOR documentation, municipalities are paid after the DOR and state agencies take child support.

"It's get in line," Rischmann said. "We might be tenth or fifteenth in line. We might never see (the owed fines and forfeitures)."

Nevertheless, when asked by trustees what he thought of the village's revenue from 2012 fines and forfeitures, Lear said "nothing concerns" him.

Lear added that tax rates and levies from other taxing jurisdictions, like Milwaukee County, Milwaukee Area Technical College, and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, are mostly "status quo" as well and shouldn't impact River Hills taxes much in the coming year.

"Our residents should not be unhappy when they get their tax bills," he said.

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