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Public hearing is Monday night, Nov. 9 as West Bend Common Council votes to raise taxes

November 8, 2020 – West Bend, WI – There is a public hearing Monday night, November 9, 2020 as the West Bend common council votes to pass a .08 cent increase in the tax rate which would bring the proposed rate from $7.85 to $7.93.
Pay raises are a large part of the budget increase.
In June 2020 two employees received $12,000 pay increases. Another employee received a $5,000 pay raise to jump to $100,814, and two others had a $4,000+ salary increase to climb to the mid-$90,000 mark. Members of the common council confirmed those employees who received large salary increases will also be part of the cross-the-board 2-percent staff salary increase in 2020.
A request was put in several weeks ago for the 2018-2019 employee payscale. That amount has still yet to be shared.
The budget increase also covers a considerable bump in health care costs for city employees. Although the cost of healthcare is going up, the City is proposing employees pay less and have more of the expense (over 80%) picked up by taxpayers.

Michelle Hoey heads up the City of West Bend human resources department and she provided the bullet points below.

  • Health insurance for a single non-union employee is $128 per month with a $2,500 deductible in network
  • On a percentage basis in 2020 the employee is paying 19% for coverage and taxpayers are paying 81%
  • The new 2021 proposal bumps single coverage up $10 to $138 a month however the single employee will now pay 17% and 83% will be covered by taxpayers
  • Health insurance for a family non-union coverage is $250 per month for 2020 with a $5,000 deductible in network
  • On a percentage for a family the employee is paying 14% of the premium and the taxpayers are covering 86%
  • The new 2021 proposal for a family jumps $20 to $270 a month however the family is now paying 13% and 87% will be covered by taxpayers.
Another large budget expense for the West Bend Police Department is the purchase of body cameras at a cost of $92,500.
– Chief Ken Meuler is asking for 56 body cameras – one for each officer.
– There will be an annual maintenance contract on the cameras.
– The WBPD will also need new squad cameras/equipment to link to the body cameras.
– Hartford PD, Germantown PD, Kewaskum PD have body cameras.
– The Washington County Sheriff’s Department does not have body cameras nor does Jackson PD.
Below are some highlights from the discussion Monday, October 12, 2020 about body camera request for the West Bend PD.

Below is a letter Dist. 8 alderwoman Meghann Kennedy sent to the council prior to the meeting Monday, October 12, 2020.
Kennedy has been the only elected official who has presented ideas in writing in an effort to provide alternatives to a proposed tax increase.
Cast iron
Meghann Kennedy discusses tax hike, council
District 8 alderwoman Meghann Kennedy
An Open Letter to City of West Bend Alderman
RE: 2021 Budget
City Alderman,
              As the Finance Chairman I wanted to openly share my thoughts with you prior to the budget meeting tomorrow (Monday, October 12, 2020), where I will be sharing these thoughts. However, I wanted to give you time to think about what I am saying prior to the meeting and also give you time to think of alternatives, or other creative solutions to the budget you may have so we can have the most meaningful meeting possible.
Right now with the way the 2021 budget is written, we will be imposing a tax increase on our constituents. While some may argue it is a small increase I want everyone to understand I am unequivocally opposed to an increase due to what is happening right now in our community and the impacts we are seeing as a result of COVID.
Layoffs, mandatory furloughs, reduced hours and business closures are common place right now in our community.
Washington County is forcing the county government staff to take 5 mandatory furlough days this year as a cost cutting measure.
Several large Wisconsin companies reduced its staff in 2020 to cut cost, including the #7 largest employer in the state Kohl’s who laid off 15% of its local WI corporate headquarters staff in September.
Within the last year the Wisconsin government ordered non-essential businesses to close their doors for an extended period of time during safer at home and just this week ordered capacity limits of 25% to already struggling businesses.
Data released in late September by the Dept. of Workforce Development showed 713,508 unemployment insurance claims are STILL being processed, that number represents over 98,000 Wisconsinites, and some of those claims date all the way back to March.
Wisconsin unemployment rate has essentially doubled from this time last year.  Currently WI has 6.2% unemployment rate, it was only 3.4% at this time last year.
I do not think it is appropriate for the West Bend common council to raise taxes on our citizens during this time.  Many citizens are trying to sustain their homes and families with less revenue this year.  I think it is unjust for us to turn around and vote to charge more in taxes when with that tax increase the average citizen will not see or feel an increase in services.  It is no secret that a large sum of money will need to go to rising insurance costs for city employees.
I do not think it is fair for me to complain about the taxes going up without offering any solutions, so at this time I would propose we adjust the 2021 budget in the following ways:
Insurance saving measures -still waiting on more information. (Estimated savings TBD)
With library circulation down (-1%) to last year remove some funds in library.  (Estimated savings $30k)
Hold on purchasing body cameras and dash camera upgrades for the police this year (Estimated savings $96k)
Change city staffs pay increase from 2% to 1.5%.  This will be the same increase we gave last year (Estimated savings $30k)
City staff that underwent a wage adjustment this year would not be eligible for the 1.5% increase on top of that adjustment this year. (Estimated savings $13k)
Decrease amount city spends on crossing guards.  Currently we pay 100% of crossing guard salaries and materials.  I propose the school pay 1/3 of this cost and the city cover the other 2/3.  Many other municipalities receive full reimbursement for crossing guards. (Estimated savings $31k)
I have a few other questions out to Administrator Shambeau for some potential cost saving measures that he is looking into.  I look forward to our meeting tomorrow night to go over the budget alongside some of our city staff.
I feel we are extremely fortunate in West Bend to have such a talented and dedicated staff, and I would like to point out all the changes I am proposing to our budget do not call for furloughs or staff reductions in any departments. This is a difficult time for everyone and I think it is only fair for us to make difficult decisions in our government budget just like our constituents are making with their personal budgets.
In Partnership,
Meghann Kennedy
District 8 Alderman & Finance Chair
So far Kennedy has received zero support from any of the other elected officials on ideas to have the City “live within its means.”
Monday night’s meeting, November 9, 2020 starts at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall. The meeting is open to the public and there will be a public hearing on the budget where neighbors will be allowed to speak.

City of West Bend budget increase in 2020.

City of West Bend proposed budget in 2019.

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