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Tag: City of West Bend

West Bend Common Council Decline to Move Ahead on Pay Raises

But are setting aside the money anyway. They are waiting for a quieter moment to slip this in when nobody notices. But, at least, it beats passing it.

August 16, 2021 – West Bend, WI – After more than an hour discussion the West Bend Common Council took no action regarding a decision to move forward on a cross-the-board staff pay raise.

 

After much discussion the council took no vote but indicated it would follow up on issuing a request for proposal to hire an outside consultant to conduct a salary study.

 

Discussion also included possibly placing $450,000 in a separate account in the next budget so once the salary study is complete the earmarked money would be available should the council move forward with the consultant’s recommendation on possible pay increases.

City of West Bend considers huge pay increases

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News earlier this week:

This column has been warning for some time that the city of West Bend’s government has skewed more liberal in recent years. After almost a decade of thoughtful conservative leadership, local conservatives got lazy, and the Common Council was taken over by liberals and big government enthusiasts. After choosing to increase taxes as much as legally possible last year, the council is considering a hefty pay increase for city employees.

 

At the Common Council’s July 19th meeting, City Administrator Jay Shambeau shared the results of a compensation study. That study compared the city of West Bend’s employee compensation to several other cities including Manitowoc, Fond du Lac, New Berlin, and Brookfield and found that West Bend’s compensation lags other cities. Citing employee turnover in some departments and perceived below market pay, the city administrator advocated for a pay increase for almost every nonunion city employee in addition to an annual cost of living increase of about 2%. The overall proposed cost would be $451,940 with an average pay increase of $4,519 per employee.

 

While evaluating and adjusting compensation is a normal part of any organization, there are some concerning aspects of this proposal that require further inquiry. Several years ago, the city of West Bend implemented a compensation system that more closely resembled one from the private sector that rewarded employees based on merit. The proposed compensation plan abandons compensation based on merit in favor of a model that provides blanket pay ranges based on job function. The proposed compensation plan is a return to an old-school government plan where everyone is paid the same irrespective of how good they are at their job. Furthermore, it is difficult to see how the pay increases will result in more talented employees. The purpose of any compensation plan is to attract and retain the level of talent that the organization requires to be successful. The justification for the pay increases is that West Bend is having difficulty attracting and retaining talented people in a competitive labor market.

 

At the same time, however, the plan would give almost every current employee a pay increase because they are all good at their jobs. According to the plan, only employees in good standing would receive a pay increase, but there are also no employees who are not currently in good standing. If the city is having difficulty finding good employees, would it not stand to reason that some of the existing employees would be sub-par performers?

 

If all of the employees are performing to standards, then why would the taxpayers need to pay more to attract better employees? If the taxpayers agree to pay city employees more, will the city management leverage the better pay to replace some of the employees with more talented ones? What are the taxpayers going to get for their increased spending on employee compensation?

 

As proposed, the spending increase would not result in a tax increase this year. This is because the city is proposing to use some financial gimmickry to hide the spending increase until it is baked into the spending pie. The total proposal would spend $451,940. $283,553 of that total would come out of the general fund that is supported by the property tax. But the city administrator is touting it as tax neutral because that amount would be covered by debt payments being paid into the general fund by Tax Incremental Districts 5 and 9.

 

TIDs are property tax set asides where the property taxes from those properties are segregated for improvements only in those districts. They are used to encourage development. TIDs 5 and 9 ran debts in previous years and the taxpayers filled the gap from the general fund. Now those districts are in the black and paying those debts back into the general fund. The proposal would fund most of the pay increases from those debt payments and then, when the TIDs expire, with the funds that those properties contribute to the general fund. The balance of the pay increase would be funded by surpluses from the water and sewer utilities.

 

Does it sound like gimmickry? It is. The fact remains that all of that money is taxpayer and utility-payer money. The city could reduce taxes and utility bills or spend the money on other priorities, but is proposing to increase employee compensation instead.

 

While there is not a tax impact for the proposed pay increase in the first year, it does set a new baseline for all future budgets. There is no such thing as a free lunch. The taxpayers will keep paying these bills forevermore.

 

The West Bend Common Council meets again to consider this proposal on Aug. 2. At the previous meeting, only two members, Randy Koehler and Meghann Kennedy, expressed any skepticism. The majority — including the mayor — expressed support for the proposed new compensation plan. It is clear that the taxpayers are not a top priority for a majority of West Bend’s Common Council.

City of West Bend considers huge pay increases

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

Furthermore, it is difficult to see how the pay increases will result in more talented employees. The purpose of any compensation plan is to attract and retain the level of talent that the organization requires to be successful. The justification for the pay increases is that West Bend is having difficulty attracting and retaining talented people in a competitive labor market.

