At its meeting on Thursday, Nov. 19, the Windsor Village Board unanimously approved a levy of $4,192,895 for the 2020-21 budget, a 5.51 percent increase over the figures for 2019-20.

A debt restructuring that was also passed at the meeting helped keep the mill rate down. It was originally targeted to hit $4.55 per $1,000 of equalized value, but that number dropped to $4.48.

The community’s growth positively impacts the village’s finances.

“We continue to grow, which is good,” said Sindy Schwenn, the village treasurer and human resource benefit manager.

Budget breakdown

A public hearing on the budget was held prior to the Nov. 19 meeting. There was no comment from residents.

The mill rate attached to the 2020-21 budget is higher than the one assessed for the 2019-20 budget. That figure was $4.34 per $1,000 of equalized value. Property owners in the village will see a 3.17 percent increase in assessed impact, the increase shown on the tax bill.

On a $200,000 home, that means taxes will go from $868.47 in 2019 to $895.96 in 2020 – a $27.49 hike. For a $400,000 home, there will be an increase of $54.99, as taxes go from $1,736 in 2019 to $1,791 for 2020, with a $124.14 jump on a $600,000 home, going from $2,605 to $2,729.

The total levy for the village rises by $218,981 over the 2019-20 actual levy of $3,973,914.

The budget funds various mandated statutory obligations for the village and matches resources to community goals and needs. It pays for such services as elections, fire and EMS services, property assessment, building inspections, recreation programs, law enforcement, snow removal, street maintenance, economic development, conservancy, parks, financial planning, administrative services, website and other IT, and water and sewer services.

The whole process started in May, with a strategic planning and capital improvement session, with budget work beginning on June 2. More capital improvement planning was done on June 23, followed by village board updates on July 16 and Aug. 20. Budget workshops were held throughout September, with a final one on Oct. 12. Notice of the public hearing was sent Oct. 23, with the Nov. 19 public hearing and budget adoption.

Windsor’s population has grown, going from 5,942 in 2010 to 8,240 in 2020. The village’s assessed value, which equates to its tax base, has risen from $641,073,400 in 2016 to $935,951,400 in 2020 – an increase of $20,799,200 over 2019 figures.

Schwenn said the village is approaching another revaluation in 2022. She also said that local area has grown the most between 2009 and 2019 compared to surrounding communities.

That conclusion is borne out by median sale prices of existing homes, with the South Central Wisconsin Multiple Listing Service as the source of the data. Between 2009 and 2019, the DeForest-Windsor area has seen a 71 percent increase in the median sale price of existing homes, going from $185,950 to $318,450. McFarland has experienced a 68 percent spike, with Monona’s figure rising by 64 percent over that time period. The data was compiled on Sept. 14 of this year.

Jamie Rybarczyk, the village’s deputy administrator and economic development director, noted that the amount of single-family home permits are slowing down, from a high of 81 in 2016. As of Oct. 31, the 2020 number is 59, compared to 66 total in 2019.

However, Trustee Don Madelung asked if that number could rise, given that the village added 20 between November and December of 2019. Rybarczyk said the 2020 single-home permits could go up, noting that work being done in the Bear Tree Farms and Pleasant Hill Estates developments indicates more could be forthcoming, especially if the weather is mild.

Rybarczyk said the village has also benefitted from residents making improvements to their homes through remodeling projects and the addition of decks.

“It’s been a good year for us with that,” said Rybarczyk.

Schwenn also noted how Windsor’s property tax base is 86 percent residential. The villages of Dane and Waunakee have similar property tax bases. Schwenn added, “We’d like to see more commercial come into Windsor.”

More balanced tax bases are seen in the cities of Madison and Middleton.

All tax bills for Windsor include the following taxing jurisdictions: State of Wisconsin; Dane County; Village of Windsor; Madison Technical College; and either the DeForest or Sun Prairie school district, depending on where a resident lives.

There are also two special taxing jurisdictions for some – the Lake Windsor Lake District and the Oak Springs Lake District.

The school districts receive the majority of the taxes.

As far as Windsor’s general fund goes, most of the budget is divided up into public works, public safety and general government. Those three areas account for 91 percent.

There is an increase in the village personnel portion of the 2020-21 budget that providing funding for hiring a parks and conservancy manager, a 2 percent cost of living increase for village workers, plus additional funding to support recycling center hours and summer help for the water utility.

With regard to the village’s debt, cities, villages and towns are statutorily limited to using 5 percent of their equalized value to borrow general obligation debt.

Windsor is well below that threshold, according to Schwenn, which gives the village greater flexibility and show fiscal conservatism.

In 2019, the existing general obligation debt for Windsor was $23,660,000, compared to its statutory limit of $50,007,875.

The debt restructuring the board approved on Thursday was accomplished to ease the mill rate burden on village property taxpayers.

Debt restructuring

Before tackling the budget, the board approved a resolution authorizing and selling $1,915,000 of its Wisconsin Taxable General Obligation Refunding Bonds to BOK Financial Securities, from Milwaukee.

Phil Cosson, senior municipal advisor for Ehlers, the village’s financial advisor, said the six bids that came in were close together, with a difference between the high and low bid of only $14,000. BOK’s bid of 1.42 percent, compared to the high bid of 1.5339 percent, was accepted by the board.

Previously, as explained by Cosson, the village had expressed a desire to drive down its debt service levy in the hopes that it would have a positive effect on future mill rates. Ehlers was given authorization last month to proceed with bidding out the sale of the bonds.

With the restructuring, the village was looking at earning a small savings of $31,000 when the measure was proposed a month ago. Cosson said the village ended up doubling that.

At the same time, the village was able to reaffirm its AA rating, according to Cosson. Factors such as proximity to Madison and the village’s strong management and good fiscal policy helped ensure that Windsor would maintain the rating, according to Cosson.

The whole process was described as a “fire drill,” by Cosson. Bidding went out 10 days ago, and the recent elections made things chaotic.

“A lot has been happening the last two weeks,” said Cosson.

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