We have all known someone with a check that bounced from the bank. Regardless of how much one wants to spend, we all know that checkbooks need to be balanced with sufficient funds. We all know that responsible families balance their budgets and live within their means – this also goes for government balancing their budgets.
As Mayor of the City of Waukesha, I stand in solidarity with Alderman White, Alderman Hastings, Alderman Kalblinger, Alderman Payne, Alderman Reiland, and Alderman Skinner, and hereby veto the 2012 Operating Budget. We’re listening and we understand that we need to balance the city budget. We understand what the majority of Waukesha families are experiencing. In this current economy – with losses in retirements and real estate, and with many people unemployed, underemployed and on fixed incomes – now is not the time for the City to increase spending and taxes.
The suggestion of a garbage fee was a mistake and it was appropriately discarded over a month ago. Since then the Council has ignored multiple solutions that were presented to balance our budget. In fact, the Council chose to increase taxes beyond the Finance Committee’s recommendation. I believe a compromise, which would be financially responsible and fair to the majority of Waukesha families, would be to furlough city employees.
Specifically, requiring 11 furlough days of all employees – other than police and fire because of public safety – would fill our budget gap and meet our goal of a balanced budget and no city tax increase. The average employee has 260 scheduled work days per year. All elected officials would also be asked to compromise the equivalent 4.23 percent of their pay.
Note that other government agencies utilize furloughs. These furloughs would be above and beyond paid vacation days, would be limited to one furlough day per week for the required duration, and would be scheduled during departmental non-peak service times of the year. Additionally this would be an opportunity for our city departments to prove themselves efficient and innovative.
Seven benefits to this solution include: (1) a balanced budget, (2) no city tax increase on Waukesha families, (3) maintains healthy and strong police and fire protection, (4) no current city employee would be laid off, (5) all city employees would be able to keep their scheduled salary increases of 1.5 percent in 2012, (6) as well as keep their good health care, (7) and keep their good retirement packages.
Moreover with brand new Wisconsin legislation (AB 319), which became effective on Nov. 24, 2011, the Council now has the tools and time of 3 months to discuss with employee bargaining units potential compromises without modifying the existing contracts. And if they agree to compromise within the next 3 months, we would be able to remove the furlough days. We will never know the outcome of this option unless we thoroughly try it. We further trust that our police and fire bargaining units, who understand the importance of teamwork, would seriously consider rising to the challenge and also lending a helping hand.
Ask yourself, in this economy, is now the time to increase taxes? We are all in this together. Our families, if they over spend, can’t force their neighbors to pay the bill and neither should we. That would not be fair. Regardless of how we may want everything, we need to balance our check book. We can do a better job. If this budget is not fully aligned, our over 25,000 Waukesha families will have to pay more out of their check books.
Our Council needs to take a hard look at what is happening in both the private and public sectors. Major corporations and bargaining units in southeastern Wisconsin who also negotiated in good faith, such as Mercury Marine, Harley Davidson, and Kohler, have agreed to necessary compromises, many times much more than what we’d be requesting of our city employees. Other local government agencies were also able to hold the line on taxes for 2012, including Waukesha County and the School District of Waukesha. Our families, who are our ultimate employer, deserve the same financial responsibility from their entire elected Council. Our families should not have to ask the Council for a permission slip for a balanced budget and no city tax increase.
I challenge the Council to do what Waukesha families have to do, reduce spending and live within your means for 2012. There’s no such thing as good enough. A city tax increase is a city tax increase. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t push it off until next year. Now’s the opportunity to balance the City budget. Every dollar counts. The bottom line is that Waukesha families don’t want to end up with a check that bounced from the bank.
Perhaps the Council could even make Waukesha families proud with a breakthrough by providing some city tax relief.
As Mayor of the City of Waukesha, I will never be satisfied with the status quo and will relentlessly move forward. This decision is looking out for the families of Waukesha for the sake of a future of stability. A future of stability begins with a balanced budget today.
Citizens are encouraged to contact their Aldermen or come to the Council meeting at City Hall this Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 7:30 p.m.