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W’bago wants a zero percent hike

By Staff | Sep 15, 2013

County and city officials have been busy working on budgets for 2014. However, one city administrator is also trying to get the final levy down to a zero-percent increase.

Chris Ziegler, Winnebago city administrator, presented the proposed budget and levy at the city council meeting on Tuesday night.

The levy was set at a 3.36-percent increase at the meeting. When the final levy is set, the increase cannot exceed that amount, but can be lowered.

In fact, the council would like to see that happen so much so, the levy may not be increased at all.

“I’m confident we could do zero-percent,” Ziegler says. “We can definitely whittle it down from this.”

At this point, the budget was presented at a $546,911 increase from last year.

“Did you have much help from the department heads?” council member Scott Robertson asks.

Ziegler says he had a lot of input which helped in keeping the numbers as low as they are.

“Most departments are pretty even keel and don’t anticipate many major projects this year.”

However, the city has factored improvements on the municipal building into the budget as they move forward in the process of finalizing numbers.

“That’s needed, but if we could lower the levy, especially after raising water rates, that would be a monstrous accomplishment,” Robertson adds.

Last year, the preliminary levy was a 6.55-percent increase and the final levy was increased by 3.9 percent.

At the meeting, the council also discussed creating an early retirement incentive for police officers.

The city of Winnebago feels the cost of health insurance may create issues for officers looking at retirement.

So, they are proposing to offer health insurance through the city, for four years after the officer’s retirement.

Council member Jean Anderson was concerned with individuals who may retire and seek employment in a different field.

“Could we add a provision so if that happens and their new job offers health insurance, we aren’t responsible for that anymore?” Anderson asks.

Attorney Doug Johanson points out that if such a case did arise, the individual would have two insurances.

“That wouldn’t make much sense,”?he says.

Anderson said perhaps the language of the resolution be improved so it was clear that this money from the city would be only for health insurance.

The council agreed and approved the resolution.

In other business:

The new police car has arrived and just needs the graphics to be finished before it is able to be utilized by the department.

Purchase of the new vehicle was approved at the special meeting held on Thursday, Aug. 29.

City employee Ashley Bleess was approved to be moved to the next step in the salary schedule.

He has recently finished his first year as the public works assistant. In that time, he had become a certified pool operater.

“I had heard a lot of positive comments on the quality of water at the pool this summer,”?Zeigler adds.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m.