Village approves a 20% tax rate increase

Shifting of payments to debt levy frees up money in general fund; splash pad gets the green light


Ozaukee Press staff

The Fredonia Village Board on Nov. 12 unanimously approved a 2023 levy that carries a 20% tax rate increase with a handful of residents questioning the rise in spending.

The village levy is up 15.7% from $934,894 in 2022 to $1,109,802 in 2023. The tax rate is $6.52 per $1,000 of assessed value, a $1.31 increase, or 20%.

That means the owner of a $250,000 home would pay $1,630 in village taxes, a more than $325 increase. That does not include property taxes levied by the Northern Ozaukee School District, Ozaukee County or the Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Most of the increase, Village Administrator Christophe Jenkins said, is due to the moving all of the village’s principal and interest payments to its debt levy, which is collected outside of the general fund.

In the past, the village only claimed a portion of its principal and interest payments in the debt levy, and the general fund paid the rest. Claiming the full amount on the debt levy frees up money in the general fund to be used for other things.

Village President Don Dohrwardt said not levying for the full amount, “reduces the amount we have to run the village.

“When you under-report your debt total, you can only recover what you report your debt is and the rest of it has to be paid out of the general fund,” he said. “The lion’s share of the (tax) increase is debt levy, which was under-reported for a number of years.”

Resident Rudy McCormick said he appreciates the work the board does but questioned the tax increase.

“For the last six years, my tax bill has gone up more than once, more than twice,” he said.

McCormick said he put a forum online to get feedback from residents on the budget but didn’t get many responses.

“We are in a small town ... People don’t get it. They don’t show up and fight for their rights,” he said.

That didn’t dampen his disagreement.

“My concern is the level of spending that’s been going on for years now doesn’t seem to let up,” he said.

“The spending spree you guys are on has got to come to an end.”

Resident Sandi Tretow said the 20% tax increase comes at a time when inflation is at a 40-year high and families are struggling to heat their homes, put gas in their cars and food on the table.

“I feel sorry for them,” she said.

Village President Don Dohrwardt said staffing changes haven’t had a major impact on spending — “It’s just paying someone else now,” he said — but the village is adding a fourth member to the Public Works Department, “which we needed. We were short one for years.”

During the board’s discussion of the budget, Trustee Dan Gehrke said he agrees “it sucks to raise taxes” but the village has to decide whether it wants to hire people to improve services and “the overall quality of life here in Fredonia.”

Trustee Bruce Paape said “it’s important to know” that board members are in the office and on the phone during the week “doing their job as a public servant.”

Nearly $350,000 in capital projects OK’d

The capital projects budget garnered more disagreement among trustees than the tax levy.

Nine projects totaling $345,000 are on the list for 2023, with the largest one — $100,000 for half the cost of a splash pad using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money from the federal government — drawing the most debate. Private fundraising is slated to raise the other $100,000.

Paape said this isn’t the right time to put in a splash pad.

“To be clear, these are ARPA funds,” Trustee Rick Abegglen said.

“They’re supposed to be used for infrastructure,” Paape said.

Trustee Joshua Haas said officials have “debated to death” what to do with the ARPA funds, and said there isn’t enough money to cover road projects.

Abegglen said receiving the funds is a unique opportunity for the village and adding that the money is coming out of everyone’s pockets, not just those of the homeowners in Fredonia.

An informal survey on Facebook, he said, showed support for the splash pad.

“We thought it would be time to do something nice, something that we normally wouldn’t be able to do,” he said.

Dohrwardt said, “This was just money that was shoved in our face” but suggested the village spend it.

“If we don’t use it, they’ll give it to someone else and we’ll be paying it back for something that’s not ours. This will satisfy a lot of kids. I think this is a good thing to do,” he said.

Gehrke said the pad could attract food trucks and other vendors.

“It’s not just a splash pad,” he said.

The capital projects budget passed, 6-1. John Long cast the dissenting vote.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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