It appears Village of DeForest officials are comfortable with a 2.99 percent tax increase proposed for the 2020 budget, with $13.5 million in capital projects slated for next year.
“That’s a lot,” said Trustee Jeff Miller, referring to the total price tag of the projects. “That’s probably the highest I’ve seen since I’ve sat on the board.”
Village Administrator Steve Fahlgren went over parts of the proposed budget at Tuesday’s DeForest Village Board meeting, as he and other village officials detailed projects coming down the pike.
“Pretty huge,” said Fahlgren. “I don’t know if we’ve had that big of a year or not, but again, there’s a bunch of different things happening – different timing, different funding sources.”
Fahlgren said he feels the village will still be under the capacity thresholds with respect to all the work that is planned.
The 2020 budget has not been finalized.
Fahlgren said there will be $1.5 million in general projects funded with taxpayer money. On top of that, totals of $400,000, $300,000 and $200,000 are earmarked for water, sewer and stormwater work, respectively.
Trustee Abigail Lowery asked about $795,000 set aside for street projects and if that number was stable. Fahlgren said, “The streets come and go with what other projects are happening,” and added, “ … when there are other projects, the streets give way.”
Lowery said, “I was going to say I’ve been hearing a lot about streets and if you drive on some of our streets, some of them are in pretty rough shape. And it could be reconstruction or it could be just putting more money into early maintenance of the streets so they last longer.”
Public Works Project Coordinator Greg Hall went through the upcoming street projects, including a reconstruction of Columbia Avenue from Madison Street to Cleveland Avenue by Eagle Point Elementary School. Hall also said workers should be able to mitigate the slope that leads to big dips in driveways there.
Stevenson Street will get a resurfacing from Hwy. V to Holum Street.
“That really took a hit this winter,” said Hall. “We put a ton of cold patch on it.”
An alley off Reigstad Street near Tesar Law Group is targeted for work, along with a resurfacing of Cherokee Court. The village is also looking at adding sidewalk on Yorktown Road near the DeForest Area Middle School.
Hall also said they are hoping to get started on traffic signals for Hwy. 19 by Settlers Bank, a project that’s been stalled. They costs of supplies has been much higher than expected, said Fahlgren.
According to Fahlgren, utility work will follow the street projects, with one exception – that being the north-south water interconnection that became necessary with problems plaguing Well No. 5. A combination of some tax incremental district and water utility funding, plus other cash, may be used in on the interconnection to keep the project from impacting rates significantly.
With regard to sewer projects, a lining is proposed for Columbia Avenue from Durkee Street to Carriage Way, going underneath the railroad tracks to a field.
“Once you put the liner in, it’s almost like a new pipe,” said Hall. “It’s less costly than digging it up.”
The biggest projects could stem from Hooper Corporation’s plans to move its headquarters to DeForest. Roughly, the project in TID 7 could result in $6 million worth of infrastructure and road improvements near the 50-acre vacant parcel accessible from Hwy. 19 where it is planned to go. Fahlgren said it would connect the existing road there and utilities all the way up to Hwy. 19.
Water connections and other projects totaling $200,000 the village needs to finish near Fleet Farm are also part of the plans. The hope is they will be finished as the Department of Transportation does its work in the area.
Trail and bridge work were also discussed, as was the splashpad planned for Fireman’s Park and the possibility of a pool. An amount of $35,000 has been set aside in the budget if a pool study is approved.
As for the splashpad, fhe plan is to build one for $450,000. An additional $25,000 in ancillary improvements is possible, depending on community donations.
Fahlgren explained how park impact fees collected over time will be used to help pay for it, along with money from billboard leases and possible grant funding. The splashpad would go in a circle between the shelter and a horseshoe shaped area by the nearby playground.
Other big-ticket items include new Fire and EMS vehicles. DeForest’s share would be $557,000 of the $975,000 in costs, although Fahlgren noted that it’s not a firm number yet.
Fahlgren also said there was an unusual amount of money going for general government needs, with $251,000 going for new air conditioning and boilers at the library.
During the discussions, Fahlgren also proposed moving the village’s borrowing period by a few months later, with work starting in May with issuance in July. That way the village would have more solid bid numbers for its projects and their design work, which would help prevent overborrowing.
“It won’t help pay off future debt, but it’s a better, smarter move, so we’re not paying [more] in interest,” said Fahlgren.
Fahlgren also talked about the proposed 2.99 percent tax increase.
“I thought I heard from the majority of people speaking that they would be comfortable [with that],” said Fahlgren, noting that there had been a budget amendment with a decrease of $36,800, although it has been revised slightly. That gives village officials more to spend to get to that 2.99 percent figure, said Fahlgren.
Lowery had previously brought up trimming it to 2.5 percent. Fahlgren said if the board decided to go with 2.5 percent, then a different approach is needed to address possible changes. He did say, “We can get there,” but added it would take some effort.
Fahlgreen explained that expenditure restraint is the “bogey out there,” with around $100,000 that the village could still budget to spend. He said the village is in a positive state with regard to debt service.
Miller asked if the village could tax for additional $615,000. Fahlgren replied that it could, explaining that it was not a “use it or lose it” proposition and that it could be carried over to next year.
“It gets back to what is a tolerable percentage increase for our taxpayers with the services being provided, whether they’re added because of growth, added because of community enrichment – that type of thing,” said Fahlgren.
Miller argued that the budget, as it stands, keeps the level of service the community has currently, while increasing Fire and EMS service with its move to a paramedical service and getting the village a leaf-vac truck, another police officer, a splashpad, all of the road projects the board has reviewed and another part-time employee at village hall’s front desk – all for an additional $53 annually in taxes for an average home of $263,000.
“That’s what this budget gets us?” said Miller. Fahlgren replied, “I can’t say no to that.”
Miller said the board has always tried to keep increases manageable. He also talked about the school referendum and how that has added to taxes.
Fahlgren detailed how growth and the village realizing more revenue have helped its finances. Plus, a renewed garbage contract, which started in 2019, resulted in a drop in costs.