Sun Prairie Mayor Paul Esser proposed a $32.9 million 2022 operating budget to taxpayers Tuesday, saying it will boost public safety, equity, and prepare the city for future growth — all for a $64 tax increase on the average property in the City of Sun Prairie.

“We are asking for $64 a year, but we are giving them far more than we are asking of them,” Esser said as he presented the 2022 recommended operating & capital budget at the Oct. 12 Committee of the Whole meeting.

Esser said initiatives in the budget will improve the quality of life for city residents.

In the proposed budget, a police officer and a social worker would be added to the department in what Esser said will prepare the police force to evolve with changes in policing and the estimated 1,000 resident population increase per year.

A paramedic will also be added under the mayor’s proposed budget, along with an intuitive to purchase non-narcotic nitrous oxide for pain management, a reaction to the opioid crisis.

There’s also money to create a bike/pedestrian plan for the city, continue the Dream Bus Library Service, and add a communication and marketing position at the library.

The Colonial Club would also get $20,000 additional funding under the mayor’s proposed budget, on top of the $210,000 it already receives from the city.

New staff positions that would be added under the proposed budget include a limited-term employee museum registrar, IT systems administrator, neighborhood services specialist in the building inspection department, a maintenance technician and parks maintenance worker.

There’s also money for a salary study to see how the city compares with other municipalities.

As part of the cost-to-continue 2022 budget, city staff will see a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase and step increases for non-union employees. Police will also see a bump in pay under the mayor’s budget.

Esser proposes a 3.5 percent increase in salaries for the mayor and city council, that would take effect after the 2022 election. Esser said if people “squawk that we are feathering our own nests” he would take the blame. He advocating for the raise to motive people working in lower-paying hourly jobs to run for elected city positions.

An equity study is also proposed in the 2022 budget that Esser said will gauge how the city is moving toward its mission of advancing equity and diversity and creating an inclusive city.

“I want to see Sun Prairie having the reputation of being known as a safe place for everyone regardless of ethnicity, age, race, sexual orientation, gender and so forth,” Esser said.

Esser said that an inclusive community will attract more residents and businesses, boosting economic development.

“That is going to be our secret weapon that no one else in Dane County can touch, “ Esser said.

The 2022 proposed property tax levy is $26.4 million with a 3 percent increase or $64 on the average home, (currently valued at $301,200). It’s the second-highest tax increase since 2016. Esser has advocated for s 3-5 percent tax increase in every city budget. Last year city alders kept the increase at 1.5 percent, a concession to city residents who were suffered financially from the pandemic.

Esser defended the 2022 increase, citing data that showed the City of Sun Prairie had the second to lowest tax rate when compared with Madison, Fitchburg, Stoughton and Middleton.

The proposed city tax increase is just a portion of the Sun Prairie resident’s tax bill, which includes the school district, Dane County and Madison College.

Wastewater rates will increase by $10 for the average residential user. Refuse and recycling rates will remain the same.

More than half of the tax increase will be used to cover cost the city’s cost-to-continue budget and the rest for initiatives.

The proposed city budget will get a boost from its first installment of $3.6 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds, to help pay for an equity study and a social worker. The federal money was distributed to help municipalities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alders will review the mayor’s proposed 2022 budget, adding and cutting items until a final proposed budget is set for a vote.

District 1 Alder and Council President Steve Stocker called on residents to read the 2022 budget document posted on the city’s website, www.cityofsunprairie.com and give city alders input.

“That is my homework assignment for the public,” Stocker said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Alders will discuss the 2022 budget at the Oct. 19, Oct. 26, Nov. 2 Committee of the Whole meetings. A public hearing on the city budget is on Nov. 9, with the adoption of the budget on Nov. 16. All the meetings are virtual for the public. To register for virtual attendance follow instructions on the meeting’s posted agenda.

Residents can also submit comments on agenda items by emailing councilandmayor@cityofsunprairie.com or through Survey Monkey. Watch the meeting on KSUN (channel 983 on Spectrum cable or channels 13/1013 on TDS cable) or stream online at sunprairiemediacenter.com or on the Sun Prairie Media Center app.

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