Watertown’s preliminary levy up 12.5 percent

The Watertown City Council approved the city’s 2013 preliminary levy during its regular meeting last Tuesday, Sept. 11, a figure that represents a 12.5 percent increase from this year’s levy, but that will likely be reduced in the coming months before the final levy is approved in December.

The preliminary levy, which must be set by municipalities in September so it can be certified to the county auditor, essentially sets a ceiling for what the tax levy will be for the following the year. The levy can be reduced from the preliminary levy, but not increased.
Watertown has a history of setting a high preliminary levy in September so it can take more time to analyze the budget and begin to whittle it back down. The council also set Tuesday, Dec. 13, as the date for the public hearing on the final levy.

“My assumption is, and it’s the history of the city, that that budget will look quite different than it does today,” city administrator Luke Fischer said.

The total preliminary levy was set at $2,006,972, including a $1,379,710 general fund levy. In a separate measure, the council approved a $40,806 Economic Development Authority levy, which represents about a 12.8 percent decrease from last year.

While the total preliminary levy for 2013 is significantly higher than this year’s levy, Fischer said an increase of 8 to 12 percent has been typical in Watertown before the council works to reduce that number before the final levy, as it intends to do once again this year. Last year, the council cut $130,000 from the preliminary levy before the final levy was passed. In 2010, for the 2011 levy, $44,000 was cut during that process.

“The preliminary levy is just preliminary,” councilman Michael Walters said. “It for sure will be changed quite a bit before it gets finalized at the end of the year.”