Seven years of good luck with Mequon's property taxes staying steady with no increases may be coming to an end next year.
The city's appropriations committee -- made up of common council members -- gave preliminary approval of a 2017 budget on Oct. 13 that included a six-cent per $1,000 of assessed value increase to property taxes, according to Director of Finance Tom Watson.
The budget, as amended by the committee, comes before the common council for public hearing and approval at its next meeting, Nov. 9.
Watson said the biggest driver for the increase was the city's new public works facility being built on a $9 million general obligation bond. He said about $650,000 of that is due in 2017. He added the city also has some "capital infrastructure needs" that officials want to begin working on, as well, which contributed to the increase in taxes as well.
Despite this, the council desired and initially requested a budget that saw no increase in property taxes for 2017.
Watson said it was a "challenging process" to try and meet that desire while "absorbing the new debt service coming online."
City Administrator William Jones agreed, saying accounting for the debt service was difficult with working to keep tax rate level.
Prior to the adjustments at the appropriations committee meeting, which included increasing the property tax, the budget had been presented with no tax rate increase. However, there was a $300,000 shortfall according to online documents.
Two residents spoke at a Sept. 20 appropriations committee workshop meeting on potentially increasing property taxes to cover the shortfall
Burt Bartlett said a $28 increase on a $400,000 home (which would equate to about seven cents per $1,000 assessed) is an affordable amount, according to city documents.
Dave Jackson called a zero-based budget for eight years in a row irresponsible.
Watson said he felt the decision reached of increasing taxes by six cents per $1,000 was a good and balanced one.
"The council, through deliberation, found kind of a middle ground where they would raise taxes somewhat," Watson said.
Jones said the decision by the appropriations committee was in line with the guiding principles of "fiscally conservative" Mequon.
"Overall, the budget approved by the appropriations committee works to synthesize several long-held policy interests of the common council including maintaining low property taxes, investing in city infrastructure, providing excellent public safety services to the community, and expanding the city's tax base through a balanced approach to economic development," Jones said.