{child_flags:featured}Fort Atkinson municipal budget calls for employee wage hike

{child_byline}By Henry Redman



The 2020 Fort Atkinson city budget includes an appropriation for all full-time employees to receive a raise that overall will amount to $187,000.

The wage hike was one of the topics discussed when the Fort Atkinson City Council held the first of two budget workshops Tuesday.

The second took place Wednesday evening.

The city conducted a wage assessment in which it compared its pay system to that of other municipalities in the area. The assessment found Fort Atkinson was lagging behind a lot of other communities.

Most of that $187,000 will be paid for through the city’s general fund, with the remainder from the municipal utilities.

“The salaries are the biggest part of any increases in budget this year,” City Manager Matt Trebatoski said. “This was done to stay competitive with surrounding communities and to continue attracting and retaining good employees. We were aware that we were falling a little behind in pay in some areas and wanted to address the issue before it got away from us.”

The pay hike for full-time employees will range from 1.5 percent to 9 percent, depending on the position and other factors.

Part-time positions will receive a 2-percent raise and paid-on-call firefighters will be given a 3-percent raise.

A wage increase for police union employees still needs to be negotiated with the city’s Finance Committee later this year.

Included in the proposed pay increases is a bump in pay for members of the city council. Currently, council members receive $250 per month and the council president receives $300 per month. These amounts would rise to $300 and $360, respectively.

The city council pay has not been increased since 1997, according to Trebatoski. Had it increased with the rate of inflation over the last 23 years, the pay for a regular council member would be around $400.

Trebatoski said the city took an average of council pay for about 20 communities around the area and came to that $300-per-month number.

Council member Jude Hartwick said he was uncomfortable with the way it would seem to the public if the council voted for its own raise. Hartwick also said he would vote “no” on any motion to raise member pay.

Council member Bruce Johnson said he doesn’t think the pay should be a factor.

“I’m not in this for the money,” Johnson said.

While Hartwick adamantly opposed the pay increase, council President Paul Kotz and member Mason Becker said there could be some positives to increasing the pay.

“This encourages people to run,” Kotz said.

Becker noted that some other communities in the area don’t pay their council members anything.

He said the result of this is that the more affluent parts of the community are much more represented in elected office.

“We’ve had minimal opposed elections,” Becker said, adding, “$250 a month has helped my family out a lot. Everybody’s got different circumstances.”

After the debate started to get heated, Kotz suggested that the discussion be tabled and brought up again at the next budget workshop on Wednesday night.

“Let’s sleep on it,” Kotz said. “We want it to be a fair consideration of the time put into it and we want to attract talented people.”

Included in the pay increase citywide is a raise in the city manager’s salary from $49,796 in 2019 to $52,635 in 2020.

Elsewhere in the city manager’s office budget, an expected retirement of the current executive assistant will cause that position to be replaced.

When the new position is filled, the role will be changed to serve more as a public relations coordinator. This new role will include a pay increase from the current executive assistant role, but 50 percent of the salary will come from the utilities budget.

A major increase in the 2020 budget will be the cost of sand and salt used on the streets during the winter. The sand/salt budget is increasing from $67,000 in 2019 to $98,570 in 2020.

This increase is due, in part, to the rising costs of road salt. However, the number often has stayed lower because there is some reserve salt left over from the previous year.

Last year’s winter was so bad that there was no salt left over.

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