Finance committee reviews 2012 executive budget
Last night, the Finance Committee spent about three hours reviewing the 2012 Executive Budget. The room was filled to capacity; there were many city staff present. Two citizens spoke at the beginning of the meeting. Nasser Museitif, a city employee, and owner of Our Kenosha Tap, objected to the $5,000 deductible on health care. He stated that he had no problem paying his fair share, but he thought that there should be other ways that the city could generate savings. Secondly, he spoke in favor of keeping the position of the nurse practitioner. “Even if we have to pay a $20 co-pay,” he stated, “it would be worth it.” Mary Durkee, another city employee, echoed Museitif’s comments regarding the nurse practitioner. “I had a stye, and I went to the nurse practitioner. She gave me the medicine I needed, and I went back to work, with no loss of work. With this high deductible, instead of going to the doctor, employees will now wait until they are really, really sick to go to the doctor. I felt comfortable seeing the nurse practitioner. It’s beneficial to the employees and to the city itself to keep her.”
Mayor Keith Bosman kicked off the meeting with a few comments on the highlights of next year’s budget. He listed some of the losses: $1.7 million of lost revenue, $519,000 in transit funds, $177,000 in the recycling grant, as well as some of the increases: $4 million in health care expenes, a 2% wage increase for police and fire personnel, $500,000 in fuel, and $860,000 in debt service. The total is a $8.6 million problem to balance. Pension withholding comes to $1 million, and there is a $4.5 million in deductibles. To balance the increases, the reorganization of Neighborhood Services and Inspections and City Development should save $500,000. Additional savings of $400,000 should come from Joint Services, $500,000 from the Library, $150,000 from the Museum, plus other savings from the Police Department, and the Transit Department. The $851,000 deficit equates to a 1.51% increase in the levy. Bosman said that this is a “responsible budget, ‘do-able’ in these trying times.”
Chairman David Bogdala then made his comments. ”Normally, we have a line-by-line review of the budget, reviewing the different department budgets, keeping department heads waiting and wondering. Instead, the mayor outlined some tough decisions regarding reduced spending. But, we have people losing their homes, their jobs, people consolidating budgets, family members moving in with each other, taking on extra jobs, etc. I want to make it easier for people regarding the tax levy increase. Instead of going line by line, I’ve prepared an amendment to the 2012 budget listing 17 items that touch every department. These include changes, restructures, increases, decreases, consolidations. My goal is to drive the number down from 1.51% to 0%.” To review the list of 17 items, click here: 2012 Proposed Budget Amendment.
Bodgala continued, “The Public Safety and Welfare Committee felt that we needed to add more patrol officers on the street. The police chief has put forward a responsible budget. I have included in my amendment the three patrol officers that were taken out. I’ve also included the costs for a modified version of the Saturday bus service. And, most imporantly, a 0% tax increase for the citizens of Kenosha. If you weren’t at the Water Utility meeting yesterday, you wouldn’t know this, but they have also put forward a 0% increase in water for next year. That was also a responsible decision. We need to market these things for the city. With the JOBS Now program and the WET Program, we need to market this as a great place to live and to raise a family.”
Bogdala also stated that “any changes that add to the overall spending, that take us away from a 0% levy increase, are wrong, and I won’t be supporting them tonight.” His motion to amend the budget as presented failed by a vote of 3 to 2 (he and Alderperson Theodore Ruffalo were the only two that voted for it), as well as Ruffalo’s motion to send the budget on to the Common Council with no recommendation. “Well, now it’s going to be a long night,” Bogdala stated.
The following adjustments to the budget were made at last night’s meeting:
- Modifications to Bus Route # 6 were made to provide funding for four abbreviated Saturday bus routes. Instead of Route # 6 running all day, it will now run on Monday through Friday from 6:30 am to 8:30 am and then again from 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm. Ron Iwen, transit director, stated that this route mainly serves students, and making these modifications would still pick up 70% to 80% of its ridership. Frank Pacetti, city administrator, stated that the changes would net a savings of $6,000. Pacetti also stated that the issue of whether or not the drivers would be part-time or full-time still had to be ironed out. This budget was approved unanimously.
- Municipal Court Judge John Neuenschwander presented the Municipal Court budget, which was the same usual straighforward budget. He did state that, since there were several instances of unruly individuals at the clerk’s counter, that a safety window would be installed in the clerk’s office, but that the funds would come out of the capital budget. Bogdala thanked him for his many years of service, as he had previously announced that he is stepping down from the bench.
