The Fennimore Common Council upheld a veto by Mayor Charles Stenner pertaining to longevity pay for city employees during its meeting Monday evening, Oct. 22. A motion to override the mayor’s veto garnered only five votes, falling short of the six votes needed.
Alderperons Joe McBee, Greg Fry, Philip Nelson, Sara Brodt and David Streif voted to override. Alderpersons Linda Stephenson, Gerald Bollant and Mark Schoepp voted in opposition.
The council previously voted, 5-3, at an Oct. 15 special meeting to discontinue longevity pay following a one-time payment in 2013.
Stenner explained his reasoning for vetoing that motion in a letter presented to the council Monday evening.
“This would be an additional burden on the employees at a time they do not need it,” Stenner wrote. “The city employees will be paying a larger portion of their pension and health insurance. This is not the time to take more away from them.
“We had a good work force with many years experience in their jobs. This is not the way to treat them. We should show them the respect they deserve and not take advantage of them.”
Stenner presented an employee benefit analysis that detailed losses in take-home pay for city employees relating to an increase in health insurance premium and contribution to pensions, and the loss of longevity pay.
In the wake of the passage of Act 10, Governor Scott Walker’s collective bargaining law, non-union city employees will pay 7.5 percent of insurance premiums in 2013, which results in an increase of $55.80 to $438.72 per employee.
Employee contributions to the Wisconsin Retirement System ranged from $1,837.44 to $3,975.34 per employee in 2012, but will increase to $1,931.41 to $4,110.70 per employee in 2013.
Longevity pay resulted in an additional $132 to $1,768.50 per employee in 2012. Longevity pay, which was instituted during the 1970s, is additional annual compensation depending on years of service.
Fry made the motion concerning longevity pay at the Oct. 15 meeting.
“I understand what you are saying Chuck, and that is why my motion included to minimize the impact to have a one-time payout of $30 per year of seniority in 2013 so the impact of this would not be realized until 2014,” he said. “It would minimize the impact because of the other things the employees are being asked to contribute to.
“It is not that anything is being taken away, it is that they are being asked to contribute to what they are currently receiving.”
“It actually comes down to what they would be taking home, so you can look at it both ways,” Stenner replied. “I appreciate what you said with the $30 and everything, but I still think it is too big of an impact.
“It is something that probably should be looked at further down the road, and not right at this time. To me, it is not fair to do this at this time.”
Streif told the council if city employees were compared to employees in other municipalities, Fennimore employees are getting “a pretty fair deal.”
Stenner said in his opinion, what is being done in other municipalities has “no bearing” on what should be done in Fennimore.
“These are our employees, these are people we work with all the time,” he said. “They need to be treated in a fair way and to me this isn’t a fair way.”
Stephenson told Stenner she agreed with him 100 percent before addressing the city employees in attendance.
“You know that things are coming and things have changed so much, and money is coming out of your checks, and that is hard,” she said. “It is hard for any of us to have money taken out of our checks. I think it is better a little bit at a time.”
Fry explained to those in attendance that he feels longevity pay is an “outdated practice.”
“If you listen to any of the presidential debates, there are 23 million Americans without a job,” he said. “The need for this, which is what we were told, was to try to keep employees around.
“I fully realize when this was put in place that jobs were plentiful and the drain on the labor pool was a lot. We live in different times now.”
In other action, the council:
• approved the purchase of a new furnace for the street department shop. Schrader Heating & Cooling was awarded the bid to install the furnace and dispose of the current unit.
Carroll’s Plumbing & Heating and H&N Plumbing and Heating also submitted bids for two-stage or modulating furnaces.
Schrader Heating & Cooling was the low bid at $2,290 for a 95 percent efficient Carrier two-stage furnace.
There is a $275 Focus on Energy incentive on two-stage furnaces, City Clerk Margaret Sprague noted.
• approved the sale of surplus equipment.
In response to an advertisement, the city received a high bid of $302.93 for a non-operable 2006 Chevrolet Impala and a high bid of $500 for a 1986 Chevrolet C-10 truck. The city also received a bid of $30 each for two used utility poles.
• approved a solid waste disposal contract for 2013-2017 with Town & Country Sanitation.
Faherty Inc. and Waste Management also submitted bids, but both included rate increases per year. Town & Country Sanitation’s rates will remain unchanged.
The city will pay $165 for each 40-yard roll off (presently $150) and $45 per ton of disposal (presently $42.50).