La Crosse city officials were able to cut spending and the total levy in the 2020 budget passed Tuesday by the La Crosse Common Council.
The city’s operating levy was set at $33.9 million and the tax rate was set at $10.39 per $1,000 of assessed value, both of which are down from 2019, when the operating levy was $35.41 million and the tax rate was $12.04 per $1,000.
Total spending was down to $68.76 million in the 2020 budget from last year’s $72.36 million.
“It’s a good budget. It maintains our discipline and yet addresses the priorities that the community is telling us we should,” said Mayor Tim Kabat.
The city’s portion of the property tax bill for a $150,000 home in La Crosse will be about $1,558.50 compared to $1,806 in 2019.
The budget allows the city to add another neighborhood resource officer to the police department and three additional staff people to the street department, building up the city’s focus on public safety and maintaining roads.
The city hopes to add two neighborhood resource officers in April 2020, which will focus on the downtown and campus areas — in particular the neighborhoods around Cameron and Burns parks — and supplement the work already being done by the two downtown NROs.
The city was also able to add funds to the operating budget of the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department for the maintenance of playgrounds, equipment and shelters.
“We’ve heard loud and clear over the past several years about the need to invest and reinvest into our infrastructure,” Kabat said.
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With the three additional street department employees, the city will be able to have more crews operating together to address multiple road projects at the same time.
The city was able to pay off a large chunk of its debt in 2019, which led to a significant decrease in total spending.
Council member Doug Happel praised the work of the mayor and Finance Director Valerie Fenske Wednesday, saying they did an excellent job balancing the city’s services with the constituents’ request to keep taxes down after a citywide residential reassessment raised the property values of the majority of city property owners.
“A lot of us got calls when we did the assessment increase,” said Happel, but holding the line on spending has limited the impact as much as possible.
That was one of Kabat’s goals going into the 2020 budget, he said.
The residential revaluation was necessary, but the mayor wanted to pair it with a lower tax rate, he said. As a result, for properties where the value went up 15% or less, the tax bill went down. For properties where the value went up more than 15%, the tax bill saw an increase.
Jourdan Vian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @Jourdan_LCT.