- Mike Higgins, clerk-treasurer, presented the budgets for the Assessor’s Office, the Board of Review, Mail, and Common Council. The election budget has doubled from last year due to the fact that there will be four elections held next year, not two. Bogdala wanted to make sure that Higgins felt that he had enough staffing built into the budget. With the use of assigned city workers and high school students, Higgins felt that staffing should be sufficient. Higgins stated that postcards (rather than letters) would be sent to all voters informing them of their new district voting locations.
- The council president, Jesse Downing, had proposed a $1,700 ($100 per alderperson) item for clothing and uniform replacement, but this item was deleted. Purchasing polo shirts for alderpersons walking in the Fourth of July Parade was an example given for the use of that money.
- Police Chief John Morrissey presented the Police Department’s budget. Currently, there are two assistant chief positions, a training lieutenant, and a lieutenant of administration. His budget eliminated the two assistant chiefs and created a deputy chief and an inspector. ”It makes administration about as slim as it can get. It still provides a clear line of command and communication,” said Morrissey. The other major change in the police department budget was the elimination of the three parking enforcement agents and the creation of six community service officers (CSO’s). Instead of going forward with that plan, one parking enforcement agent was retained and only five CSO’s will be added. The main duties of the CSO’s will include parking enforcement and animal control. Morrissey stated that he thought this would make the transition easier. The parking enforcement agent could train the five CSO’s. The number of sworn officers is currently at 199; the proposed number for 2012 was 196. Thirty-eight school crossing guards also remain in the budget for next year. The Public Safety & Welfare Committee had recommended these changes to the budget, and the Finance Committee concurred by a vote of 4 to 1. Bogdala stated that, based on his amendment failure, he was not in support of these changes, even though they were on his list of 17 items.
- Fire Chief John Thomsen presented the Fire Department’s budget. There was much discussion about the cost of training and certifying paramedics. Also, the number of fire department personnel receiving the $3,722/year premium for being certified as a paramedic was reduced from 70 to 60. Thomsen stated that the strategic plan was to have a fifth ambulance, but they know that they don’t have the money for that. “Can we function with 60? Yes,” he said. “Is it the best way to function? No. With 60, we can’t have a paramedic on every suppression unit every day.” Jeff Weidner, president of Local 414 of the International Association of Firefighters, spoke to the committee. “The union is opposed to the reduction for any purpose. Yes, we have run with less. In 1989, we had 27; that was a bare minimum with four rescue squads. It has evolved continuously over the years. We’ve increased the number and provided more services.” He relayed an instance when a paramedic who was still licensed and certified, but was not receiving the premium, still stepped up and saved a person on the scene. “That person is alive today because of that person’s efforts,” he said. Weidner gave the committee information about how they have been able to move the number to 70 over the years. “It’s because we had a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) concession. When we send a paramedic to training, instead of paying the individual their own overtime rate, we agreed upon a flat rate for additional training. We thereby saved money and were then able to send two more to school. We had this MOU in place for three years. Then, when we wanted to add it to our contract, the city said no. So, the MOU expired back in June. We are committed to providing the very best EMS service.” Thomsen agreed. “The MOU was a positive negotiation. It made significant impact on reducing our costs. We have the finest paramedics in the area.” Alderperson Eric Haugaard stated, “There are lots of other costs on your (Bogdala’s) resolution sheet. I will not compromise and risk the welfare of the city.” Alderperson Tod Ohnstad proposed keeping the number at 70, with the understanding that any normal attrition would be reviewed to determine if an additional paramedic was needed every time there was an attrit. Again, Bogdala voted against the addition because it added money to the budget.
- The Special Revenue, Medical Services budget was reviewed. Carol Stancato, finance director, pointed out to the committee that every two years, the EMS fees for services are reviewed. The second year is 2012; therefore, the budget does include a potential increase of $100,000. The committee approved the budget, as amended, by a vote of 4 to 1 (Bogdala voting against it).
- Jeff LaBahn, director of city development, presented the City Development/Neighborhood Services and Inspections budget. The budget represents the merger of the two departments, melding services and programs. Instead of having a senior building inspector, a senior electrical inspector, and a senior plumbing inspector, all will be senior inspectors, based on the needs and certifications. ”With the recent retirement, we’ve been utilizing outside sources to meet the demand. With the revised job descriptions, certifications need to be obtained within a specific time period,” LaBahn stated. The Public Safety & Welfare Committee had recommended eliminating the plumbing inspector position. The Finance Committee approved the budget, as amended by the Public Safety & Welfare Committee. With the savings of $90,073, and $30,000 of additional money for professional services and unemployment insurance in the amount of $9,438, the net savings amounted to $50,635. Both Bogdala and Ruffalo voted no.
