In the course of a week and two meetings, the 2014 City of Platteville budget swung from an $80,714 deficit to a $68,885 surplus to, as of Monday night, a deficit of, in the words of City Manager Larry Bierke, “about $35,000.”
The $101,000 swing from its Oct. 8 meeting to Monday is largely the result of a pay increase the council decided to award city employees.
Hourly employees will receive a 2 percent raise Jan. 1 and a 1 percent raise July 1. Salaried employees will be awarded merit increases at the discretion of department heads.
The proposal, authored by Common Council President Eileen Nickels, won out over a proposal by at-large Ald. Mike Denn to increase hourly employees’ hours from 37 to 40 per week while keeping their pay rate the same. The original 2014 budget included an increase in hours from 37 to 40, but with nine furlough days, which reduced hourly employees’ pay to about 38.6 hours per week over a year.
Nickels’ proposal was estimated to add $98,379 to the budget, not including Police Department officers, who are under a union contract. Denn’s proposal was estimated to add $93,311 to the budget.
The Common Council agreed Monday to add other spending.
The city increased funding for the Main Street Program by $5,000, out of the city’s Tax Incremental Financing District 7 budget. TIF 7 covers most of the downtown.
“I certainly believe there would be businesses that would not be on Main Street were it not for the Main Street director,” said District 3 Ald. Barb Daus. “It’s different from the [Platteville Area] Chamber [of Commerce] in that it’s how to get a business started.”
The council also decided to allocate $5,000 to an application for the All-America City Awards. Platteville was a finalist in 2012, the first time the city entered the awards.
“If you use the awards program to drive your city’s development and to drive improvement, then to me that’s a valid kind of expenditure,” said Daus. “It can be a rallying point … [to get] everybody excited to do programs.”
The council also decided to increase funding for forestry services by $1,000. Those services may be performed by someone other than the city forester, a city employee who decided to no longer perform forestry services because the 15-cent pay increase isn’t enough, according to Bierke.
The council decided to reallocate $40,000 for studies of employee pay and the city’s economic development partners into two different areas. The two changes have no budget impact because they will transfer funds from the city’s Capital Improvement Plan into its operating budget.
One area will implement the information technology study conducted earlier this year. Bierke asked the League of Wisconsin Municipalities to evaluate the IT study.
“Ultimately I think changes in our IT department are needed,” said Bierke.
The council also decided to use funds for grant-writing consultation, in an effort to find grants to fund city projects.
The council decided to wait until 2015 to allocate funds for recreational trail maintenance, at the request of the Platteville Community Arboretum, though the city will do needed maintenance work on new trails next year.
The council also decided to postpone a proposal to raise the room tax from 4 percent until meeting with the city’s Tourism Committee.
The $80,714 deficit the 2014 budget had after the council’s last budget work session Sept. 24 turned into a $70,463 surplus thanks to several budget changes.
The city will be receiving almost $133,000 more state and federal transportation-related aid than the executive budget, the first version of the city’s 2014 budget, had estimated. Expanding the city’s taxi service to add late-night hours also increased taxi grants from the federal and state government.
In addition, 2014 health insurance rates from the city’s insurance carriers are substantially less than the 11 percent increase in the initial budget. Medical Associates of Dubuque is increasing its rates 1.8 percent, and Deancare of Madison is increasing its rates 7.9 percent. The insurance rates save $33,000 in health insurance costs.
Refinancing some city debt will save the city money too. The Common Council agreed to refinance two federal Build America bonds that were used for street work and for construction of the new Platteville police station.
The city is also planning to pay off Platteville Development Corp., developer of Tax Incremental Financing District 5. The $3.5 million loan means the city will have to pay for all TIF 5 expenses, but will also receive all tax revenues from TIF 5 improvements, according to city officials.
The council agreed Oct. 8 to reduce the communications specialist position from full-time to part-time, after a long discussion about the position.
The remaining $35,000 deficit will be the subject of the council’s next work session Tuesday.