MOUNT PLEASANT — Mount Pleasant trustees have voted to lower the tax rate for residents as part of the village’s proposed 2019 budget.

The initial proposed 2019 budget kept the tax rate at $7.31 per $1,000 of assessed property value, same as it was for this year’s budget, but on Monday trustees voted to reduce the rate. The tax rate will be used in determining tax bills sent out at the end of this year.

The Village Board voted 6-0, with Trustee Gary Feest choosing to abstain, to remove $575,000 of levy from the proposed 2019 budget, which would result in the tax rate lowering to $7.09 per $1,000 in assessed value. The amendment to the budget was introduced by trustees Ram Bhatia and Sonny Havn.

The village is planning on having a public hearing on the budget at 6 p.m. on Nov. 12 at the Village Hall, 8811 Campus Drive.

In May, it was looking like property assessments were going to increase about 10 percent. Village Assessor Dan McHugh said the average assessment now seems to only have gone up 6 percent. However, some properties were assessed at a higher value and others were assessed at a lower value.

For example, Village Finance Director Michael Bonn said that for a home that was assessed in 2017 at $200,000, the property is now assessed at about $212,000. With the proposed mill rate of $7.09 per $1,000 of assessed property value that would mean taxes to the village would be about $1,500, an increase of about $40.

As a result of lowering the levy, the Village Board also passed another amendment reducing the capital budget by $633,200, in a 6-0 vote, with Feest again abstaining to vote.

That amendment includes a $357,200 reduction in road paving; a $262,000 reduction in Department of Public Works equipment costs; and a $14,000 reduction in the police capital budget.

DeGroot ‘happy,’ Feest not so much

Village President Dave DeGroot said the village wanted to reduce the amount of borrowing for the budget to below $8 million and it is currently at about $7.8 million.

“After taking a harder look at the numbers, we decided that we didn’t need that extra operation cash,” DeGroot said. “It doesn’t mean that we still don’t need a plow truck and all of that stuff, but we’re trying to be as prudent as we can with taxpayer dollars.”

DeGroot said he is very happy where the village is at and believes the 2019 proposal “is a very responsible budget.”

Meanwhile, Feest does not believe the proposal is a responsible budget and at the moment he is a “no” for the plan.

“From my perspective, this is a pyramid scheme, it is a shell game, it is a travesty that nobody is willing to answer up to the elephant in the room and that is, when you look at our debt service and our borrowing,” Feest said. “It’s amazing we’re going to reduce $500,000 in this budget yet we’re going to come up with $700,000 to $1 million to fund a fire station in a budget that we were fighting like the dickens to balance out.”

Feest said he understands each year is different from an operational cost perspective and he decided to abstain because “I didn’t want to vote ‘no’ to indicate that I wasn’t interested in reducing our budget, but I wasn’t about to go along with what I consider to be a feel-good idea of reducing the budget.”

“You’re not solving the problem, you’re just bouncing it around,” Feest said, adding he is concerned the village is borrowing too much. “There isn’t a solution in this budget ... what you really need is a way to pay for the roads.”

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Ricardo Torres covers federal, state and Racine County politics along with the Village of Mount Pleasant. He bleeds Wisconsin sports teams.

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