Waukesha Committee Recommends Furloughs, Delaying Hiring of Safety Positions
But the committee was split three to two on every issue as the city’s budget advances to Common Council with .48 percent tax increase.
The vacant children’s library manager, city planner and city administrator positions were spared the chopping block from the Finance Committee on Wednesday after a 5-1/2-hour meeting, but two firefighter and one detective positions are being unfunded in the 2012 budget recommendations.
The Waukesha Common Council will vote on the Finance Committee’s recommendations on Tuesday night. The Finance already unfunded one patrol officer position during its discussion Monday night.
The Finance Committee also voted to enact four furlough days for all city employees except for union police and firefighter employees, which is equal to the 1.5 percent pay increase the city employees would receive in 2012.
The tax increase under the committee's budget recommendation is .48 percent, an increase of $10.13 on the median home from this year’s budget. However, committee voted against recommending that tax increase.
Without the furloughs the city’s portion of the tax bill would increase $20 compared to the 2011 budget, a 1.03 percent increase on the tax levy. Overall, Waukesha tax bills will decrease when adding in the Waukesha School District’s taxes, which are decreasing, and Waukesha County taxes, which remain flat, according to information presented during Wednesday night’s Finance Committee meeting.
But, the budget recommendation could change at the Common Council meeting on Tuesday as the Finance Committee was essentially split on the recommendations.
Aldermen Joe Pieper and Paul Ybarra voted against the furloughs and unfunding the firefighter and detective position. Aldermen Andy Reiland, John Kalblinger and Eric Payne voted to not fund the positions and for the furloughs.
Ybarra again questioned how Mayor Jeff Scrima was pushing for a tax freeze with up to 22 days of furloughs per employee this week when Scrima had argued for a $136 garbage fee per household.
“Somehow that was OK but this $20 is completely unacceptable,” Ybarra said. “I still don’t understand that.”
Ybarra and Pieper both voted against the furloughs. Pieper said he would be able to defend the $20 tax increase to his constituents after all the work that went into cutting beyond an additional $2 million from the budget this week. They both voted against charging a .48 percent tax increase in the city's budget.
“I just think that it is simply kicking the can down the road,” Pieper said.
“A furlough does nothing more than kick the can down the road,” Ybarra said.
But for Payne, who voted against recommending a .48 percent tax increase and generally votes against anything that would involve raising taxes and increased spending, fees and wages, it was support for furlough days.
“The taxpayers out there, there are a whole lot of taxpayers that have suffered,” Payne said.
Reiland motioned for a majority of the budget cuts Wednesday night and pushed for the city furloughs while acknowledging that city workers have been asked to do more with less.
“Based on what the economy is and what a lot of our neighbors have had to do, I think it is only warranted that we strive for the zero percent (tax increase),” Reiland said.
Delaying or Unfunding Positions
Six additional city positions were unfunded in the Finance Committee’s recommendation, including a clerical police position, mechanics and maintenance workers. The Finance Committee’s allowing the positions to be filled if the department heads can find the money in their budgets and if they obtain approval from the city administrator.
With several positions currently vacant by the city staff members, some positions will have the start date delayed a few months under the recommendations in order to save the money from the budget.
The city administrator position, for which the job has not been posted yet since Lori Luther left in August 2011, will not start until March 1 under the recommendation. The children’s library manager was approved for hiring in April 2012. With the approval, late fees for children’s library materials are being added into the budget, charging cardholders $.25 per day per item.
A vacant city planner position is recommended being delayed for an April 2012 start date.
A firefighter, a firefighter lieutenant and a patrol officer are being recommended to be unfunded until April 1. Ybarra and Pieper also voted against delaying the hiring of the positions.
Waukesha Police Chief Russell Jack said he was concerned about the quality of candidates that the city could lose by delaying the offers. The city already has a hiring list of available candidates but has not been able to extend an offer to the patrol officers because of the hiring freeze that was enacted this year.
“You lose your best and brightest to the other departments,” Jack said. “… They will take the first department.”
The committee also reduced tax levy support to Prairie Home Cemetery for an administrative position by about $11,000. Pieper and Ybarra voted against the motion.
Funding for outsourcing the changing of job descriptions was removed from human resources budget for about $25,000.