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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.”

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 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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