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Waukesha Council To Ask Employees for Voluntary Concessions

Efforts to balance 2012 budget with a tax freeze are in full swing after the garbage fee that was at one time supported by Mayor Jeff Scrima fell flat.

The Waukesha Common Council is asking all city employees – including police and fire union members – to voluntarily agree to a pay freeze, contribute 5.8 percent into their pensions, 12 percent into their health insurance, early retirement packages and/or other monetary concessions.

The council directed city staff to address the issue with the employees on Wednesday and is requesting a response from the employees by Friday in preparation for the next week of budget talks.

Donna Whalen warned that she could not guarantee a response by Friday.

“Unions are organizations,” Whalen said. “It takes time for them to meet and confer with each other.”

The city, which lost millions in state funding, is trying to balance its budget and is coming short after Waukesha alderman tossed out Mayor Jeff Scrima’s supported recommendation for a garbage fee. Although Scrima told Waukesha Patch earlier in the budget process that he would argue against any cuts and pushed for a $136 fee to be added to the tax bills in order to achieve a tax freeze, he is now warning that employees could be laid off if the employees don’t agree to voluntary concessions.

“We must be bold and reasonable,” Scrima said during the meeting. “We are all in this together.”

The mayor issued another budget memo Tuesday afternoon with he has in balancing the budget without a tax freeze.

The employees are in the second year of a three-year contract. The first year included a pay freeze and a 1.5 percent pay increase in 2011 and 2012, although the employees agreed to contribute more toward health care costs in the current contract.

“I am interested in asking the question, finding out the answer,” said Common Council President Paul Ybarra, who motioned to request the voluntary contributions from the employees.

While the motion passed unanimously, Alderwoman Kathleen Cummings had a stern warning about the possible affects the request could have on future negotiations.

“I have found that through my life experience that your word – it means something,” Cummings said. “… What position does that put us in if we are not true to what we say?”

Alderman Duane Paulson, who at one time was a city firefighter, said he was disappointed at the “demonizing” of public employees.

“That is not right,” Paulson said. “I believe that is too much.”

