Fire truck funding boosts 2019 city budget draft

by Jeff Pederson
Sheboygan Falls News Editor

The Sheboygan Falls Common Council conducted an introductory review of the first draft of the 2019 city budget, during a Finance and Personnel Committee meeting held Wednesday, Sept. 5, at the Sheboygan Falls Municipal Building.

In keeping with recent practice, City Administrator Shad Tenpas said each department head was again asked to submit a flat first draft of their department’s budget.

Tenpas noted that budget discussions will continue during Common Council meetings on Wednesday, Sept. 19, Wednesday, Oct. 3 and Wednesday, Oct. 17 with first publication in the Sheboygan Falls News slated on Friday Nov. 9.

The Sheboygan Falls Common Council will officially approve the 2019 city budget on Wednesday, Nov. 21.

Tenpas stated that the 2019 net city tax rate is currently projected to rise by 18 cents, or 3.08 percent, from $6.04 per thousand of assessed valuation to $6.22 per thousand of assessed valuation.

“A large portion of the 18- cent city tax increase is due to the creation of the ongoing fire truck replacement fund, which was approved through a referendum on the April 3rd spring election ballot,” Tenpas said. “So, 12.5 cents of the tax is for the fire truck replacement fund another 2 cents also goes toward a promissory note for the fire truck fund.

“Of the 18-cent projected tax increase, 3.5 cents of it is not related to to the fire truck replacement fund,” he said. “We knew this was coming after the truck truck replacement fund was approved by voters in the spring.”

Each city department head provided a brief overview of their individual budget scenarios.

Due to contracted annual wage increases for patrol officers and administrative staff, the police department budget came in with a 1.28-percent increase from $1,265,523.97 in 2018 to $1,281,752.99 in 2019.

Police Chief and Director of Public Safety Steve Ross stated that the department was able to save money by reducing the crossing guard staff and eliminating a $10,000 IT support expense.

“Because of the opening of the new middle school next to the elementary school, we reduced our cross guard staff by two positions, which will save the department $8,596.80 in 2019,” Ross said. “The $10,000 IT support line item expense was shifted to the new office manager position.”

Ross added that he would like to redirect the money saved through the reduction in the crossing guard staff to bolster the administrative salaries of two lieutenants in the department.

“In the past we have discussed the compression issue we have with some patrol officers making more money than the lieutenants on our administrative staff,” Ross said. “Therefore, I thought it would be a good idea to move $4,000 of the crossing regard savings to administrative salaries with $2,000 going toward the salaries of our two lieutenants and the remaining $4,596.80 going into the overtime budget.”

Finance and Personnel Committee Chair Terry Van Engen said directing the $8,596.80 for administrative and overtime salaries should undergo additional review.

“Since each department head was directed to submit a budget with a 0-percent spending increase, I think we should go over redirecting this money to administrative salaries a bit more,” Van Engen said. “I think it at least should flow through the city’s salary ordinance first before it is included in the budget.”

After Tenpas said he gave Ross the authority to move the $8,596.80 into administrative salaries and overtime, Van Engen stated that the city should redo its salary ordinance before approving the change in the budget.

Tenpas noted an accounting change in how the fire department budget is listed.

“You will see that the fire department line items appear very differently than in the past due to an accounting change that we were advised to make, particularly in regard to a new line item we now have for inspections, public education, school and conventions in the amount of $26,500 for 2019,” Tenpas said. “These items had been listed separately in the past, but now they are grouped under one line item.

“In addition, we have a separate line item for memberships and dues, which is $2.700 in 2019 and yearly physicals, which come out to $4,000 in 2019.

“After all of the accounting changes, which included adding and combining some items, the fire department came in with a 0-percent increase,” he said. “I did remove a requested $2,000 increase for first responder supplies to keep the budget at 0 percent.”

Tenpas also reported that the library department has submitted a budget with .87-percent ($2,984) increase, including slight increases in salaries, adult books, office supplies and maintenance, from $342,746 in 2018 to $345,7830.

“An adjustment in the children’s librarian salary has been included due to longevity,” Tenpas said.

Van Engen spoke out against granting raises solely on longevity.

“In recent years we have been slowly removing the longevity pay raises and focusing more creatively on paying for performance,” Van Engen said. “I think we need to direct the Library Board to be more selective in addressing salaries and not give raises based on longevity.”

Department of Public Works Director Jerry Benzschawel reported a .08-percent ($504.31) street department increase from $642,258 in 2018 to $642,762.31 in 2019, due to contracted increases for administrative staff.

Benzschawel did express concern about the current state of the street department’s tree and brush control account.

“Right now our tree and brush control account is running over by $21,000,” Benzschawel said. “We can’t continue to operate by that standard. We took down 85 trees this year and that trend will continue in the near future due largely to the Emerald Ash Borer; and others need to be dealt with because they are affecting power lines.

“We currently have a backlog of hazardous trees that we definitely need to take care of soon,” he said. “The Park Board provides funds for planting trees, but they do not offer any funding for taking trees down.”

Van Engen indicated that the Park Board should assist in providing funding for tree removal, while Tenpas recommended looking into setting up a dedicated tree and brush control fund.

In addition, Benzschawel reported a .53-percent ($2,100) increase in sanitation expenses due to hikes in recycling and non-recycling pickup and disposal fees.

Tenpas noted that the city hall and general government department came in with a 0-percent increase with no increase in salaries for the Common Council and mayor, or city hall office staff.

Projected total indebtedness was reported as increasing by 12.39 percent in 2019.

The first draft of the 2019 city budget includes a 3.21-percent ($188,781.44) hike in total expenses from $5,873,995.67 in 2018 to $6,062,777.11 in 2019.

The first draft of the budget included a 3.44-percent ($79,592) rise in total revenue from $2,312,663 in 2018 to $2,392,255 in 2019.

“We are off to a good, early start with the budget and I think there is still some work to do as this is just the first draft,” Mayor Randy Meyer said. “There are things we need to look at a little closer and come back with suggestions at our next meeting on September 19th.”

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