City delays filling vacancies to cover lump-sum costs
By Angie Landsverk
Budgeting for expenses related to staff retirements came up again when the Waupaca Common Council met on Oct. 6.
“I’ve been harping on this for 10 years,” Ald. Steve Hackett said during a discussion about a current vacancy in the city’s Street Department and an upcoming retirement of another employee in that department.
Current city practice is to not replace a retiree until the city makes up the cost of that employee’s retirement payouts.
Earlier this year, the council voted to use up to $63,000 of undesignated general reserves and up to $9,000 of sewer fund retained earnings to fund the accrued vacation and sick leave payouts of two retiring employees.
Both employees worked in the Public Works Department, and their payout, including employer paid taxes, totaled $72,000.
The city received their retirement notices after the 2015 budget process.
Last week, Director of Public Works Justin Berrens told the council that after those two skilled crewmen retired last January, a crewman in the Street Department was promoted to skilled crewman in February.
That left the department with a vacant crewman position.
While that vacant position could have been filled in August (the time the city made up the cost of the two retirements), the Street Department requested adding a new skilled crewman position instead of filling the vacant crewman position and doing so by December.
In a report to the council, Berrens outlined the reasons for doing so.
Ed Rusch, the Street Department’s crew leader, plans to retire in January.
Berrens wrote in his report that the crew leader is recognized as a “very skilled and experienced employee, especially when it comes to snow removal. It is very important to fill the currently vacant position with a competent worker with the loss of the ‘crew leader’ in the middle of winter.”
He said the Street Department has operated with a vacancy for eight months, and after Rusch retires, the payout for his comp time will take about eight months, meaning the department will continue to operate with a vacancy well into next summer.
Berrens believes it is in the city’s best interest to provide a new skilled crewman position while the department is understaffed.
Once the payout is complete for Rusch, the department plans to promote one of its current skilled crewmen to crew leader in the fall of 2016.
After that takes place, the Street Department will still have one vacant crewman position.
The council voted 10-0 to authorize the recruitment and selection of someone to fill a new skilled crewman position this year.
It also accepted Rusch’s notification to the city of his intent to retire, with regrets.
Before the council took both actions, Hackett said the city should not have to wait to fill vacant positions caused by retirements.
In a separate matter related to the topic, Ald. Alan Kjelland “strongly encouraged” the city to change the name of the position from “skilled crewman: to something such as “skilled crewperson: so as not to appear sexist.
Council members agreed with the suggestion and included that in the motion.