 

At the same time, however, the plan would give almost every current employee a pay increase because they are all good at their jobs. According to the plan, only employees in good standing would receive a pay increase, but there are also no employees who are not currently in good standing. If the city is having difficulty finding good employees, would it not stand to reason that some of the existing employees would be sub-par performers?

 

If all of the employees are performing to standards, then why would the taxpayers need to pay more to attract better employees? If the taxpayers agree to pay city employees more, will the city management leverage the better pay to replace some of the employees with more talented ones? What are the taxpayers going to get for their increased spending on employee compensation?

City of West Bend Abandons Merit Pay and Proposes Massive Blanket Pay Increases

Geez… you can’t stop paying attention for a minute…

Last night the City of West Bend Common Council heard from the City Administrator about why the city should abandon merit pay and approve big pay increases for all city employees (police and fire not included since they are covered under union contracts. Here is the full presentation:

Compensation Presentation 7-19-21 – (002)

Here is the main thrust:

  • Salary increase for 92% of positions
  • Average salary adjustment of $4,519
  • Salary general fund impact $283,553
  • Overall salary impact $451,940
  • New ranges established and range placements effective January 1, 2022
  • Salary adjustments only provided for employees in good standing
  • There are currently no employees on a performance improvement plan
  • Salary adjustments implemented on January 1, 2022
  • Performance reviews required for annual cost of living
    merit increase

In the City of West Bend, there are apparently NO employees who are underperforming. They ALL deserve a fat raise. This is despite the fact that the same presentation laments that there has been extensive employee turnover (no detail provided) and that the current compensation is not competitive to attract talent. How can all of the employees be performing well if the compensation only allows the city to attract mediocre talent? If the taxpayers pay more for employees, shouldn’t they expect the city to upgrade the level of talent? If not, then what are the taxpayers paying for?

The proposal is to pay for the pay increases without raising taxes by raiding two TIDs. Remember that TIDs are set up as a mechanism to fund infrastructure improvements for economic development. This proposal would raid a couple of those TIDs that have “leftover” money to pay for salary increases. Of course, those TIDs will eventually come to an end and the pay increases will remain. The funding will have to come from the regular tax sources after that.

I warned last year that the City of West Bend has drifted strongly to the left. This is another step in that direction.

 

Mask Mandate Fails in West Bend

Public pressure works. Thanks to all those citizens who showed up. It mattered.

May 3, 2021 – West Bend, WI – Taxpayers in the City of West Bend turned out in sizable numbers Monday night, May 3 to encourage the common council to vote ‘No’ on a policy recommending visitors to City buildings wear masks through August 31, 2021.

 

Although it was not a public hearing, members of the community were allowed to speak and a majority echoed the same thoughts including, “masks don’t work, masks offer little protection, catching COVID from passing in a hallway is negligible, Dr. Fauci has flip flopped on the issue, it is day 422 of ’15 days to slow the spread’ half the country is vaccinated and deaths are low, the government can stop dictating my choices.”

 

One person spoke in favor of a mask mandate for visitors citing his medical background and training as how he came to his conclusion that masks were beneficial. Alderman Jed Dolnick and alderman Mark Allen also spoke in favor of the mask policy saying they listened to their doctors.

 

A motion was made by Dolnick and seconded by Allen to pass the mask policy however it failed 6 – 2. Those voting against the policy included alderman John Butschlick, Brett Berquist, Randy Koehler, Tracy Aherns, Justice Madl and Meghann Kennedy.

Preferences for West Bend Elections

While I don’t live in West Bend anymore, I do have a strong interest in the community in which I raised my kids and in which I have so many friends. I’ve been asked to share my views on the local elections. So, were I to vote in the local elections there, here’s what I would do:

City of West Bend

The even-numbered Aldermanic seats are up for election. I agree completely with former mayor Kraig Sadownikow. The common council has lurched to the left, or at least, become very pro-government. The council is largely serving the interests of the employees instead of the taxpayers. There are two conservatives on the council of 7. Both of them are up for reelection and should be rewarded for their good work. That’s Randy Koehler in District 4 and Meghan Kennedy in District 8.

The remaining two seats are held by two aldermen who consistently vote to enlarge the scope and expense of government. They should be replaced with two conservative candidates, Chris Thompson for District 2 and Tracy Ahrens in District 6.

The opportunity is there to turn the council to a 4-3 conservative majority in a single election. Don’t pass up that chance, Benders.

West Bend School Board

There are three candidates running for two seats. Both of the incumbents are running for reelection.

