JEFFERSON — The Jefferson Common Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted the city’s 2020 budget that, despite large capital equipment purchases, carries a 34-cent tax rate decrease from the current year’s $8.92 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The council also set the tax levy at $4,506,575, which represents a .08-percent increase over the current year’s tax levy, or an increase of $33,550 in new levy dollars. This results in a tax rate of $8.58 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

All of this was done following a public hearing in which no comments were offered.

“The fiscal year 2020 budget continues to fund city programs and services in 2020 at current 2019 levels, with minimal impact on property owners,” Jefferson City Administrator Tim Freitag said. “In addition to a small tax levy increase, the 2020 budget includes no significant increases in user fees or public charges for services provided by the city.”

Freitag said there is no increase anticipated in current water, electric power, stormwater, or wastewater rates. However, the budget does include a refuse and recycling fee increase approved by the common council this past summer and these rates will take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

The capital project and equipment replacement portion of the budget includes new spending for street reconstruction projects, municipal facility maintenance, and the replacement of older equipment, including a new plow truck vehicle for the public works department and ambulance for the Jefferson EMS, according to Freitag.

In presenting the budget earlier this month, Freitag said city taxpayers will see the small levy increase, which is the maximum levy increase allowed.

According to Freitag, the reason for the decrease in the tax rate is, “pure and simple, that the city has seen an increase in the value of its property ... The real estate market in the city is pretty healthy. We had a big increase in the assessed valuation of property.”

All-funds spending in 2019 was $13,954,925, while 2020 all-funds spending is projected at $16,630,475. There will be a $2,645,700 increase in overall spending. Total revenues in 2020 are projected at $16,630,475, while they are expected to be $15,462,225 this year.

Freitag discussed some of the projects the city will be conducting in 2020. Totaling $1,943,500, they include the Woolcock Street interceptor project for wastewater at $850,000; construction of a parks maintenance building at $400,000; street resurfacing at various locations at $532,000, replastering of the swimming pool at $170,000; lower level service area renovation at the library at a cost of $50,000; library meeting room AV system installation and new chairs at a cost of $22,500 and a sidewalk repair program costing $30,000. Smaller projects include an upgrade of the VFW playground equipment at a cost of $15,000.

Capital equipment replacement areas that show significant expenditures in 2020 include ambulance replacement at a cost of $250,000; replacement of a spreader and plow truck at a cost of $155,000 and a city-wide communication system upgrade of $350,000. The communications upgrade is something many communities in Jefferson County are experiencing as they try to remain compatible with evolving emergency radio communications at the county level. Total equipment replacement is estimated at $1,169,000. The total estimated expenditures for capital improvement and replacement is scheduled at $3,112,500.

“So, as you can see, we have some fairly significant equipment purchases,” Freitag said. “This is one of the largest capital equipment budgets we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

Freitag said although current city service levels should be preserved through 2020, there will be a termination of the Paramedic Intercept Program, and one new full-time parks position will be created and funded for July-December.

Base wage increases will be 2.5 percent. Freitag also discussed step increases and other methods of compensation, including health insurance. Under its health insurance offerings to employees, the city will fund a new Dean Health Care Plan to be paired with a Health Savings Account. The funding for the 2020 deductible will be at the 2019 level.

The 2020 proposed budget includes a $55,000-plus miscellaneous contingency line item, with these funds, as yet, unappropriated.

General fund budget assumptions and highlights include 2019 expenses at $6,017,025 with 2020 expenses projected to be $6,114,950, for an increase of $98,275, or 1.6 percent.

Funding sources are listed as the capital improvement project/equipment replacement fund at $710,500, note issuance of $1,225,000, sanitary sewer debt of $600,000, sanitary sewer fund of $338,500, storm water utility fund at $88,500, land acquisition fund of $100,000 and the library fund of $50,000.

Also Tuesday, the city took the first step, via a resolution, to schedule a major street project for 2021, that being the reconstruction of Plymouth Street from Wisconsin Drive to Main Street or State Highway 26.

This street project measures about eight-tenths-of-a-mile, which will include pavement replacement with some underground utility work. The funding source is Community Development Block Grant funds, which will require additional council actions in 2020.

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