future alderman November 09, 2011 at 06:25 AM
The mayor seems to be the only one presenting solutions so that we do not have a tax increase. His recommendations in the attached document to this article are well worded. He seems to be the only one that recognizes that citizens and taxpayers - are under or unemployed, on fixed incomes, lost money in their homes and stock market - and simply can't afford any tax increase!
James Wigderson November 09, 2011 at 06:55 AM
You do realize that just a couple of weeks ago the mayor wanted to charge every homeowner $136 for a garbage fee, and that even if property taxes went up the maximum allowed the median homeowner would save $82 compared to the mayor's proposal.
Suzanne November 09, 2011 at 12:46 PM
Yes, the mayor at first looked into a potential garbage fee as a solution to help fill the budget gap. When that didn't work he brought forth 5 other potential solutions which would not raise taxes at all. In this economy, he listened to the citizens and gets it, the citizens can't afford a tax increase.
Chris B November 09, 2011 at 01:33 PM
I was at the Common Council meeting last night. All I have to say to the Common Council is SHAME,SHAME, SHAME!!! Giving city employee bargaining units only about one day to respond is nothing but a slap in the face to city workers and tax payers! Donna Whalen said she needed to also send letters to NON-REPRESENTED employees to ASK them for more contirbutions. When is the last time an employer asked their employees something like that???
Sarah Millard (Editor) November 09, 2011 at 03:30 PM
Just a reminder to keep personal attacks down...thanks!
Keith Best November 09, 2011 at 03:52 PM
Asking for more contributions that would bring them up close to the private sectors would not have even been possible if not for Governor Walkers reforms that are working.
Ben November 09, 2011 at 03:52 PM
The citizens need to read the attached PDF document to this article... Next year city employees are scheduled to get a salary increase, only pay 7-10% into their health care, pay little or nothing into their own retirements, and with salary and benefits receive an average of $93,000 per city employee. How many Waukesha taxpayers make that kind of money? Now's the time for our Common Council to do what elected officials in surrounding communities have done. Now's the time to require cuts in personnel and not raise taxes.
Realist November 09, 2011 at 04:51 PM
Its going to be interesting what the citizens are going to say when they start seeing the great service the city provides start dwindling. They will be the first to complain that the roads weren't plowed in a timely manner. The grass in the parks and medians is knee high. The city buildings look bad and are falling apart. But lets not forget that the police and fire departments that make up 60 some percent of the budget are untouchable thanks to the "Great" work of our Governor. If that isn't political corruption then what is. When the price of everything goes up, but taxes stay the same, something has to give. Remember no complaining when services stat falling.
Sarah Wonderiling November 09, 2011 at 05:14 PM
Scrima, lead by example. Do what you promised and give back 1/2 of your salary. Jeff, you are a small boy and have no idea what to do. Get Out!
Dean November 09, 2011 at 09:00 PM
Odd that the first budget cycle without a strong City Administrator in place is not going well.
Waukytalk November 09, 2011 at 10:05 PM
On the first round of the budget the Mayor gave to me a: $136.00 Garbage fee On the second round of the budget the Common Council gave to me: more street repairs at about $280,000.00 times three On the third round of the budget the Mayor gave to me: Multiple recommendations so I don’t have to pay for you or me On the fourth round of the budget, the Common Council gave to me: a letter asking me to pay more of my benefits , which used to almost be free. On the fifth round of the budget- WAIT AND SEE!!!
the American dream November 10, 2011 at 02:23 AM
On the attached document to this article, which outlines 7 solutions, go with option #5. Laying off 17 positions out of the 526 positions that the city has is a tiny 3% reduction in work force, which private industry wouldn’t even hesitate at doing. Then if the aldermen can come up with a better solution in the coming months, those positions could be reinstated. To boil it down, in this current economy taxpayers can't afford and should not accept a tax increase.
Vicky Taxpayer November 10, 2011 at 04:02 AM
Reality check. 1. The city would have to cut the same amount of money to not increase the sum of fees and taxes. 2. The Mayor, Alderman Reiland and Alderman Kalblinger are the only ones offering solutions in order to not raise the cost of living for Waukesha residents. (Where are the solutions from the other Aldermen?) 3. It's true that private industry wouldn’t hesitate at doing what the city must do now. In terms of a reduction in compensation/benefits –  Harley Davidson employees took approximately 15% cuts in pay, Mercury Marine took 20% cuts , Kohler took 20% and they bargained in good faith for their previous wages and benefits. Yeah, reality is not easy, but now is not the time for the other aldermen to make excuses. The citizens, who pay the bill, deserve solutions. The citizens are watching.
Joe November 10, 2011 at 07:32 AM
@Vicky Granted, Harley, Mercury, and Kohler would have no problem making tough decisions that may need to be made in order for their companies to continue building motorcycles, outboard engines, and, fixtures for you to remodel your bathroom. How can you possibly equate these private companies to essential services which can only be provided by the government. The next time there are not enough cops on the road to save a citizen from a gunman, or the fire personnel are not trained or equipped well enough to rescue you or your home from a fire, or a motorist or pedestrian is killed because of icy road conditions that could not be handled due to lack of manpower at city garage you can take comfort in the fact that your fellow Waukesha resident found similarity in essential protective services and the price of their new toilet.
Art November 10, 2011 at 02:13 PM
James, Again, your credible shrinks. Why don't you offer up some solutions instead of throwing rocks? Maybe you should run for Mayor and everything would be solved.
the 'sha guy November 10, 2011 at 02:17 PM
Joe, I believe the city is looking at not filling positions or asking for furloughs in addition to some minor concessions. Furthermore, many of the "essential" city services we have in Waukesha can be provided by the private sector or scaled back without anyone noticing. For example, many communities have private garbage pick up or contract out other services such as lawn and snow removal at a reduced cost. Do we really need 3 leaf pick up days per district? Should the city own a cemetery? Also, the last I checked, the fire dept was not facing budget cuts in training and police officers will still be on the street protecting the citizens from a "gunman," under any of these proposals. The typical mantra of the left is that anytime services or public employees are asked for concessions or budget cuts, they immediately start yelling about lack of fire and police protection. There are many other departments in the city that are overstaffed or where expenses cut.
Sarah Millard (Editor) November 10, 2011 at 02:35 PM
Actually, there could be cuts in fire and police department staffing levels...that's been one of the major points of discussion in this budget as the two departments make up the majority of the city budget. Without a doubt, there are areas that need to be brought forward. But why weren't they brought forward two months ago?
Herbert November 10, 2011 at 05:42 PM
I literally just saw two county workers (riding in one truck) stop and each one grabbed a marker and placed one on either end of a sidewalk for the snow removal crews. Sign me up for a county job even if concessions are needed.
Logitech November 10, 2011 at 06:01 PM
Hey Sarah, why don't you ask the 15 aldermen why they didn't bring forward any solutions two months ago? Don't we have smart aldermen? And for perspective, laying off 17 positions out of the 526 positions that the city has is only a 3% reduction in work force, and this alone would balance the city budget. As far as the money saved through not filling vacant positions (as noted on the attachment to this article), will the fire trucks move faster with one or two more firefighters? How many taxpayers have been hit with layoffs or reductions in pay and benefits? How many taxpayers have been hit with loses in their retirements and property values?
Cindy November 12, 2011 at 06:54 PM
Perhaps it's time to take a pay decrease for those who have enjoyed generous salary increases when times were good. Bring wages back to average or market value could be a thought.

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