City officials defend tax rate hike

Budget hearing set for Wednesday
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City officials meeting Thursday for a final review of the 2019 budget ahead of a public hearing Wednesday said the bulk of the tax increase that property owners will be hit with as a result is beyond the city’s control.

Assistant City Administrator Eddie Sheppard said the city is increasing its levy for city operations by $24,000.

“The only thing we can do is adjust that number,” he said.

The remaining $125,000 increase in the levy is the city’s share of what has to go to paying back the city’s Tax Incremental Finance districts; a problem that the school district and county are also faced with.

Alderman Seth Mailahn said the committee has already cut the budget as deeply as it can.

“We’ve already looked at everything 50 times,” he said.

“Staff put in a lot of time and effort and there have been a lot of projects cut,” Alderwoman Rhonda Strebel added.

“I am absolutely blown away that our operational budget is only 1 percent more than last year,” Alderwoman Lisa Hoffman said. “That’s hats off to all of our departments.”

Strebel said it was disappointing that commercial and manufacturing assessments came in much lower than expected.

Sheppard said manufacturing assessments set by the state were about $1 million lower than expected.

The city also hired Associated Appraisal of Appleton to do a revaluation of commercial properties

The city’s commercial properties as determined by Associated Appraisals rose by less than $3 million, from $180.9 million last year to $183.1 million this year. City officials had expected a figure closer to $189 million.

“We are disappointed that assessment values on manufacturing and commercial came in where they did because we have had a significant amount of growth in this city,” Strebel said. “We don’t quite understand our assessors as far as what they did.”

Sheppard said the commercial numbers were a reflection of the impact of Shawano’s vacant downtown properties.

“They’re really starting to hurt us,” he said. “Those properties that are now worth nothing were worth $350,000 in 2007. That is killing us.”

Sheppard also said the overall tax burden on property owners of the increased tax rate needs to be put into perspective, at least for those properties that have not been reassessed in the last five years.

“Since 2013, our last five taxing periods, we’ve had a 3 percent decrease since that time in overall tax burden,” he said.

Strebel said taxpayers were actually paying more in 2013 when considering inflation.

“We pay more for our vehicles. We pay more for anything we buy in a grocery store. Things have increased in cost,” she said. “When you think about the equipment and the parks and the things we have built or had to purchase, we know through the natural inflation of things that we’ve paid more, yet the cost to the citizen … They’re still getting the same services really for 3 percent less than they did five years ago.”