Correction: The Dec. 5 print edition of the Cambridge News and Deerfield Independent incorrectly stated that the Village of Cambridge’s decision to fund $25,000 in street repairs in 2020 rather than fully funding fire and EMS in 2020 was due in part to its qualifying, with that move, for a $25,000 state expenditure restraint payment. However, while that had been a goal, to qualify for the state payment the village’s 2020 general fund budget increase over 2019 would have had to be limited to 3 percent, Deputy Village Clerk/Treasurer/Administrator Barbara Goeckner said. The increase ultimately came in at 6 percent, disqualifying the village from receiving a state payment. The online version of the article, below, is corrected. We regret the error.

The Cambridge Village Board has adopted an annual budget that doesn’t fully fund the amount requested of it for fire and EMS in 2020.

The Village Board voted on Nov. 26 to give about $144,800 to the Cambridge Community Fire and EMS Commission in 2020. That’s about $2,600 more than the $142,200 it gave in 2019, or an increase of about 1.8 percent.

However, it’s about $24,600 less than the $169,400 the fire and EMS commission requested of the village for 2020. Had Cambridge fully funded the commission’s 2020 request, its increase would have been about $27,200, or 19 percent more than it contributed in 2019.

The Village Board on Nov. 26 approved a 2020 tax levy of about $1.21 million. The tax levy increase of 1.47 percent, or about $17,500 over 2019, is the maximum that Cambridge is allowed to increase its tax levy over 2019 under state revenue caps, Deputy Village Clerk/Treasurer/Administrator Barbara Goeckner noted.

The village’s total 2020 budget is about $1.19 million, about a 6 percent increase over $1.12 million in 2019.

Fire and EMS funding

The village is one of five municipalities that fund the Cambridge Community Fire and EMS Commission, that operates local fire and EMS services, with the apportioning based on each municipality’s equalized value.

In 2020, the equalized value breakdown amounted to a request to Cambridge to fund 25 percent of the commission’s budget. Other requests amounted to 49 percent for the Town of Oakland, 20 percent for the Town of Christiana, 3.5 percent for the Town of Lake Mills and 2.5 percent for the Village of Rockdale.

The fire and EMS commission’s total 2020 budget request, finalized Oct. 9, amounted to about $888,000, up 6.7 percent from $832,000 in 2019. The share of that requested to be funded by the five municipalities was about $677,500, up 15.45 percent from about $572,800 in 2019.

In a Nov. 21 letter to the editor printed in the Cambridge News and Independent, after it became known the village was considering not fully funding the amount requested of it, Oakland Town Chairman Eugene Kapsner argued that an intergovernmental agreement all five municipalities have signed requires Cambridge to pay its full annual share. Kapsner also chairs the fire and EMS commission.

Cambridge Village President Mark McNally, who represents the village on the commission, voted along with the rest of the commission in October to approve its budget request, Kapsner also wrote.

“At our October ninth meeting we went through the entire budget line by line including reserves and explained to the commission members the reason for the amount in each line. After discussion it was unanimously approved. That includes the vote from the village representative on the commission, Mr. McNally,” Kapsner wrote.

The fire and EMS commission meets next on Wednesday, Nov. 4, at 6:30 p.m. at the Cambridge Fire/EMS Building. McNally said he expects discussion at that meeting about Cambridge’s budget decision.

Budget limitations

Goeckner noted that the $27,200 increase for fire and EMS requested of Cambridge is nearly $10,000 more than the roughly $17,500 the village is allowed, under state revenue caps, to increase its total tax levy in 2020.

“Our levy (increase) is already used on that one line item…and then some,” Goeckner said.

“That $10,000 is a cut in other services that the village is able to offer,” Village Board member Paula Hollenbeck concurred.

Rather than fully funding fire and EMS in 2020, the village’s Audit and Finance Committee chose instead to put $25,000 instead into a fund to pay for street repairs in the village next year.

Ultimately, about $25,000 was the total amount allocated for street repairs in the village in 2020.

“Right now, our choices are we fund fire and EMS or we fund our streets. We can’t let all the streets go back to gravel,” Hollenbeck said.

Without that decision, “no roads would get fixed this year, not unless we would go out for borrowing,” Village Administrator Lisa Moen said.

Goeckner also said it had been goal to keep the village’s 2020 budget increase, over 2019, at less than 3 percent in order to qualify for a $25,000 state expenditure restraint payment. However, she said in the end that didn’t happen.{p class=”p1”}”We would have needed to cut another $34,000-plus from the budget in order to qualify and we have already cut everywhere we can,” Goeckner said.

Village officials questioned at the Nov. 26 Village Board meeting how the fire and EMS commission can ask for a 6 percent overall increase for 2020, given the 3 percent expenditure restraint limit placed on the village.

“Is there any way that fire and EMS commission can be held to 3 percent like we have to be?” Village Board member Kathy Cunningham similarly questioned.

Village Board members also continued to voice objections as they adopted their budget on Nov. 26, to about $50,000 in the fire and EMS commission’s 2020 budget request that is going into reserves to fund future equipment purchases, and another $50,000 being budgeted by the commission to replenish EMS reserves tapped in 2019 to help pad the 2019 fire and EMS budget request.

Village Board members said Cambridge can’t fund that much going into reserves in one year, when it is struggling to cover basic expenses, and has put off purchases like replacement of a 20-year-old snowplow.

Village board members also said they would like to see the fire and EMS commission in future years bring a proposed budget to municipalities earlier in the fall, so there is adequate time to review it.

“I think everyone on the (village) Audit and Finance committee agreed that we have concerns about that process,” Village Board member Paula Hollenbeck said.

Some specific line-items in the village’s adopted 2020 budget include:

• $23,000 for senior and youth services, up from $9,500 in 2019;

• A $52,000 ongoing, annual developer’s incentive payment to Dancing Goat Distillery;

• About $234,000 to contract with the Dane County Sheriff’s Office for police services, an increase of about 6 percent, up from $220,000 in 2019;

• $1,350 to maintain a downtown fountain whose water element had been proposed to be disassembled. Funds for the fountain, which includes a one-time $850 cost to repair its water feature and $500 in normal annual maintenance, were put back into the 2020 budget after a citizen questioned why were being taken out.

• $2,100 for Main Street flowers, that includes $850 to replace basket liners and hangers, was another item proposed to be cut from the 2020 budget but ultimately kept in;

• $500 for the Cambridge Arts Council.

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