The Clintonville City Council voted 7-3 in favor of approving the 2013 City Budget at their special council meeting on Monday, Nov. 19. Alderpersons John Wilson, Jeannie Schley and Gloria Dunlavy voted nay.
Prior to the council’s vote on the proposed budget, a citizen’s forum was held. Resident John Moericke was the only citizen who chose to speak.
“This crew wants a raise at the city?” asked Moericke, referring to a proposed increase for employees and council member meeting pay. “There’s poverty at the school, we have bad streets, and now you want a raise?
“All of you who vote for it, I’ll keep a record and put it on Channel 5,” said Moericke. “This is just sick. You should consider a motion to cut the council down to five members instead of 10. You make more than Shawano and Waupaca both. If you vote for this increase, I’ll put it in the papers and on TV along with your photos so that people know who voted to give themselves a raise.”
Moericke’s comments were laced with profanity, prompting City Administrator Lisa Kuss, Mayor Judy Magee, and Police Chief Terry Lorge to encourage him to use more appropriate language.
Alderperson Steve Kettenhoven presented the County Post East with some city council wages for cities comparable in size to Clintonville. Kuss also sent out some information the next day that proved Moericke’s claim to be inaccurate.
Clintonville alderpersons make $208.33 per month, plus a $10 per meeting pay, with a cap of 30 meetings each year. The mayor makes $375 per month.
In Shawano, alderpersons make $240 per month plus $30 per meeting. The mayor makes $1,041 per month.
In Waupaca, alderpersons make $313 per month, but have not per meeting pay except for the chairs of the four standing committees (personnel, public works, judiciary, and finance). Alderpersons also receive laptop computers paid for by the city. Waupaca’s mayor makes $765 per month.
The data presented by Kettenhoven told a similar story. He compared numerous cities throughout the state with Clintonville, filtering the data to include cities whose population is closest to the population of Clintonville, which is currently 4,534. A few of those comparable cities are as follows:
• Dodgeville (population 4,605): Council members earn $400 per month, plus $37.50 for every special meeting. The mayor makes $5,600 per year ($466.66 per month).
• Medford (population 4,290): Council members make $45 per meeting, and also are given a $20 per month car allowance. The mayor makes $8,000 per year ($666.67 per month).
• Oconto (population 4,757): Council members make $2,981 per year ($248.42 per month) and are paid $15 per meeting and $25 per special meeting. The mayor makes $11,705 per year ($975.42 per month) plus a per diem payment of $125 per quarter.
“City councils are in a unique yet unfortunate position,” said Kettenhoven. “We oversee city finances and vote on pay for all city employees, yet we vote on the pay for council members as well. Some say we’re ‘giving ourselves a raise’, but the reality is it doesn’t go into effect until the next election cycle for all 10 aldermen. So, in accordance with state laws, the raise wouldn’t take effect until after the April 2013 election for the five alderpersons who are up for election in 2013, and won’t take effect until April 2014 for the other five alderpersons up for election in 2014. So, those of us on council right now may never see the pay increase if we are not re-elected.
“Many people see council positions as public service type involvement,” continued Kettenhoven. “But not a lot of people are running for office, either. We don’t get discounts on gas or anything else we purchase. We’re the lowest paid city employees. Just because we’re not 40 hour per week employees doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be entitled to cost of living increases.”
Kettenhoven stated that he has been pushing for council pay raises for three years, and said he isn’t done yet.
“We are still way below average in our base salary compared to other cities – we haven’t had a raise in 14 years,” stated Kettenhoven. “There are 157 communities in Wisconsin that have council and mayor government formats. Of those, 82 still give meeting pay. Of the 75 that don’t, 64 of them pay higher base salaries than Clintonville.
Meeting pay was one of the items that the council voted on as a line item prior to voting on the 2013 budget as a whole. After discussion, the council voted 7-2-1 in favor of approving a meeting pay increase from $10 per meeting with a 30 meeting cap to $25 per meeting with a 30 meeting cap. It was also noted that this meeting pay is contingent upon attendance at meetings, and that alderpersons must file for and claim this payment. If they do not file for it and claim it, they will not earn the meeting pay. Alderpersons Joe Lamia and Mike Hankins voted no, while Alderperson Pete Stumbris abstained.
