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City funds parks supervisor post
Budget eliminates anticipated wage increases, other positions, safety equipment
Monroe City Hall
File photo

MONROE — Two city staff positions have been removed as public pressure helped to ensure a parks supervisor and two police officer positions will be funded in the 2019 city budget.

During its meeting Monday at City Hall, the Monroe Common Council voted 8-1 in favor of the budget, with aldermen Jeff Newcomer, Richard Thoman, Ron Marsh, Rob Schilt, Donna Douglas, Mickey Beam, Michael Boyce and Brooke Bauman in favor of the modified document. Council member Chris Beer was the single vote against the proposed budget.

Council members had instructed City Administrator Phil Rath during their meeting Nov. 15 to “find” the $115,000 necessary to fund the parks supervisor position and the remaining amount needed to maintain two Monroe Police officer positions. 

The reason for the instruction was due to public outcry over the elimination of a parks supervisor to be replaced by two current city employees to serve as assistants. 

Rath, who proposed a number of cuts to other departments, said Monday that in discussion with representatives from the Cities & Villages Mutual Insurance Company the city also needed to budget for roughly $115,000 in possible lawsuit payouts. There are currently three suits against the city involving residents’ injuries on city property.

Alderman Michael Boyce had also previously proposed a $35,000 public safety study to identify how many police officers are needed for the city to operate in light of possible upcoming retirements. On Monday, that amount was stricken from the budget expenses on an 8-1 vote with Boyce the sole vote against it. 

The expense of maintaining a full-time parks supervisor is over $68,000. The cost of ensuring the two officer positions are maintained despite upcoming retirements is nearly $37,000. With those two expenses, plus the $115,000 for possible insurance claims costs, Rath was faced with reducing expenses elsewhere. 

A total of 11 cuts were suggested, from eliminating the administrative secretary position to reducing safety equipment supply costs and cutting anticipated cost of living wage increases for city employees. 

Some members of the public expressed an issue with “contracting out” services. The city recently began a contract with Ricoh USA, which places local workers in a needed position. If that worker is ill or on vacation, the service replaces them with other trained staff. 

By ending the contract and eliminating the administrative secretary position currently filled by Amanda Swedlund, Rath said the city could save just over $52,000 after paying a penalty for early termination.

Rath expressed his opposition to the move, noting that removing the position would put additional strain on employees. The deputy city clerk position was eliminated in the 2018 budget process and the duties were delegated to Assistant City Administrator Sam Liebert if City Clerk Arianna Voegeli is out of the office. 

Liebert said Tuesday that with the reduction in staff, officials are evaluating how to use other administrative staff from the incoming utilities department for those types of duties.

The original budget had called for the termination of Comptroller Bridget Schuchart and for those city services to be contracted to an accounting firm. Liebert said the city will likely begin that contract on Jan. 1. 

Other cuts to the budget included a 20 percent reduction in overtime for city workers, a reduction in cost of living increases from 2.25 percent to 1.25 percent for employees who did not belong to the labor union AFSCME and those who had but did not continue the chapter were decreased to a 2 percent wage increase. During its acceptance of the contract with Airport Supervisor Rob Driver, the recommended wage of $60,000 was also reduced to just under $56,000. 

The reduction of those costs resulted in just over $59,000. Employees will also no longer be given the automatic step increases in pay, resulting in roughly $9,600 in expense reductions. There were also smaller items, like $5,000 allocated to safety shoes, glasses and other equipment and $5,000 meant to fund bulletproof vests that were removed from the budget. 

Rath said the suggestions were made by different department heads in either a meeting Nov. 16 or in a correspondence sent to staff. Like the elimination of two summer help positions for the parks department upon recommendation of Director of Public Works Al Gerber, which reduced expenses by another $12,500.

Based on changes in anticipated health insurance plans, nearly $17,000 was also added to the list of reduced expenses. There was also no need for the $7,000 set aside for parks assistant positions if the supervisor job was to be funded. To address the remaining $40,000 needed for claims payouts, Rath said the one-time expense could be taken from the general fund. 

Beer said the “idea of balancing a budget out of the general fund” was not preferred, but the step “moves it in the right direction” and “gives it a start for next year.” 

Boyce said that the revisions address all concerns brokered by the council. However, it does not support the majority of city employees, he said, noting that the “huge issue is that it jeopardizes” the future funding of employees who use health savings accounts because the city risks not being able to refund those costs. 

“We’ve seen a lot of active undermining of the city administrator in this process,” Boyce said. “If the alders believe the goal of any good budget is to help employees … I think that, for the most part, this budget does the opposite.”

But, it “checks all the boxes,” he added.

The city tax rate for homeowners will be $9.64 per $1,000 of equalized value, or $964 for the owner of a $100,000 house within the city.