The Common Council adopted a $25 million general fund budget by a 4-3 vote at a special meeting Tuesday, setting a tax rate of $18.67 per $1,000 of assessed value for 2020.
The sudden opposition to the budget appeared to stem largely from concerns about paying for two tentative contracts with two labor unions, city units of the Civil Service Employees Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Mayor Michelle Roman had to cast the tie-breaking vote for the general fund budget, after no votes from Alderman-At-Large Larry Eggert, 4th Ward Alderman David Wohleben and Common Council President Mark Devine.
The council was also scheduled to vote Tuesday on two contracts for CSEA and AFSCME members, but Devine withdrew the resolutions. Union-members have already voted to ratify the contracts.
The tentative CSEA contract, the union’s first since December 2014, would cover from Jan. 1, 2015 through to Dec. 31, 2025. The tentative AFSCME contract would cover from Jan. 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2026; the union has not had an active contract with the city since Dec. 31, 2012.
Both Devine and Eggert said they were concerned the budget did not set aside enough funding to cover the raises that were agreed to in the new labor contracts.
“I thought the budget should be a better reflection of what it’s going to cost us to settle those contracts,” Eggert said.
“We can still make it work,” he added of the budget.
Devine said the council made some budget adjustments, such as raising the amount of contingency funds, to reflect the anticipated personnel costs. “We did make some cuts in the budget that we put in contingency, so we do have some money. But we don’t have the total amount,” Devine said.
Devine said most other council-members seem unwilling to back the tentative contracts and instead want to return to the negotiating table.
“They weren’t happy with the contracts,” Devine said. “I don’t feel it was the cuts (to the budget) they were against; it was the contracts.”
The $25 million budget will raise the city’s tax rate from $18.09 to $18.67, which remains under the tax cap. Under that plan, the average single family residence, owning property assessed at $85,000, would see a tax hike of slightly over $48.
The budget also raises the sewer rate by 2.5 percent, which works out to roughly $9.20 more per sewer billing for an “average” four-person household.