When city of Waupaca taxpayers receive their tax bills next month, they will again see no increase in the city portion of the bill.
This is the fourth consecutive year the Common Council has approved a budget that does not increase the city’s mill rate.
The city’s tax rate will remain at $9.90 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
The Common Council approved the 2014 city budget by a vote of 10-0, with all members present for the Nov. 19 meeting.
“We were one of the few entities able to keep our mill rate the same as it was in 2013 and the same as it was in 2012,” Mayor Brian Smith said.
Total expenditures for 2014 will be $7.5 million, and the budget will be supported by a tax levy of $3.43 million.
The city’s approved 2013 city budget was for $7.8 million in total expenditures, supported by a $3.34 million levy.
No one spoke in favor of or against next year’s budget during the public hearing which was held prior to the Nov. 19 council meeting.
When it came time for the council to discuss the 2014 budget, the majority of the discussion centered on one subject – a $20,000 item in the council’s portion of the budget for a job classification and salary/benefit analysis.
Ald. Steve Hackett said he wanted that item removed from the budget.
“I don’t think the city needs one at this time. I don’t think we should be spending $20,000 on this,” he said. “I feel that it’s a waste of money.”
Hackett made a motion to remove it, with Ald. Paul Hagen seconding the motion.
City Administrator Henry Veleker told the council the budgeted amount was based on a proposal from a human resources consultant.
The last time the city did such a study was in 1999-2000, Veleker said.
In explaining why the city a salary/benefits analysis, Veleker said there are employees in the Public Works Department who are no longer under a union contract, yet still have a pay rate structure from when they were in a union.
Under the former union contract, employees would get an automatic raise if they passed the next level of Department of Natural Resources water or wastewater operator license, John Edlebeck, the city’s director of public works, told the County Post.
Each level or certification had a specific hourly rate in the contract, he said.
Recently, the council needed to address this issue when an employee in the Public Works Department obtained a certification, which under the old structure meant the employee would receive an increase in pay.
Ald. Jillian Petersen brought that up during the council meeting.
With there no long being a union contract, any raise for any reason now needs to be approved by the Common Council.
In the case of that employee, the council did approve the raise.
Veleker told the council the analysis could include looking at how city positions compare to similar ones in the private sector.
“If you don’t feel comfortable spending it now, I still encourage you to leave the money there and let the staff make a proposal before you,” he said. “I consider ourselves a professional organization. This is an element of the HR function in a city our size.”
The mayor said, “If it’s in the council budget, it has to be approved by the council.”
Edlebeck said, “We have employees who do not have a pay range.”
Employees who were formerly in unions have hourly rates, while all other city employees have pay ranges.
The pay ranges come into play when an employee either retires or quits. A new hire may start at the lower end of the range if he has less experience than the person he is replacing.
“As a staff, we need to bring all employees in line, so all are being treated the same,” Edlebeck said.
Without a consultant, staff will be making recommendations themselves, he said.
Smith said, “Not everybody understands what a pay study is. Are you just trying to find out the going rate today? Then what’s the going rate in six months? Then do you have to do another pay study?”
Veleker said the other piece of such a study could include performance appraisals.
“It’s been a number of years since we looked at this,” he said.
Ald. Scott Purchatzke asked about the study Waupaca County did last year and whether the council could again hear a presentation from Mandy Welch, the county’s human resources director.
She did such a presentation last year for the council.
“She had outside help,” Smith said of the study Welch presented to the council.
Veleker said the ranges the city currently has were developed 15 years ago.
Through the years, those ranges have been bumped up, based on inflation, he said.
“That study was just non-reps,” he said.
The council voted 7-3 to not spend $20,000 on a pay study in 2014.
Hackett, Hagen and Purchatzke were joined by John Lockwood, Paul Mayou, Eric Olson and Dave Shambeau in voting to not spend money on a study.
In addition to Petersen, Deb Fenske and Alan Kjelland voted against the motion.
“So, we have a $20,000 contingency in the council’s Professional Services (budget),” Smith. “Henry, as the personnel director, will bring forward suggestions of things he feels need to be done. If we need expertise, we will have to discuss it.”
While the council voted to not spend money on such a study, the $20,000 remains in its budget.
The approved 2014 city budget also includes a 2 percent across-the board pay increase for all city employees, with the exception of the members of the council.
Before the council voted on the overall budget, Veleker acknowledged next year’s budget includes cutting the hours of two city employees – one in the Parks and Recreation Department and one in the Public Works Department – so the city does not have to offer health insurance to them.
Under the Affordable Care Act, if an employee averages 30 hours of week, the employer must provide health insurance to that employee, he said.
The two employees will be dropped to 29.5 hours per week in 2014.
“A number of major corporations have done this on a more drastic manner to make sure their employees don’t qualify for health care,” the mayor said. “They aren’t getting health care now (through the city). We are just reducing their hours.”
Aaron Jenson, the city’s parks and recreation director, said he understands the situation the city is in but asked if the city could do something to make up for the income the employees will lose.
The employee in his department will lose three hours per week, which will equate to a reduction of about $2,500 in income per year.
Smith told Jenson and Edlebeck to bring something forward.