Council Approves 2014 Budget
Left, Alderman George Doxtator (center) considers the 2014 city budget along with Aldermen Roger Trzebiatowski (left) and Tony Patton (right). (City-Times photo)
Wiza, Stroik, Absent From Biggest Vote of the Year
By Brandi Makuski
The Stevens Point City Council approved the 2014 city budget Monday night, which includes a new play structure for city workers and will add two police officers to the city’s force.
The new budget keeps the tax levy consistent at 9.85/ thousand, and includes $115,000 in pay raises for city workers, a $1,000 increase for the Deer Management Committee and the total removal of the proposed municipal court. Funds were also increased for the Stevens Point Police Department, which will bring two additional officers to the force. One of those officers will be a full-time computer forensics specialist.
Comptroller-Treasurer Corey Ladick said the city had also managed to save $150,000 on capital expenses.
The city had over- budgeted for its IT department- currently managed by Emergency Management Director Sally McGinty- by $65,000. Additional savings came in after money earmarked for replacing police radios was no longer needed thanks to Portage County leaders agreeing to foot the bill while implementing a new Simulcast communications system.
“So that means borrowing has been reduced by $150,000 from what we proposed to you in October, which would have been $2.5 million,” Ladick said Monday night. “Now we’re only looking at $2.35 million. That’s something I’m certainly very proud of. We’re really moving in the right direction in managing our debt.”
Council Members also voted to remove all language referring to the proposed municipal court from the budget, which would have for the first time introduced a third branch to city government.
Alderman Jerry Moore, who has several times questioned why the court was included in the 2014 budget, made the motion to remove it.
“I want to take everything relating to municipal court out of this budget until we have a discussion about it, and have numbers, and understand where it’s coming from,” Moore said.
“We don’t have any information on this; why would we want to put it in the budget right away? There’s no reason to budget for this,” he added.
The 2014 budget included prorated salary figures for the court’s staff which Moore said he didn’t think were realistic, but said no presentation had been made to the Council, nor had the matter even come before the full Council until now.
Alderman Roger Trzebiatowski agreed, saying the Council never had the opportunity to research and vet the information provided by the mayor within the budget.
“I really have serious problem with it, and I doubt is many people in this room has even had the opportunity to look at the state statute relating to municipal courts,” Trzebiatowski said.
Mayor Andrew Halverson said it made sense to leave the municipal court in the budget because it was levy-neutral and no action could be taken unless the Council approved adopting a municipal court ordinance next year, allowing for the court’s creation. By removing it from the budget entirely, he said, the city would need to wait until next year’s budget talks before considering it again.
Halervson told the Council the court would be run by an oversight committee in conjunction with the Village of Plover.
“I understand your concerns,” Havlerson told the Council, “but those have all been addressed with other municipalities that already operate a municipal court, as well as the district court administrator Ron Ledford.”
“So if all this planning has been done, then why haven’t you shared that information with the council or the community- which you’re asking this money from? Plover doesn’t have it in their budget yet,” Moore said. “Why are we putting it in ours? When did this agreement come with them?”
Halverson admitted discussion on implementing the court had already taken place with Village of Plover Administrator Dan Mahoney, Village President Dan Schlutter, as well as Plover law enforcement.
“I can’t support voting on this because I have no documentation, no numbers,” said Alderman Mike Phillips. “I think we just need to postpone until another date.”
Removing municipal court from the overall budget has no impact on levy or other funding. Council Members Michael O’Meara and Joanne Suomi voted against removing the court from the budget, but did vote to approve the overall 2014 budget along with all other members present.
Aldermen Randy Stroik and Mike Wiza were both excused from the meeting.