Public Safety, Street Maintenance Referendum
Vote April 4, 2023
The Berlin City Council has identified a need to increase revenue, as the City has exhausted other funding resources and does not have enough funding to continue providing the level of services community members are used to.
Voters in the City of Berlin will be asked via referendum on April 4 whether or not they approve an increase in the annual tax levy going forward in order to meet increased costs and maintain the existing level of public safety and street maintenance services.
For years, funding sources have been decreasing even while the City is facing growing costs to provide services – including public safety services and street repair work. For example:
- Annual shared revenue or “State Aid” from the State of Wisconsin has decreased by nearly $300,000 dollars in the last 20+ years.
- State Transportation Aids decreased nearly $100,000 in the last three years.
- Street maintenance costs have increased 60% and City utility costs have increased 41% in the last year.
The City Council has worked hard to cut costs where possible and leverage one-time funding resources to close previous gaps. Those cuts have included:
- Eliminating part-time positions and decreasing staffing where possible in 2006;
- Discontinuing merit increases since 2015;
- Eliminating the DPW equipment replacement fund in 2016;
- Removing ambulance services from the City budget and allowing the County to take over in 2022; and
- Discontinuing contributions to the Housing Project in 2022.
The City of Berlin has explored available options to increase revenue, including adding a vehicle registration fee or “wheel tax,” a transportation utility fee, and / or adding public hydrant rental fees. No options except going to referendum would provide enough ongoing funding to maintain the existing level of City services, including public safety and street maintenance services.
IF A MAJORITY VOTE “YES”
If the $250,000 referendum is approved by a majority of Berlin voters, taxpayers will see a property tax increase of approximately $103.60 annually per $100,000 in assessed property value, starting with the bills issued in December 2023.
LEARN MORE AND MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION
The City of Berlin will host informational meetings at City Hall, 108 N. Capron Street on the following days:
- Wednesday, March 29 at 12:00 and 6:00
- Thursday, March 30 at 6:00
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What will the referendum question ask?
The City is asking for a $250,000 increase in the annual tax levy going forward in order to meet increased costs and maintain the existing level of services – including public safety and street maintenance services.
The referendum question will appear as follows on the Spring election ballot on April 4:
“Under state law, the increase in the levy of the City of Berlin for the tax to be imposed for the next fiscal year, 2024, is limited to 0.480%, which results in a levy of $2,111,176. Shall the City of Berlin be allowed to exceed this limit and increase the levy for the next fiscal year, 2024, for the purpose of maintaining police and fire department services and paying for critical street maintenance, by a total of 11.842%, which results in a levy of $2,361,176, and on an ongoing basis, include the increase of $250,000 for each fiscal year going forward?”
How will the referendum impact property taxes?
If City voters approve the referendum, the tax levy in 2023 and each year going forward would increase by $250,000. This translates to a property tax increase of approximately $103.60 per year, or about $2.00 per week, per $100,000 in assessed property value.
When and where will this question appear?
Election day is Tuesday, April 4, 2023. All polling places will open at 7:00 a.m. and will close at 8:00 p.m. Wisconsin voters are required to show an acceptable photo ID in order to vote.
Additional voting information, including polling places and information about requesting an absentee ballot, can be found on the City’s website at https://cityofberlin.net/city-clerk-treasurers-office/#Elections
What will it mean if a majority of voters vote “yes” and the referendum passes?
If the referendum passes, Berlin will have enough funding to maintain existing services – including public safety and street maintenance services.
If City voters approve the referendum, the tax levy in 2023 and each year going forward would increase by $250,000. This translates to a property tax increase of approximately $103.60 per year, or about $2.00 per week, per $100,000 in assessed property value
What will it mean if a majority of voters vote “no” and the referendum fails?
If the referendum does not pass, the City of Berlin will have to make difficult decisions about how to address its more than $300,000 budget gap – including cuts to services community members have come to expect.
Without additional funding, the City would need to make significant cuts in other areas of the budget to continue funding public safety and street repair services at the current level. For example, the City would need to cut several of the following services to close its budget gap:
- Closing the swimming pool to save approximately $120,000 per year;
- Halting the shared ride taxi service to save approximately $78,000 per year;
- Ceasing senior center activities to save approximately $67,000 per year;
- Cutting sidewalk repair work to save approximately $5,500 per year;
- Eliminating recreation activities to save approximately $78,000 per year.
Why is the City asking for this referendum now?
For years, the City has faced decreases in outside funding sources like state shared revenue and state transportation aids. Despite these challenges, since 2014, the City has been able to leverage one-time savings and budget cuts (for example: using reserve funds, borrowing for large purchases, and reducing operational budget increases to 0%) to achieve a balanced budget. Since then, predicted expenditures have exceeded predicted revenues. The City has exhausted one-time funding options and requires additional revenue in order to maintain the level of services the community has come to expect.
Will the referendum address the City’s budget gap?
The City’s budget gap for 2023 is approximately $300,000. If the referendum passes, the City will be able to maintain existing services at the level community members are comparable. While it will not make the City whole, the funds will enable the City to avoid drastic cuts to services.
Who can I contact to receive more information about this referendum?
City Administrator Sara Rutkowski can be contacted via email at email@example.com with any questions.