Mayor Tim Kabat’s proposed 2018 operating budget was approved Monday with few changes by the La Crosse Board of Estimates.

Following further recommendations by the mayor, the board approved cutting $236,146 from the budget to meet the Wisconsin Department of Revenue expenditure restraint program requirements in a move that ensures the city will receive more than $1.4 million from the state in 2018.

“The consequences of not making the ERP would be very, very significant,” Kabat said.

The cuts included a $150,000 reduction in health insurance premiums paid, taking $50,000 from the city’s contingency fund, delaying the hiring a crime analyst for the La Crosse Police Department for a savings of $20,250 and reducing general expenses by $16,000.

While council president Martin Gaul last year advocated increasing the city levy up to the state-imposed limits, this year he said it wouldn’t make sense to levy an additional $1.2 million and lose the $1.4 million from the state.

“It would be counterproductive for us to do anything other than that we’re looking at right here,” Gaul said.

However, Gaul criticized the state’s limitations, which he said create problems as the city grows and needs to incorporate new things into its operating budget, such as a proposed new fire station and its staffing.

“It’s going to get harder and harder to address them all the time as long as we are in the ERP program and limited in how much we can do that,” Gaul said. “These limits hurt a city like La Crosse.”

Kabat’s proposed budget, released Thursday, called for a total levy for 2018 of $34.38 million.

The operating budget includes $70.75 million in total spending, compared with last year’s $34.8 million levy and $69.18 million operating budget.

Under the budget, property owners would pay $12.05 per $1,000 in property value next year, a decrease from last year’s $12.29 per $1,000.

“We have not done a recalculation to see what (the cuts) does to our (tax) rate. It might lower it by a penny or two,” Kabat said.

The budget approved by the Board of Estimates will go before the public in November before final approval by the La Crosse Common Council.

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