Preliminary budget includes wage increases
By Bert Lehman
The Clintonville Finance Committee has begun preliminary discussions regarding the 2018 city budget, which needs to be approved in November.
During the Oct. 9 finance committee meeting, Clintonville City Administrator Sharon Eveland presented a brief overview of the preliminary budget. During that presentation Eveland told the committee that the city is still waiting for some final numbers in order to complete the budget.
The preliminary budget included a wage increase of 1.5 percent for city employees. Members of the Clintonville Police Department who are in the union are scheduled to get a 2.5 percent wage increase, per their negotiated contract. Eveland said the city is also considering a 2.5 percent wage increase for employees of the city’s electric utility, and 1.5 percent for the city’s water and wastewater department employees.
Regarding employee health insurance premiums, Eveland told the committee the city had originally budgeted a 10 percent increase, but the city was informed that increase would be 19 percent. At the Oct. 16 Finance Committee meeting Eveland informed committee members that the increase was downgraded to 14 percent.
With the city’s net new construction and expenditure restraint, Eveland said the city has $43,000 to work with over last year’s budget.
“Holistically our numbers look good,” Eveland said. “We still have to finalize some things but all in all I think we’re going to be able to do pay raises, which is great, because I know that almost didn’t happen last year.”
Eveland also informed the committee that she found that there have been some errors in past budgets regarding payments for the State Trust Fund loan the city took out a couple of years ago to pay its unfunded pension liability. She said it was originally set up that the payments for that loan would come out of the city’s operating budget. Instead the payments have been coming out of the city’s debt service fund.
She told committee members that the city will need to decide if it wants the payments in the operating budget.
“If we do that, then the raises are gone, because we can’t do both,” Eveland said.
“Payment of a loan I think really needs to be in debt service,” said committee member Jim Supanich. “I really think employees need (wage) increases. One point five percent doesn’t even keep up with projected inflation for this year, but at least it’s something, and I think we really owe that to the employees.”
The committee ultimately recommended to the city council that the payments for the State Trust Fund loan be made from the debt service fund. The city council approved that recommendation at its Oct. 10 meeting.
The committee was also informed by Eveland that the city’s portion of transportation aid from the state of Wisconsin is increasing by around $24,000.
“This has been a huge jump,” Eveland said. “Traditionally this has been incremental.”
The committee learned more information about the preliminary budget at its Oct. 16 meeting.
When explaining the preliminary tax levy summary Eveland told the committee that city revenue is projected to be down in 2018, while the city’s debt service is projected to increase by $42,000.
“Which is taking up pretty much most of our net new construction increase,” Eveland said.
She also told the committee that because of the closing of Tax Incremental Districts in the city, the city has a one-time allowable opportunity to increase the city’s tax levy of 2.4 percent for the 2018 budget if it chooses. That increase would be allowed for only 2018. But because of TID closures, the city will also have a one-time allowable increase of the city’s tax levy of 7.4 percent for the 2019 budget.
The committee was also informed the city’s equalized value increased over last year, but not enough to recover the decrease in value the prior year. The city’s equalized value dropped $9.4 million the previous year. Eveland cautioned the committee about the value figure as that figure includes the current property assessment for Creative Converting. Creative Converting is challenging that assessment.
When asked if any direction was needed from the committee, Eveland told the committee, “I want our pay raises to be the last thing to cut. I want to make sure we do whatever we can to make sure that our employees get pay raises.”
“I think the last thing we should look at cutting is the pay raises,” Supanich said. “The employees have not gotten a lot in the way of advances over the last, say 10 years. I think we need to keep them up with at least inflation. I think they work extremely hard and I think it’s really important they receive this as an indication of all the good work they’ve done and that we’re trying to get them something to keep them ahead of the game.”
The committee will continue to discuss the 2018 city budget at meetings scheduled for Nov. 1 and Nov. 8 at 5:30 p.m. Residents are encouraged to attend the meeting in order to provide input to the committee.