APPLETON - It's budget season for municipalities across the state. Creating one is an exercise in compromise.
Public safety, fire protection and basic services all come at a cost to taxpayers and funding them is the biggest challenge.
Crafting a budget that serves more than 76,000 residents is no easy task.
"We have a lot of constraints on our budget, not only ones we put on ourselves but ones we get from the state," said Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna.
Neither is protecting public safety. But it's a job the Appleton Police Department has been successful at doing with a smaller than average staff for many years. A FOX 11 Fact Check shows Appleton has an average of 1.48 officers per 1,000 citizens. By comparison, Green Bay, which has a population of just over 104,000 people, has an average of 1.75 officers per 1,000 citizens.
"I think the secret is, in one word, prevention," said Hanna.
Prevention that comes at a cost to taxpayers. Alderman Jim Clemons, who was unavailable for comment, wants to add one additional officer to the police department each year for the next three years to bring that ratio up.
Chief Peter Helein did not want to discuss the proposal before the council votes on it Wednesday night, but Hanna notes Helein has not requested additional officers. Alderman Curt Konetzke says the need to protect the public and asking them to pay for that service go hand in hand.
"You're not only just talking the actual wages for the officers, you have all the benefits, the uniforms, the guns, the training and everything else that goes along with it," said Konetzke.
It's not the only tough call in the budget. Hanna says non-union city employees have worked two years without a pay raise. They're in line for a half-percent hike in the 2013 budget. The city is also debating how to charge taxpayers for a new automated recycling program that will begin next year. All this shows the delicate balance of services, demands and finding a way to pay for them.
The council will vote on the 2013 budget Wednesday at 7 p.m.
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