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City budget unbalanced, then balanced
Hourly workers go from 37 to 40 hours per week, but must pay more for health insurance
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The 2015 City of Platteville budget was unbalanced after a Common Council work session Wednesday night, then rebalanced after a work session Monday night.

The biggest culprit unbalancing the original budget proposal was an increase of nearly $61,000 in health insurance expenses and a proposal to increase city full-time hourly employee work hours from 37 to 40 hours per week, instead of giving them a pay increase. Those two provisions increased the budget by more than $115,000.

The budget that will be voted on by the council Nov. 25 solved that deficit by reducing the budget’s contribution to the Capital Improvement Plan by $150,000, and by increasing city employees’ payments for health insurance from 10 percent of the premium to 12 percent of the premium.

That also left enough money to give a 1.5-percent pay increase to salaried and permanent part-time employees, and pay increases to EMTs, with additional pay for holiday calls.

City property owners will pay an estimated $7.61 per $1,000 assessed valuation in city taxes, up from $7.39 per $1,000 one year ago. The owner of a $150,000 house will pay $1,141.50 in city taxes, up from $1,108.50 one year ago.

The return to a 40-hour work week undoes a council decision in 2012 to reduce the hours worked by hourly employees by three per week, which was essentially a 7.5-percent pay decrease. The council decided Wednesday on the 40-hour work week in lieu of a 1.5 percent pay increase for all employees who work 20 or more hours per week.

The increase in health insurance costs prompted the Common Council to agree to increase employee contribution from 10 percent of cost to 12 percent of cost, the first increase city employees have seen in seven years. That will increase a DeanCare premium for a single employee from $62.51 per month to $75 per month, and family coverage from $181.27 per month to $217.52 per month.

Medical Associates premiums will increase from $52.33 per month for a single employee to $66.28 per month, and from $151.23 per month for family coverage to $181.47 per month.

“This is going to basically take away any advantage of the 40-hour work week,” said at-large Ald. Mike Denn, who opposed the increase in premiums.

“It’s a benefit, and there are options,” said District 1 Ald. Barb Stockhausen.

The budget also reduces merit pay for city employees from $24,000 to $10,000.

Moving $150,000 out of the budget for the Capital Improvement Plan means that the city will borrow some amount of money, yet to be determined, to fund the city’s 2015 capital projects, including repaving of part of Fourth Street.

Denn referred to a council vote last week to give a $172,000 loan to the buyer of the building at 25 E. Main St., in saying, “You’re willing to borrow $172,000 for somebody, but we’re not willing to borrow to help our own people?”

One reason budget spending may seem smaller than it actually is is that the city moved revenues and expenses for the Shared Ride Taxi out of the operating budget into a special fund. The Shared Ride Taxi and the UW–Platteville shuttle are merging as of May to get significantly more federal and state dollars.

The 2015 budget allots $396,000 to the taxi and bus, including nearly $200,000 in federal money and almost $83,000 in state money, although Director of Public Works Howard Crofoot said that by next May the city will know actual federal and state funds.

One area where spending will increase is storm sewer maintenance, thanks to a Department of Natural Resources-mandated increase in spending from $2,000 to $15,000.