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City pays for pay increase by increasing taxes
Pay hike, 2013 budget pass 43
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The Platteville Common Council went into its Nov. 28 meeting needing to figure out how to pay for employee health insurance and a pay increase for its employees while balancing the city’s 2013 budget.

The Common Council accomplished both by increasing the city’s property tax levy and by cutting the proposed study of combining city and Grant County dispatch.

As a result, city property taxpayers will pay $7.271682 per $1,000 assessed valuation, up from $7.226217 per $1,000 the past two years. The owner of a house assessed at $150,000 will pay $1,090.75 in city property taxes, up from $1,083.93 in 2011 and 2012.

The city’s tax levy increased to $3,657,286, up 2.54 percent from the 2012 levy. The general fund budget decreased to $8,030,382, from $8,142,902 one year ago.

The 4–3 vote in favor of the budget — Common Council President Mike Dalecki and at-large Alds. Steve Becker and Dick Bonin were opposed — was the same as the vote to give city employees a 1 percent pay increase, which added $33,532 to the budget, necessitating the tax levy increase.

The version of the budget at the beginning of the meeting had a $4,343 deficit after a $13,353 increase in health and dental insurance costs. The deficit disappeared when the council approved deleting $15,000 for the study of combining city and county dispatch.

“Grant County, we’ve been notified by them, they’re not interested right now,” said Bonin, who proposed the study cut.

District 2 Ald. Eileen Nickels then proposed raising nonunion city employees’ pay by 1 percent, which is estimated to cost the city $33,532.

The original budget contained, in the words of City Manager Larry Bierke, no pay increases the city is “not contractually obligated to provide.”

Nickels said the pay increase would cost the owner of a $150,000 house $10.

“I think given how our city employees have sacrificed, I think we could afford $10,” she said. “I just think it’s the reasonable thing to do, and if you surveyed residents … I think they’d say yes.”

“No, it’s going to be $70,” said Becker, adding the $60-per-household garbage fee that will be on property tax bills.

“We need to remember who we represent,” said Dalecki. “We’re still very, very far from solving our capital expenditure problem.

“In all honesty there are places we can cut our labor costs. There is still fat in the system. … We have a big problem here, and spending more is not going to solve it.”

“I understand my position as representing the citizens of Platteville,” replied Nickels. “That includes employees of the City of Platteville.”

District 3 Ald. Barb Daus proposed increasing the tax levy to pay for the pay increases.

“You want to increase taxes,” said Becker.

“I believe the employees deserve 1 percent,” said Daus.

Becker said the council should have considered pay increases before meetings with city department heads and budget revisions in October.

Bierke had laid out the costs of various pay increase options in a memo to the Common Council in mid-November, including percentage pay increases or one-time bonuses.

District 4 Ald. Ken Kilian suggested paying for the pay increase by not filling the director of administration position as part of the city’s staffing plan. He said the plan results in “too much money being spent on management.”

The garbage collection fee of $60 for single-family homes and $120 for duplexes will be placed on property tax bills as a separate line item. The fee is projected to raise $148,950 in revenue.

Becker proposed removing the garbage fee or switching it from property tax bills to water bills. The latter would mean that city water users, including nonprofits — which do not pay property taxes on tax-exempt property — would pay for garbage collection.

“What we’re saying here is we’re not raising taxes, but we are increasing fees by $60 per housing unit,” said Becker. Moving the garbage fee to the water bill “will put part of htat cost on all taxing entities, instead of putting it solely on the homeowner.”

Becker’s proposal failed 4–3, with Dalecki, Daus, Nickels and Bonin voting no.

Kilian also proposed adding $550,000 in the budget through what he described as “borrowing-slash-donation” for a new EMS building to replace the EMS building on Furnace Street under the water tower. The amended proposal to add $450,000 in borrowing to the budget, with the rest from donations from towns within the ambulance district, died without a second.

The 2013 budget includes $3.3 million in capital improvement projects, including reconstructing Stonebridge Road and parts of Broadway, Evergreen Road and Fourth Street. The city’s debt is at 57.8 percent of the limit allowed by state law, and 83 percent of the city policy limit.

The budget retains the 37-hour workweek for hourly city employees, and keeps the Municipal Building closed on Fridays.