Updated: Waukesha Common Council Adopts Budget with .12% Increase
Council rejects furloughs from budget and Mayor Jeff Scrima says he won't veto this budget.
The Waukesha Common Council found different areas to cut spending from the city’s 2012 budget Wednesday night and approved a budget that increases taxes by $3.76 for the median home after the mayor vetoed the previous budget that raised taxes 1.44 percent.
All city employees were spared from furloughs but with the budget approval came unfunding the fire chief’s position for three months and unfunding two vacant firefighter positions and a detective. Two firefighters will not be hired until March. Fire Chief Allen LaConte is retiring in March, which leaves the fire chief position vacant.
The $51,466,874 million tax levy increases by .12 percent, a total of $61,440.
The budget was approved on a 12-1 vote. Alderman Eric Payne was the lone vote against the budget after lengthy discussion. Aldermen Paul Ybarra and Chris Hernandez were not at the meeting; Ybarra was out of the state and Hernandez was gone for a family emergency.
"I think we had several opportunities to come up with zero," Payne said. "But what it comes down to, hour after hour, we didn’t get there."
Mayor Jeff Scrima said after the meeting that he would not veto the budget.
“Our process of checks and balances did work,” Scrima said during the meeting.
Alderman Andy Reiland, a member of the Finance Committee and one of the newest members on the council, fought the entire budget process to keep taxes flat, including when Scrima was pushing for a $136 garbage fee that the mayor later called a “mistake.” Reiland voted for the budget while saying he hoped he didn’t disappoint those who supported him during the process.
“I hope they realize that I have invested a lot of time and energy into this budget process,” Reiland said. “…. Realize that we did have a victory here.”
When the budget cuts came down to the .12 percent tax increase, Alderman Joe Pieper asked that the council cut the vacant children’s librarian position, which is not going to be filled until April.
Mayor Jeff Scrima refused to share his views on the budget actions taken by the council at that point, which is why Pieper brought the children’s services manager to the chopping block. Pieper, Payne, Alderwoman Kathleen Cummings and Alderman Terry Thieme voted to cut the position out of the budget, which would have frozen taxes.
Alderwoman Joan Francoeur was one of the people who did not support cutting the position, saying the issue had been thoroughly discussed at the budget had gotten to a point where council members were taking “lists of vacancies and (playing) Russian roulette with them.”
The most recent budget was full of games and showed disrespect to the city employees and staff members, she said.
“For me this whole thing has been backward,” Francoeur said.
Francoeur said similar statements as aldermen tried to rid an SUV for the police department after also cutting two squad cars, in addition to several vehicles already being removed from the budget.
The council passed a budget that brings spending under control, she said.
“I think now we are literally kind of shooting from the hip, taking things in and out of the budget so that we can say we did not increase the budget by $3.76 divided by 12 in terms of the monthly cost,” she said. “I believe that this exercise is not showing public policy at its best.”
Cummings, who was against the furlough days as she felt it would not treat city employees fairly, said respect is “a rare commodity these days.” The employees in Waukesha regularly give back to the community, she said, and will continue to give back when they are treated fairly.
“We want this fictitious zero that is not sustainable over time,” she said about the tax levy. “… This is not about respectful discussion any more. It is about a number that is not sustainable.”