LA CROSSE, WI -

In the coming weeks, the city of La Crosse will have its operating budget ready for 2014.

And while cuts did have to be made, city officials say residents shouldn't feel too much of a difference.

The city had to come up with $700,000 to cut or find a way to make money to cover expenses.

And while some city officials say they're happy with this year's proposed budget, they say the real challenge is yet to come.

Balancing a $71 million budget is not an easy task.

"We had some very tough decisions to make. We're trying to hold the line at the same levy as last year, per state law. That's a very difficult task to accomplish," said city of La Crosse Finance Director Wayne Delagrave.

Delagrave said the city did find a way to make up for $700,000.

"I think it was just a team effort this year to get to this point," said Delagrave.

Delagrave said the mayor worked closely with city departments to come up with the $700,000.

He said a number of changes had to be made, including eliminating two city positions and asking employees to pay more for health care coverage and retirement.

"Instead of across-the-board cuts, his plan was more specific. We're going to target certain areas, look to cut here and there and ask for departments' help in making those tough decisions," said Delagrave.

City Council member Doug Happel said he applauds the mayor for keeping city taxes from increasing.

"No one, myself included, want taxes to go up. I think people are pleased if we can continue the services and not increase taxes, and that's what we've been able to do so far for 2014," said Happel.

But both Happel and Delagrave said the challenge of balancing the city budget will only continue to grow in the years to come.

"Speaking only for myself, those budgets are going to get tougher. We're going to have to cut, I think, about a million and a half dollars or so each year. We may  need to start looking at a potential referendum for the city," said Happel.

"I don't think things are going to get any better in 2015 or 2016. I think it's going to become increasingly more difficult to continue to provide a level of service, programming, keep services open with the same amount of dollars we have to work with each year," said Delagrave.

Delagrave said it's important to note that while city property taxes will go down by 8 cents, La Crosse residents will see an increase in how much they pay the school district and Western Technical College.

That's because both schools did successfully pass a referendum this past November.

The proposed budget will go to the full City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 19.

The public is encouraged to attend to voice their opinions at that meeting.