The Clintonville Common Council voted 8-2 to approve the 2011 budget Monday, Nov. 22.
Alderpersons Jeannie Schley and Gloria Dunlavy voted no.
Prior to approving the budget, the council discussed whether or not council members should receive meeting pay.
Alderperson Mike Hankins made the motion to eliminate the $10 per meeting amount that council members receive for attending up to 30 committee, board, commission or council meetings. This $10 amount is in addition to alderpersons’ salaries.
City Administrator Lisa Kuss said alderpersons do not receive the meeting pay if they don’t fill out the paperwork to claim it, and some council members-including Hankins-have not filled out that paperwork and have not taken the $10 meeting pay.
“I think we need to take a look at ourselves,” Hankins said. “We should not just ask other departments to cut. I realize it would be less pay, but it sends a better message if we are belt-tightening along with other departments.”
Alderperson Steve Kettenhoven had a different perspective. “I’ve been against dropping the pay for alderpersons, and I’ve always pushed for an increase in pay for alderpersons. There hasn’t been an increase in pay for alderpersons in 11 years. We always take into account what other cities of comparable size are doing with other budget decisions-why don’t we do it when looking at wages as well?
“I understand that being on the council is not about the money-it’s about being a voice for the community,” Kettenhoven continued. “Nobody is going to get rich off council wages-nor should they. However, tightening the budget on projects is one thing; taking away wages is another. Of 17 communities similar in size (3,500 to 5,500), 12 of those cities’ alderpersons are paid more than we are. Four are paid less, and one is the same.”
Schley also expressed her disapproval with getting rid of the meeting pay.
“We can’t get people to run for council now, and we are talking about deducting wages even more? I’ve had to take vacation days just to get to some meetings, but I won’t be doing that anymore,” said Schley.
“It should be up to the elected official whether or not they want to fill out the papers to receive meeting pay,” said Alderperson Pete Stumbris. “It should be a system of self-management.”
The council vote tied at 5-5, with Alderpersons Nancy Koeppen, Schley, Dunlavy, Stumbris and Kettenhoven voting no. Mayor Judith I. Magee is the tie-breaking vote, but she declined to vote on the issue, meaning the current $10 meeting pay policy will remain in place.
The council went on to discuss the hanging flower baskets prior to approving the budget.
“I’d still like to see the flowers come out,” said Dunlavy. “At one time, the Main Street flower baskets were placed through donations.”
“It’s a lot of money to purchase these flowers and maintain them,” Schley said of the flower baskets, which cost $2,500 annually. “They look good for about a month and a half, and they start to look scraggly. I can’t believe it takes an hour and a half to water those flowers, even with the help of a vehicle.”
“I hate to see the flowers go,” Kettenhoven said. “I’d hate to see us get rid of the flowers just because the new Main Street banners are on the way. I just don’t want to see us make that substitution. I’ve heard many people say good things about having the flower baskets.”
Kuss stated that cutting out the flower baskets would save 91 cents to a taxpayer whose house is valued at $78,000. “Since I’ve been in Clintonville, we’ve always had flowers, banners and flags. We are in the process of replacing the old banners with new ones designed by the high school students.
“Obviously, this is a council decision-if you choose not to, we won’t order the flowers for next year,” Kuss continued. “However, one consistent compliment we get from visitors is how beautiful Main Street looks because of the flowers.”
Dunlavy made a motion to have the flower baskets removed from the 2011 budget, and Schley seconded it. The motion failed by a 2-8 vote, with Alderpersons Mark Doornink, Phil Rath, Roger Metzger, Jerry Jorgenson, Kettenhoven, Hankins, Stumbris, and Koeppen voting no.
Prior to voting on the proposed budget, the council heard public comments from resident John Wilson.
“I hope the budget didn’t go up this year,” Wilson stated. “Social Security didn’t go up. If the city budget did go up, shame on you people!”
“We’re paying the taxes-we shouldn’t have to pay so much,” argued Wilson. “Lots of places have their healthcare set up so it’s run by deductibles-why isn’t it done that way with the city? Who’s running this city, the union? Can’t Clintonville be a leader and buck the union?”
Kuss explained that city employees are already paying at the high end of what similar municipality employees pay. “We would have to go to arbitration if we were going to ask our employees to pay more of their health insurance costs,” Kuss said. “It’s not as easy as just demanding that they pay more. We could spend thousands going to arbitration, and possibly lose.”
The council voted 8-2 in favor of approving the proposed 2011 budget, with Schley and Dunlavy voting no.
Kuss went on to explain that the tax rate increased by .94 percent this year, with the tax rate rising from $8.25 to $8.32 per $1,000 valuation. Kuss said this amounts to a $5.46 increased portion of city taxes for a home valued at $78,000, which is the average value of a home in Clintonville.
“Yes, taxes are going up,” said Magee. “School taxes have increased, taxes for the technical college have increased, and city taxes have increased. We will be printing a chart that shows how much each has increased, and that will be available to residents when they come in to pay their taxes.
“Please don’t yell at the gals taking your check when you come in to pay your taxes,” Magee said. “If you’re going to be mad at anyone, be mad at the City Council.”
Magee concluded the meeting by thanking council members for their hard work in coming to agreement on the 2011 budget decisions. “It’s always tough to put the budget together,” Magee said. “Hopefully we can all live with it. I’ll ask you to tighten the budget again next year, and possibly look at furlough days.”