- The Library budget was presented next. They are maintaining their hours as they are currently. Even though revenues are down 7.5%, the cost to the tax levy is 10.9% less than 2011, with the savings being generated due to lower personnel costs. The committee unanimously approved their budget.
- The Civic Center’s budget was also approved unanimously. Their 2012 budget contains the extension of the lease with the city for another ten years. The current year rent matches the 2011 budget. After 2012, the consumer price index will be used to adjust the lease terms.
- The Airport put forward a responsible, lean budget, while providing quality service. The committee approved their budget unanimously.
- The Museum has a new director effective December 1st. The 2012 budget contained $150,000 for the director’s salary, but the actual salary is less than that. The committee approved their budget unanimously with the $11,037 savings. Ruffalo thanked the interim director for the fine job she has done. The museums have 260,000 visitors a year.
- After a half hour recess, the remaining budgets were reviewed. Mike Lemens, director/city engineer, and Shelley Billingsley presented the Storm Water Utility budget. Lemens stated that he felt that the 2012 budget projections and estimates were very accurate due to Shelley’s tracking costs over the past few years. The Public Works and the Parks Committees approved their budgets. There is a 0% increase for next year. Bogdala wanted to know if they were prepared for the upcoming season’s activities as far as personnel and equipment are concerned. “Is $1.1 million going to be enough?” he wanted to know. Lemens stated that, even though the street superintendent will be out recovering from surgery, Jeff Warnock, as commander of snowstorms, and others, are preparing themselves in getting familiar with the operations. They are in the process of converting their plow fleet over from the summer to winter use, and two new plow trucks are coming on line very soon. Bogdala requested a contact list with cell phone numbers of all who will be in charge. “You know, I’ll be calling,” he said.
- The Parks and Golf Course budgets were presented by Jeff Warnock, park superintendent. With the start of this year’s season getting off to a slow start (being $30,000 in the red), every effort was made in getting golfers to the course. Mary Durkee, with her work in making the clubhouse more presentable and providing options for lunch, made many improvements. She also generated more play for youths by organizing children’s tournaments, practices, and classes. An ice rink, cross-country skiing and sledding on the hill off the 9th fairway, are being planned for the winter, allowing parents to come and watch their kids in the clubhouse. Bogdala wanted to know if all of this was being advertised, and Warnock said yes, in The Happenings Magazine, on Channel 25, and in The Kenosha News. Stancato stated that the shortage to their budget of $55,000 would come out of retained earnings. Bogdala wanted to know the balance in the Golf Fund, and Pacetti thought it was around $300,000.
- The Pools budget for next year shows a reduction based on changes for parks for next year. There are 38 flagpoles, which require proper lighting. Several were damaged in the windstorm, which may or may not be replaced. As the city makes contract agreements with the organizations using the soccer fields, some of the frayed flags will be replaced as we go along. This budget was approved unanimously.
Alderperson Daniel Prozanski asked Pacetti what the status was of the nurse practitioner. Pacetti’s reply was that, at first, the city felt that they could not afford the annual cost of $300,000. ”There has been such an outpouring of satisfaction from the employees,” Pacetti said, “And the vendor, Health Staff, has given us a guarantee in their proposal. They are guaranteeing a savings of dollar for dollar in reduced claim costs. And, if not, they will issue a check to us in April of 2013. If the goal is met, then the city will have no budgetary impact. It will just be part of the health costs. They offered $118,000 in savings in health department costs.” Bogdala asked, “Did the County Board not authorize the amount?” Stancato said that they did. “In 2010, we overpaid,” she said. Pacetti stated that, “Every two years, we reconcile. Yes, there is a dispute of $500,000 vs. $0. We settled the lawsuit, and we overpaid, but the County Board doesn’t recognize it. It’s similar to Joint Services. We reduced the line item by $118,734.” Therefore, Ohnstad proposed putting the nurse practitioner back into the budget. It was approved unanimously.
Haugaard asked about the fuel cost assumption used throughout the budget. Four hundred and ninety-three thousand gallons of gas at a cost of $3.50 vs. $3.25, as Bogdala had outlined as one of his 17 items. “Can we make a fuel adjustment into the budget?” he wanted to know. Pacetti believed that $3.50 a gallon was their best guess. ”Last year, we used $2.50, and we were off by a dollar.” Haugaard wanted to know what the best guess was based on. Pacetti replied that it was based on August and September experience. Haugaard wanted to know what the chairman’s estimate was based on. It was approved by a vote of 4 to 1.
Pacetti stated that the net result for tonight’s additions and changes took the 1.51% tax levy increase to 1.44%.
The Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) budget review will take place tonight at 6 pm. Check back for a report on that meeting.