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Wells cuts raises, but reinstates council pay

By Staff | Dec 20, 2010

Steve Burns

Financial matters was on the agenda for the Wells City Council on Monday night.

The uncertainty over Local Government Aid (LGA) was a big factor why eight non-union employees will not get a full pay raise next year.

“I think a 3 percent increase is unwarranted at this time. I’m not saying they are not doing a good job and don’t deserve it,” says Councilwoman Ann Marie Schuster. “We don’t know if the LGA is coming in. I’d be glad to make it up the next year.”

Councilman Steve Burns agreed with Schuster, pointing out that other cities are looking at pay freezes and they should do the same.

“It’s a difficult situation,” he says.

In the end, the council approved a 1.5 percent pay increase which will cost the city an additional $4,000.

At the suggestion of Councilman Ron Gaines, part-time employes will be paid time-and-a-half if they work Christmas, Thanksgiving or New Year’s Day.

“If they’re going to give up their holiday to work, that’s the least we can do,” he says.

Despite their concern about state aid, each council member and the mayor will have $1,000 reinstated to their salaries.

To balance this year’s budget because of state aid “unallotments,” elected officials each took a $1,000 pay cut and City Administrator Jeremy Germann reduced his annual salary of $69,000 by $5,000.

Beginning in January, a council member’s annual salary goes back to $2,400 and the mayor’s to $3,000. Germann will be paid $70,000.

The council approved the final 2011 budget containing a 1.5 percent property tax levy increase. That’s down for the proposed hike of 9.89 percent OK’d in September.

“We’re going to be the lowest in the county. We still have an increase in expenditures, but we reduced our debt service,” says Germann.

For example, the city refinanced a $600,000 bond to get a lower interest rate for savings of $50,000 over 10 years. And, another refinancing is expected to cut interest by $20,000 next year.

The total for the general revenue, library, debt service and capital equipment funds is $664,497.

Although Wells is projected to receive $1.1 million in state aid next year, Germann says he used $900,000 when calculating the budget.

Three management-level employees were taken off probationary status.

While they haven’t been employed for six months, liquor store manager Scott Berg; community development director Chris Elvebak; and street department supervisor Janie Whim were given performance evaluations behind closed doors.

“Because this is the council that hired everybody I thought it was fair they be the ones to judge if they are meeting expectations,” says Germann.

When the meeting was re-opened to the public, City Attorney David Frundt read a summary of what was said about each employee.

The council thought Berg, who was hired in October, has great ideas, is hardworking and is doing an excellent job overall. A main goal for Berg will be to reduce expenditures in the future.

Elvebak, who is the city’s development director, also works with the Housing Redevelopment Authority and on planning and zoning issues.

In addition to being a hard worker, the council believes Elvebak’s extensive knowledge in the three areas he works with bodes well for the city’s long-range planning goals.

Despite no real negatives, the council wants Elvebak to prioritize his workload and improve communication with the various boards he’s involved with.

Whim is described as a fast learner who is very good with people and knows how to deal with the public.

Overall, the council feels she is doing a great job. Her main goal will be to work on the city’s long-range street plan.