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April 2014

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Employee raises at issue in Pewaukee budget

The Village of Pewaukee voted 4-3 on Nov. 20 to adopt the 2013 budget with the highest possible increase to the general fund levy .

The 3.23-percent increase brings the general fund levy to about $3.79 million, with an additional $850,718 going to debt service.

It's the full amount allowed under levy limit laws, and it will translate into an increase of 1.09 percent on the village tax rate. The tax rate will likely be $4.90 per $1,000 of assessed value, compared to $4.85 per every $1,000 assessed last year. That's about $1,421 for a home assessed at $290,000 under the new tax rate. Under the old rate, a home assessed at $290,000 would have paid $1,406.

Village taxes are just one part of a homeowner's bill. Taxpayers are also responsible for state, county, technical college and school district taxes.

The additional funds will go toward capital purchases (fishing pier, road projects and LED streetlight upgrades) and debt service. Salary raises have also been built into the budget; after negotiations are complete, a salary ordinance needs to be drafted by the board.

Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA) negotiations have concluded with a two-year agreement and a 3.5-percent wage increase for Village of Pewaukee police officers. In turn they will pay half of general employee contribution for Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS).

DPW workers, represented by the Labor Association of Wisconsin, are still negotiating.

"In closed session, there's direction to include in the budget a 2.96-percent wage adjustment for nonrepresented employees," Village Administrator Scott Gosse said.

That increase caused three Village Board members(Village President TomCalder, Trustee Jeff Knutson and Trustee Cathy Baumann) to vote against the budget, which passed by a hair. Other trustees, who voted for the budget, said that they first needed to approve the 2013 budget and then they could choose to support or not support salary raises later on, with a separate motion.

On the other hand, some trustees said that the raise made sense in keeping with inflation and costs of living - these employees had a half-percent adjustment last year.

Knutson, in particular, was vocal about against measure.

"You just act like, well, we're going to give them raises because we can," he said.

On Sept. 4, Knutson proposed a possible wage/compensation study - no formal action or motion followed at the time, however. At the time, he said that Pewaukee employees do an excellent job for the village but added that he had spoken to an employee who said they could be making more money in the private sector. He explained that he had looked at some of the wages in the past, and while the village has good retention of employees and good working conditions, he has been "out talking with companies that do have similar positions as the village, and he has seen the salary scales and there is quite a difference."

"I would just like to make it clear to the village that voted for me that we are looking out for them and the people who take care of them," Knutson said back in September.

Last Tuesday, however, he spoke against village employee raises and voted against the budget.

"At this time I cannot adopt the general fund with - and I have no problem with the people who work for the village, I think they do a marvelous job, they do great service to the village - but for us to give them a 3-percent, almost a 3-percent raise across the board while the private sector is taking cuts, maybe laying off or losing their jobs, gentlemen and ladies, this is in some ways a business," he said. "If this was a company and we were doing this and had to talk to shareholders or stockholders I don't think we'd be sitting on this board - and some of us do have that coming up in spring. I don't want to have to face the public and have to explain why we gave them raises when everybody else is taking hits left and right."

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