La Crosse mayor announces 2016 budget plan

Mayor Tim Kabat proposes changes to police department, putting more officers on street

La Crosse’s mayor is unveiling his spending plan for the city.

Mayor Tim Kabat announced his proposal for the executive operating budget Thursday at City Hall.

One of the mayor’s biggest priorities in this year’s budget is the police department, making proposals to hire an additional neighborhood resource officer to the downtown area and moving the police department to 12-hour shifts. He says those changes would translate to six additional officers being on the street every day, and would save the city more money than hiring six new officers.

The mayor acknowledges this is a good time for the changes, with a recent string of shootings leaving many in the community feeling uneasy, but says these ideas have been months in the making.

“This does go hand in hand with what’s happened recently, but these plans have been in place for awhile. It’s just it takes time to get them implemented,” said Kabat.

The mayor credits the police department for being receptive to the ideas in the interest of keeping the community safe.

“It’s really up to the men and women who serve,” said Kabat. “The 12-hour shift really is coming from the police department itself and looking at how they can work more effectively, (and) get more officers out on the street.”

Under the proposed budget, city spending would increase by 1% to a total of $71.76 million. While it’s the first spending increase since 2012, Kabat is quick to point out that the projected total for 2016 is still lower than three years ago.

Residents of La Crosse will also see the benefit of all of the construction in the city. The city says because it’s levying $150,000 less than what it could have, the median La Crosse homeowner will see a decrease of $5.15 on their property taxes.

The mayor’s budget proposal now goes to the Board of Estimates, which will start holding meetings on Monday. The board will recommend a budget to the full council sometime next month.