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Trimming the budget in W’bago

Cuts made to library, park landscaping funds

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Nov 29, 2020

Winnebago City Council members Calvin Howard, left, and Paul Eisenmenger are all masked up as they discuss ways the 2021 city budget could be cut.

The Winnebago City Council met on Monday night, Nov. 23, for a special meeting and also to hold a budget workshop.

They began the budget discussion with city administrator Jacob Skluzacek updating the council with the latest numbers.

“Currently, as we begin tonight, the proposed levy increase sits at 6.15 percent,” he said.

Council member Calvin Howard brought up a list of possible cuts to be discussed. The council considered cuts to park landscaping, the library budget and the ambulance service, based on the history of the previous couple of years actual spending.

Questions surrounding the Winnebago Ambulance budget were answered by ambulance director Carrie Jenkins who explained not as much money was spent this year because COVID-19 caused many recertification classes to be postponed to 2021.

“Now most of our members will need to work on their Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credits in 2021,” Jenkins explained.

Council members decided to leave the proposed ambulance budget where it was.

They did however trim a total of $1,000 from the park landscaping budget, $1,000 from the library expense budget, and $3,000 off the part-time library employment budget.

When the proposed cuts were factored in, the proposed taxy levy increase had been reduced to 4.99 percent.

“Our goal was to reduce the increase to under five percent so I am happy we were able to accomplish that,” council member Howard said.

The other council members shared they were pleased with the final number, but council member Paul Eisenmenger had some other worries.

“I am happy with the number for this year but am concerned for 2022,” Eisenmenger said.

Outgoing council member Rick Johnson concurred with Eisenmenger.

“I agree with Paul. I think these are good cuts and they will work for the immediate time but I am concerned for the future,” Johnson said. “I have concerns about the health of the state’s economic well-being. The problem is when the state starts cutting funds, the LGA (Local Government Aid) is the first place they go to make cuts.”

The council briefly discussed eliminating a position on the city work force but decided against taking any action this year, but acknowledged they may have to consider that option next year.

“I take Rick’s opinion very seriously. He has experience,” Howard commented. “We will need to keep all options on the table going forward.”

The board also held a public hearing on the 2020 tax rolls before they were sent off to the county. No members of the public were present and the council voted to approve the tax rolls.

In other business the board:

• Voted to certify the 2020 election results with Jean Anderson and Tim Hynes elected to the City Council and Scott Robertson elected as the new mayor.

• Passed a motion accepting the resignation of Terri Cue from the library board.

• Approved resolution 739-2020 approving part-time public safety officers Hunter Williams and James Johannean as members of the Public Employees Police and Fire Plan.