La Crosse homeowners will see a decrease in their city property taxes next year after a Tuesday decision by the La Crosse Common Council.

The council unanimously approved an operating budget of just over $70 million, with a tax rate of $12.08 per $1,000 of assessed value and a total operating budget levy of $34.4 million, which would make the tax bill on a $150,000 home $1,812 next year. The rate dropped from $12.29 per $1,000 of assessed value last year.

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Mayor Tim Kabat

Kabat

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La Crosse Common Council member Martin Gaul

Gaul

The council also unanimously approved restoring $70,000 of the $150,000 cut by the Board of Estimates after the city received final numbers on the Wisconsin Department of Revenue expenditure restraint program requirements, which provides $1.4 million to the city in return for keeping expenses down.

The board had made a $150,000 reduction in health insurance premiums paid, took $50,000 from the city’s contingency fund, delayed the hiring a crime analyst for the La Crosse Police Department for a savings of $20,250 and reduced general expenses by $16,000.

“We thought it was lower than what it ended up to be. Based on what we gathered from the state of Wisconsin, we’re a bit under that expenditure restraint limit,” La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat said.

The council approved restoring $50,000 to the general contingency fund and $20,250 for the crime analyst position after a motion by council president Martin Gaul.

“I’m concerned that we’re cutting $50,000 away from the general contingency fund if we don’t need to. That money went to some pretty good uses this year,” Gaul said.

Council member David Marshall spoke in favor of moving up the start date of the criminal analyst, saying it had the potential to be a huge benefit to public safety and the city’s police department.

“They deserve to have that kind of resource, that criminal analysis resource,” Marshall said.

The amended budget calls for the analyst to start in July.

Council member Doug Happel praised the mayor and finance department and commended the city for keeping the tax rate steady.

“The city of La Crosse is one of the few municipalities that actually maintains our (tax) rate. We don’t really increase it,” Happel said. “We’re really doing what we’re asked to do and doing it very well.”

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Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

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