PLATTEVILLE — Earlier in October, the Platteville Common Council was trying to figure out how to hold the line on city spending to hold the line on city property taxes.
Last week, the Common Council added spending in its latest work session, although taxes are projected so far to be no more than they were one year ago.
That additional spending in the proposed budget of almost $7.99 million may include a 1-percent pay increase, or the equivalent of a 1-percent pay increase in bonuses, for city employees whose hours were reduced from 40 per week to 37½ per week one year ago.
Aldermen disagreed on how to do that.
“I was in favor last year of furloughs for all employees” instead of reducing hours, said District 2 Ald. Eileen Nickels.
Reducing hours affected hourly employees differently from salaried and union employees, she added.
Common Council President Mike Dalecki favored bonuses for “probably hourly employees” instead of pay raises, so that pay increases wouldn’t be required in the 2014 budget.
“I think it’d be nice to give hourly workers a raise,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s money in this budget to do that.”
District 3 Ald. Barb Daus said the city could spend up to the state restraint allowance — which would increase the budget to almost $8.226 million.
“If we were to take $800 or something over that, when spread out over the number of people who’ll pay it, that’s worth it,” she said. “We could take a little more of our levy.”
The city’s Finance Department is determining the budget effect on pay increases or bonuses.
After the Oct. 18 council work session, the city budget had a surplus of $52,755, largely the result of a decision to not fill a Public Works position vacated through retirement, as well as spending a state forestry grant this year instead of next year.
Items added to the budget include $6,000 to restore the Platteville Public Library’s request for $11,000 in information technology spending, and the $5,000 pay cut for City Manager Larry Bierke, which Bierke put into the first version of the city budget.
A potential source of revenue for the future is the room the council met in Oct. 23 — the second-floor council meeting room in the Municipal Building. Bierke has been discussing renting the room to the Southwest Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission for office space.
That could move Common Council meetings to the Community Auditorium, although meetings could not be broadcast live on cable channel 36 with current infrastructure, Bierke said.
Moving the Senior Center from its current location to the vacated police space in the Municipal Building appears less likely than when first proposed.
“There’s so many cost barriers to being downstairs,” said Bierke. “It’s a lot more than moving walls.”
In an email to The Journal later in the week, Bierke said the estimated $200,000 the sale of the Senior Center building is anticipated to bring would cover only part of the estimated $400,000 to remodel the police space, and “more if we have to sprinkler City Hall.”
“If it costs more to remodel than what we are likely to get for the Senior Center building, then this idea was simply an exercise to evaluate the option and not a true cost saving opportunity,” Bierke wrote.
The public hearing on the 2013 budget will be held Nov. 27.