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W’bago freezes 2009 wages

By Staff | Mar 9, 2009

The state budget crunch will hit the pocketbooks of Winnebago city employees.

The City Council Monday night approved a one-year wage freeze, which is expected to save $7,000.

Because wage increases are based on hiring dates, the freeze will take effect on each employee’s anniversary.

Council members also agreed to cut ‘foreseeable’ overtime hours.

The city’s loss of $51,000 in state aid this year and $107,000 in 2010 prompted officials to hold a special meeting so residents could suggest areas to cut the budget.

Chamber of Commerce president Scott Robertson told the council although cuts start at the top — with the council– local citizens also must pitch in.

“The citizens of Winnebago need to buck up,” he says. “There are a number of things in this town that I think people can do. All those things add up.”

Resident Randy Olson says volunteers and organizations could complete projects in the city. He says Sentence to Serve crews might be able to do some of the work.

Former councilman Tim Hynes advised the council not to spend reserve funds.

“You either have to reduce expenditures or increase revenues. Unlike the federal government, we don’t have the fortune of printing more money,” Hynes says. “This isn’t an emergency, we’ve got time to plan.”Robertson says the council and mayor might take cuts themselves to set an example to residents. It was pointed out the council last year voted against pay raises.

“I don’t know what the budget is for coming to meetings,” says Robertson. “I’d have a hard time cashing a check from the city. I’d do it for nothing.”

At the end of the night, about $53,000 in cuts for 2009 were approved.

“This isn’t the end for cuts. I’m sure there will be more,” says City Administrator Jennifer Feely.

The most debated proposed cut was the street department reducing repairs from $67,000 to $20,000. That was later scaled up to $50,000.

“I’m against that 100 percent. If you don’t keep up with it (repairs), you’ll look like Blue Earth. Their streets are terrible,” says Councilman Bob Weerts.

Councilman Rick Johnson also thinks cutting street repairs isn’t a good idea and the condition of streets would “go downhill fast.”

Olson suggested city officials look for new ways to fix up streets and sidewalks. He says Fairmont is using a material made of recycled tires that is similar to paving stone.

Operating costs for the swimming pool and Public Works Department came under fire.

Yearly losses for the pool are around $40,000 during the 90 days it is in operation.

When Weerts asked those in attendance if the pool should be closed, many said “No” and keeping it open was “a quality of life” issue.

Weerts also wondered if Public Works needed three full-time employees. He says in December, when one worker was on vacation and another was sick, one worker was able to do all the work — including plowing of streets.

“We managed very well with one guy,” he adds.