Jul 29, 2014
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Last Minute Budget Dance Leaves Employees in the Lurch

Requests for concessions from employees should have been made months earlier. Unfortunately, with limited time to agree to cuts in benefits and/or pay, the blame will shift to employees if there are cuts in service.

Last Minute Budget Dance Leaves Employees in the Lurch

I feel like there is a lot of dramatic budget tricks going on at

First, there was push for in order to Unfortunately, the goal of a tax freeze as it was presented and pushed by the mayor was disingenuous. The average homeowners, the Waukesha residents that the mayor so frequently states are suffering from drops in home values and unemployment, would be seeing a $136 increase on their tax bills.

But the problem is still $136 that Waukesha residents will feel like are going out with the trash. To present it in any other way shows a disregard for the intelligence of Waukesha residents.

The garbage fee did have some merit – just not in the way it was presented. If the budget was cut back and then the garbage fee was introduced so there would be no net increase on what a person has to pay, why not? It would promote equality throughout the city as some people have to pay for private garbage collections. Still – that issue should have been addressed months before the budget was released.

Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. Now the city is forced to cut $2.7 million – $1.2 million in cuts that have already been identified and are before the Finance Committee – and need to cut another $1.5 million to have a tax freeze.

At the very last minute, the mayor suggested cuts to the employee benefits. There’s been some dialogue about the cuts saving employee jobs. Unfortunately, there has also been some demeaning of the public employees.

Let’s look at some of the facts:

  • City employees have been under a hiring freeze for several years. That means as retirements have happened throughout the city or when people move on for other jobs, the other employees are required to take on more work.
  • The Common Council worked hard to create a wage freeze in 2010 during another rough budget year. That was followed by 1.5 percent pay increases in 2011 and 2012. But in that three-year contract, there is also the provision of increase contributions toward health care costs, meaning sacrifices were made on their personal budgets.
  • Negotiations on the three-year contract began in fall 2009. The contracts were ratified in spring 2010. Gov. Scott Walker was elected in November 2010 and introduced his budget repair legislation that effectively strips public unions from negotiation abilities in February 2010. That means the city would have had no idea what was coming down from Madison when they negotiated a conservative contract.
  • Non-represented employees are required to put 5.8 percent of their salary toward their pension under the budget repair bill.
  • The employees are being asked to make concessions to avoid layoffs at the last minute. This was not presented to them until today – months into the budget process.

My argument is that the mayor should have realized that his garbage fee proposal would end up smelling poorly to the residents. But, it was proposed and it was

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to ask the employees to contribute toward their benefits. But I do question the timing of it. If the city is unable to get the concessions, the blame for layoffs and cuts in service will be on the employee unions – which is not fair.

If they don’t agree to concessions at the last minute, they shouldn’t be treated poorly by their fellow community members as a result. In all honesty, two days is not enough time to ask that question.

Maybe the council can make some offers for the employees in 2012. Maybe a few extra vacation days could be added for some pay and benefit concessions. It could soften the last minute blow to their personal budgets.

Unfortunately, people will be losing their jobs soon if something doesn’t give. And serious, serious consequences could be coming – including deep cuts to the police and fire services.

Alderman Eric Payne said it best when he said Waukesha residents are not going to want to see cuts in service to – police, fire and public works.

“They want people to come to their house when they have problems with health or because their house is on fire,” Payne said. “They don’t want to wait an hour or two. … We should really look carefully at those positions before we cut.”

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