Finance Committee also approves 2013 executive budgets

Photo by mensatic via MorgueFile.com

Tonight, the Finance Committee reconvened to finish up the review of the 2013 budgets.  The focus tonight was on the 2013 executive operating budgets.  This meeting lasted a little over three hours.  Alderperson Tod Ohnstad was not present at tonight’s meeting.  The budgets were approved by a vote of 4 to 1, with Alderperson David Bogdala being the sole dissenting voter.

Mayor Keith Bosman said that the budget of $71.9 million is one in which there are no reductions in service planned.  He mentioned the decreased shared revenue and increased health care costs, the proposed 2% employee raise, and the increased burden of health care on the city’s employees.  He thanked the employees for working with administration over the years.

The current budget increases the tax levy by 2.2%.  Frank Pacetti, city administrator explained the effect on the average homeowner.  Assessed values in the city have decreased 11%.  The average home value went from $147,400 last year to $126,700 this year, a 14% decrease.  Applying the mil rate against the assessed value yields 10.288 on a $147,400 home equals $1,516.  The projected mil rate of 11.874 on the $126,700 home equals $1,504, a decrease of $12.

Chairman Daniel Prozanski thanked the department heads for their presence tonight, and administration for their meeting involvement.  He had two introductory remarks to make.  He observed that the fire inspection fees that were brought up by Alderperson Anthony Kennedy at the Public Safety & Welfare meeting on October 24th, was not included in these documents.  No one on the Finance Committee was in favor of these fees.  Bogdala referenced a recent Kenosha Chamber of Commerce survey whose results showed an overwhelming opposition to the fees.  Alderperson Rocco LaMacchia, chairman of the Public Safety & Welfare Committee, stated that they were pulling that proposal, stating that “now is not a good time.”  To review the article on this meeting, click here:  “Public Safety & Welfare Budgets Vetted Tonight.”

Secondly, there is one fund from the state for transportation fees for roadways that was increased by $259,000.  This will reduce the tax levy further from 2.2% to 1.74%.  Pacetti said that the corresponding mil rate change will save an additional $12 per household on av.  Prozanski made a motion to revise the funding number, and the vote was unanimous in favor of the amendment.

Bogdala continued to raise numerous questions of the department heads and the administration.  He questioned Debbie Salas, city clerk and treasurer, on the rationale for the temporary election worker.  She and Pacetti explained that the cashier position was being reclassified.  “The last time this position was filled was eleven years ago,” Salas said.  “Technology and the workload has changed.”

Bogdala questioned Police Chief John Morrissey on the issue of not adding any officers in 2013.  He expressed his concern over staffing.  However, Morrissey stated that, with the added officers in 2012, the staffing was adequate.  “For the future, with a growing city, then an increase in the police department would be warranted,” he said.  Bogdala also questioned the overtime.  Morrissey said that he was hoping that it would be sufficient.  They have had significant investigations this year, some of which were computer crimes, which take more time.  He also questioned the office space rental rate division between the city and the county.  Morrissey also talked about the community service officer (CSO) program, which he said has worked exceptionally well.  Bogdala asked about the trapping of wild animals.  He stated that he has heard that the CSO’s will not trap larger wild animals, like coyotes, and Morrissey said that it was probably due to the fact that they don’t have traps large enough.

Alderperson Curt Wilson questioned the increased cost for prisoner meals.  Morrissey explained the agreement reached with the county in 2011 to increase the daily rate to $36.  Refer to the Public Safety & Welfare article referenced above for the discussion on this issue as well.

Bogdala also had questions for the Fire Chief, John Thomsen.  He questioned the overtime and the health care insurance costs.  Carol Stancato, the city’s finance director, explained that the renewal cost estimate is based on actual counts at the time of the renewal.  Bogdala wanted to know if the Common Council resolution prohibited the city from having two separate plans.  There was more discussion on the annual deductibles and the work of the Health Care Committee.  Pacetti gave a comparison of Racine’s vs. Kenosha’s health care program.  Bogdala stated that he was not yet ready to make any recommendations regarding this topic.  Bogdala also questioned the fire chief on his position on the fire inspection fees.  Thomsen stated that he would enforce whatever policy the Common Council deemed appropriate.

Next, Bogdala questioned Jeff LaBahn, director of community development and inspections.  Bogdala made a motion to increase the revenue derived from building permits by $125,000, but the motion failed due to lack of a second.  The additional revenue would have brought the tax levy down to 1.53%.

Various questions for the Public Works Department followed, including salt/brine applications and fuel charges.   Prozanski questioned the engineering turnover.  He wanted to know if the city has lot people due to compensation issues, and Mike Lemens, public works director, thought that one person was lost due to health insurance, compensation, and stress.

After the recess, Bogdala continued with the questioning of the Municipal Building budget.  He wanted to know how the election staff was utilized.  Pacetti explained the telephone system upgrade changes that are planned for the city.  Jeff Warnock, parks superintendent was called upon to explain the additional revenue of $40,000 from the four non-profit organizations that use the city’s baseball diamonds.  He stated that he has achieved what administration had asked him to do.  Bogdala also questioned Lemens on recycling yard waste and yard waste staffing.  He then asked that the department review the hours for the yard waste public drop-off site to accommodate those who work during the day, and possibly institute fluctuating hours.

On the airport’s budget, Bogdala brought up the issue of the referendum that the city taxpayers had voted on back in 1994.  He found the results in the Kenosha News archives, and the result was that the taxpayers did not want to see airport expansion back then.  Wayde Buck, director, said that the referendum was to vote on whether or not the taxpayers wanted to see expansion outside the current boundaries.  Buck countered that the issue was the change in use of the airport from a corporate class aviation airport to one that could handle heavier jets, cargo jets.  Prozanski stated that Bogdala needed to take the historical context into consideration.  The thought back then was to make the airport a freight system hub, and it called for a longer and thicker runway.

Bogdala wanted to know why the rest of the committee was so sensitive about asking questions.  When the Transit Department budget review was called, Bogdala stated that he was completely done with his questions.  Immediately, Alderperson Curt Wilson made a motion to approve the budget, as amended.  The vote was 4 to 1, and then the meeting was adjourned.

The Common Council will meet as a committee of the whole on Monday, November 29th, at 7 pm for a final review of the budget before the final vote.

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