Main Street Flower Baskets
Alderperson Gloria Dunlavy requested that the Main Street flower baskets – a $3,000 expense – be voted on separately as a line item as well.
“I think we should remove these from the budget and do like we did last year – seek donations for the flower baskets. The flowers are beautiful, but the dark streets at night (due to the street lights that were shut off as part of last year’s budget) are no good.”
Kuss encouraged the council to vote against this motion, stating that the flowers gain more positive comments from visitors than anything else in the community.
Dunlavy made a motion to have the flowers removed from the budget, and Lamia seconded it. The motion was defeated by a 4-6 vote, with Alderpersons Hankins, Stumbris, Kettenhoven, Bill Zeinert, Mark Doornink and Lois Bressette voting no.
An administrator intern position was briefly discussed, and Alderperson Jeannie Schley asked that this item be voted on separately. Since it was already approved at the last meeting, a motion to reconsider was needed before the council could vote on it again. That motion to reconsider had to come from a council member who was in the majority when the administrator intern position was originally approved. No member of the majority made a motion to reconsider, so the item was not discussed separately.
City Administrator later spoke to the County Post East to explain the intern position, which is contingent upon the city receiving a $2,000 grant from the Wisconsin City/County Management Association (WCMA). The city would invest $3,000 for this position. If the city doesn’t get the grant, the intern position will go back to the council for reconsideration.
“The WCMA provides $2,000 grants to communities that create new internship positions,” explained Kuss. “We want to encourage communities to create entry-level positions to allow graduate students to learn more about local government management.”
Kuss said only graduate students can apply for the internship, and the delegated funds would provide income for the intern as they work for the city over the course of the internship.
“We would work with a university to find out what would work best, and then select an intern that would have project-based duties, while also shadowing me,” said Kuss. “There is office space for the intern at the police department, and they could use one of our old computers, so there would be little or no equipment costs.
“We want to help the intern learn about this type of position, while making sure there is benefit to the city. The intern could help get some projects done over the course of the internship,” said Kuss.
After discussing the line items, Hankins made a motion to approve the balance of the proposed 2013 budget. Zeinert seconded the motion, and the council voted 7-3 in favor of approving the budget, with Alderpersons Schley, Dunlavy and John Wilson voting no.
Schley said some of her biggest concerns included the administrator intern position, flower baskets, and two percent raise for city employees.
“I did not fully support the two percent raise for city employees,” Schley said. “When I look at what the city pays for their employees’ health insurance, I just can’t see giving a raise when other people are losing their health insurance – period. Sometimes, I think they should be happy just getting health insurance.”
Multiple calls and messages to Wilson and Dunlavy were not returned.
Hankins pointed out that the meeting pay increase – which Schley, Dunlavy, and Wilson all voted in favor of approving – amounted to more money than the Main Street flower baskets or the administrator intern position.
Mayor Judy Magee thanked the council for their hard work throughout the budget process, and also thanked department heads for working with elected officials to help compile the budget. When the budget process began, Magee told the council she hoped the 2013 budget could be greeted by unanimous approval from the alderpersons.
“The department heads really put in a lot of hours going through line items and making cuts to keep the budget within reason,” stated Magee. “The Finance Committee had the department heads attend meetings so that they could work together. Everyone worked very hard.
“I was rather disappointed (with the 7-3 split vote),” Magee said. “The Finance Committee worked diligently and encouraged all council members to attend the budget meetings. We then had a public hearing. I actually prayed that we would have unanimous consent on the budget, but I was proven wrong again this year.”
In other business, the council approved a Class B beer and liquor and amusement device license for Bear’s Den, 130 S. Main Street, effective Nov. 23, contingent upon the surrender of the Hawg House license. The bar had changed names from Bear’s Den to Hawg House, but is now changing back to Bear’s Den.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11, at City Hall.