Two days of going over draft information for the Village of Windsor’s 2021 budget ended Thursday, Sept. 10, with more work to be done.

Nothing has been finalized, but at $4,237,421, the proposed 2020-2021 levy is 6.63% higher than 2019-2020’s amount of $3,973,914. That’s a difference of $263,507.

In giving an overview to the Village Board, Village Administrator Tina Butteris noted the challenges that lie ahead.

“This is a really, really tough year for us,” said Village Administrator Tina Butteris.

Aside from the impact of COVID-19, the village has also seen a dip in net new construction, which fell from 4.45% in 2018-19 to 2.41% in 2019-2020.

“That’s lower than we’ve had the last couple of years,” said Butteris.

Net new construction in the village hit a high of 8.08% in 2017-18.

There was a 2.04% increase in the village’s assessed value, going from $915,152,200 in 2019 to $934,257,100 In 2020.

The Village Board will meet again on Tuesday, Sept. 15 and continue budget discussions. More preliminary meetings are scheduled for Sept. 22, Sept. 29 and Oct. 12, as needed. The budget hearing will take place Nov. 19, with the budget available for viewing by Oct. 29.

Butteris said Windsor always takes the maximum allowable levy every year, although the Village Board can decide not to. It is advantageous for the village to go with the maximum, however. If a village like Windsor takes less than what’s allowable, there’s a fear that it wouldn’t be able to get that money back in the future.

With the decrease in net new construction, Butteris said village trustees will need to talk through what decisions to make regarding the budget.

Trustee Kristine Schmidt said it appeared that the village’s portion of the property tax bill is only about 25%. Butteris guessed that about 50% is for the DeForest Area School District.

Schmidt said something needs to be done to explain to the community what is in the village’s control with regard to property taxes. Trustee Dan Madelung explained there was a big jump due to the school district’s $125 million 2019 referendum. Village President Bob Wipperfurth expects another hike this year as the district goes through another round of borrowing for the referendum.

Trustee Bruce Stravinski said the biggest takeaway he’s seen so far is that if the village’s debt service went down, so would the levy. The village has undertaken a number of big municipal projects this year, including the construction of a new public works building, a new police department and road projects, such as the Highway DM and Clinton Road work being done in the Morrisonville area.

The 2021 debt payment total for the village is $2,522,479, with $1,873,210 of that total being principal and $649,269 in interest.

“Debt is what’s really hurting us,” said Butteris, who said they are working to spread it out.

When the discussion turned to the parks budget, Stravinski warned, “Park fees could be down quite a bit due to COVID.”

During the sessions, Butteris advised that $25,000 be moved from the village’s general unassigned fund to its reserve fund. The village has a reserve/replacement fund for capital equipment purchases. If Windsor does not levy for funds to be placed in reserves, the village board can move funds from the unassigned fund to the reserve/replacement fund. The board is discussing whether to use unassigned funds to lower the amount necessary to be levied for debt payments.

Butteris explained that Windsor’s goal is to maintain a general fund unassigned fund balance in a range of 25-30% of the current operating budget, but a 2019 audit pegged it at 34%. Trustee Madelung asked staff to look into bringing it down to 27.5-28%.

The sessions also looked at the budgets of the Parks Commission, Token Creek Conservancy, the Community and Senior Center, the Community Development Authority, and the police.

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