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Milton seeks cost-cutting measures

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Stacy Vogel
November 11, 2009
— The Milton City Council might ask employees to take a wage freeze, pay health insurance premiums or go on furlough to help reduce a 15-percent levy increase.

The council instructed Administrator Todd Schmidt to open emergency negotiations with the city’s unions to try to get concessions mid-contract.


The issue was one of 23 possible cost savings the council discussed at a budget workshop Tuesday night.


If the council accepts all departmental budgets as written, it would increase expenses by 6.5 percent and the tax levy by 15 percent.


But the council tentatively approved cuts Tuesday that could reduce the levy by $160,000. That would bring the levy increase to about 8.5 percent.


Other proposed cuts still were being discussed at the Gazette’s deadline Tuesday.


Milton, like most Wisconsin municipalities, faces reduced revenue from state aid and interest income in its 2010 budget.


At the same time, the city has put off some expenditures that have now become critical, Mayor Tom Chesmore said.


“The council generally feels we have let things slide in the past,” he said. “Now we have a lot of things that are coming back around to us.”


Major capital and new expenses in the 2010 budget include:


-- Second payments on a new plow truck and Toolcat utility vehicle for the Department of Public Works. Payments on the two vehicles were split between 2009 and 2010.


-- A new squad car for the police department. Chief Jerry Schuetz proposed buying one new squad car and starting a savings plan to buy two squad cars every three years in the future. He hopes the plan will save money on maintenance in the long run.


-- $105,000 in elevator repairs in the Shaw Municipal Building. The council voted Tuesday to use fund balance set aside specifically for the municipal building to pay most of the cost.


-- The addition of two police officers at 20 hours per week each. The addition would bring the department closer to its goal of having two officers on duty at all times, Schuetz said.


Schuetz suggested Tuesday reducing the proposal to one part-time officer, but council members Maxine Striegl and David Adams said increased police presence is a need, not a want.


“We’re not the little bedroom community we used to be,” Striegl said.


Schmidt said he’s frustrated when other departments are asked to make cuts but not the police department.


“When I ask people, ‘Do you feel safe?’, I don’t know if you hear something different, but (I hear) they feel safe,” he said.


Reducing the proposal to one part-time officer could save $18,000. The council did not resolve the issue before the Gazette’s deadline.


The city could save more money by imposing a wage freeze, furloughs or benefit cuts on employees. The council disagreed about whether or not non-union employees should be made to take cuts even if the unions don’t agree to concessions.


Clerk Nancy Zastrow said her staff seemed willing to take a pay freeze or pay 5 percent of their health insurance premiums if it set a precedent going into the next union negotiations.


But some council members said that’s not fair.


“You shouldn’t be at a disadvantage for being non-represented,” Adams said.


The council will continue budget discussions at its regular meeting Tuesday, Nov. 17. Schmidt expects a complete draft budget to be available to the public by the end of next week in advance of a Nov. 30 public hearing, he said.



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