City Council Monday approved a 2011 municipal budget which included reorganization and layoffs in the service department, funding for a new automated trash and recycling program plus taking up to $525,000 from a controversial reserve fund.
In passing the blueprint for city spending for this year, city officials said the struggling economy prompted moves such as the revamping of the service department, switching to automated trash collection and using the reserve fund.
Those voting for the budget included Council President Brian Cruse, Paul Koomar, Scott Pohlkamp, Dave Tadych and Mike Young. Voting against it were Dwight Clark and Jim Scott.
Cruse said the general fund budget of about $11.7 million was probably the best possible this year.
“I’m not happy with the budget, but given the circumstances, such as the economy and the uncertainty with the state funding, the administration did a great job of putting this together,” he said.
Referring to the service department moves, Mayor Debbie Sutherland said the combination of reorganization and layoffs would save the city about $200,000 annually. The moves included consolidating two supervisory positions with annual salaries of about $70,000 each into one foreman’s position of $60,000 annually. One of the two persons holding the consolidated position is retiring, while the other has to decide what he wishes to do next, Sutherland said.
In addition, the city is privatizing janitorial services, which led to the layoff of one one fulltime and two parttime positions. Finally, two workers who did dye testing and related work are being switched to inspectors posts with reductions in their annual salaries of about $5,000 each, she said.
“We got this done after negotiations with the unions about how to handle this,” she said. “Unfortunately, in this economy, we’re running out of options about how to handle this without cutting into services. In addition to the position consolidations, privatizing services will also save us additional funds while still preserving service. Plus, because of the work with the EPA on the sewers, we no longer needed the dye testing jobs, but we were able to switch those to other needed jobs.”
Union officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Sutherland said the $525,000 to be taken from the reserve fund could be high, pending the final outcome of the reorganization and related moves.
In noting their objections, Clark, who has been a key player in setting up an electric aggregation agreement designed to reduce city residents and businesses money, said during the meeting he would still prefer to set up a fund with the aggregation grant money, which would be drawn from if the need arises.
Scott did not comment on his vote during the meeting, but said when asked afterwards he has concerns about passing a budget that includes pay raises for workers, but does not take into account the possible reduction of state funding.
“I don’t think pay raises are a good idea right now in lieu of our financial concerns,” he said. “And we really don’t take into account the possible changes in the municipal government fund and estate tax at the state level.”
Sutherland noted later that Scott voted for the contracts which included a one-percent pay raise for rank- and-file workers this year.
Referring to the trash agreement, city officials said it will benefit the city by putting in place the automatic trash collection and recycling programs.
“That’s something whose time has come,” Sutherland said afterwards. “It wasn’t a question of if we would implement this, but rather when. It’s being done all over the country. Change isn’t always easy, but it is necessary in circustances such as these. It will save us money for now and also helps keep the landfill from filling up faster.”
The agreement with BFI is for five years, and for now has the city collection set for Fridays. Information on the services will be sent to residents shortly.