The West Bend School Board is in an interesting place. They did a good job with hiring the new superintendent and they managed to be ahead of most other public school districts in opening their doors partially during the pandemic. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that they have continued to raise taxes to most allowed by law and introduced some truly leftist indoctrination into the curriculum. Both of the incumbents advanced the misguided referendum in 2019 that failed and are almost certain to support any future referendum effort. As a whole, the board votes are almost always unanimous while the entrenched special interests and “good ol’ boys” have lined up behind the incumbents. There is a reason for that. Follow the money.

Unfortunately, there is not an opportunity to change the direction of the school board this election, but there is an opportunity to start down that path. At the very least, there is an opportunity to elect someone new to the board who will offer a different perspective and be willing to occasionally break ranks with the majority. Disagreement is healthy in a diverse community with conflicting interests. It should worry you when disagreements in the community are not reflected in elected bodies. It is an indication that the elected board is not representing all stakeholders.

Were I to vote, I’d cast a single vote for Jody Geenen. One of the incumbents will win the other seat. It really doesn’t matter which one. They vote the same way.

City of West Bend Accidentally Borrowed Too much

From the Washington County Insider. The short story is that due to an error by city employees, the city borrowed $1.5 million more than they needed this year. The same city employees want to just stash the money to use next year, thus reducing borrowing next year. The problem is that the city taxpayers will be paying interest on that loan as it sits in a bank account somewhere doing nothing. Alderman Randy Koehler asks all the right questions:

During the Monday, March 15 meeting Dist. 4 alderman Randy Koehler asked if the council borrows about $1.5 million over the project cost in 2021, is there a way to make sure the council borrows less next year? He also asked, “We’re just going to sit on that $1.4 million for a year and do nothing with it? That doesn’t make any sense to me. And if we don’t need it why are we borrowing it,” asked Koehler.

 

The representative from Ehlers Public Finance Advisors said “the City could earn interest on the $1.4 million. You also have the ability to lock in at the day of sale at a fixed rate for the life of the debt at a low interest rate environment for not only this year’s projects but a portion of next year’s projects.”

 

Koehler responded. “You said we have the ability to earn interest but we’re also going to be paying interest on money for a year that we’re just going to leave sit there. I would like us to scale this back by $1.4 million and just borrow the $4.1 million that we need to do the projects this year. That way we’re not tying the hands of the council next year and we’re also not saying we have an extra $1.5 million and then next year we borrow the same… we can’t determine how that will go next year. I want to scale this back and borrow just what we need.”

 

A clarification was made that the money borrowed would have to be spent on roads.

 

City engineer Max Marechal was asked if the money could be used in 2021 on other road projects. Marechal indicated contractors are already booked through the end of the year.

 

During a separate interview Phil Cosson from Ehlers indicated the interest for a year on the extra $1.5 million would cost the City $20,000. The interest received on the borrowing would be “nominal,” according to Cosson. Questioned what the dollar figure on “nominal” is he said “less than $1,000.”

The Fight for Local Control

I received this tip in email. It illustrates something that is going on all over Wisconsin. For several years, we have seen an organized, grassroots efforts by liberals to take control of local school boards and units of governments. In liberal areas, they just run as liberals. Simple enough. In conservative areas, they pretend to be conservatives to get elected. They lie or hide. There is a glaring instance of this in the City of West Bend.

A couple of years ago, there was a concerted push by left-leaning and pro-government people to take over West Bend’s Common Council. They didn’t do anything illegal. They were just organized, funded, and energetic. At the same time, conservatives were lazy, complacent, and distracted. The result is that conservative West Bend now has a left-leaning city government. I wrote about it last year. In particular, the council is dominated by ex-government union employees who think the best government is the one that serves the employees.

One of the exceptions is District 8 Alderwoman, Meghann Kennedy. Kennedy was appointed to the seat a year ago after Roger Kist resigned for health reasons. She’s a rock star conservative who really annoys the lefties on the council and in city government by asking real questions, opposing tax increases, and voting conservative.

Well, Kennedy is up for reelection. Challenging her is a guy named Cliff Van Beek. Van Beek was born and raised on the east side of Milwaukee, worked in government, and brought his politics with him when he moved to West Bend. He is endorsed by West Bend Firefighter’s union and it’s clear why. Here’s a bit of background on Van Beek:

1. CLIFF VAN BEEK SPENT TIME ON THE TOM AMENT PENSION BOARD AS A MEMBER AND LABOR UNION LEADER.

 

https://archive.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/44069847.html/

 

2. ROBERT OTT (WHO RESIGNED OVER PENSION SCANDAL INVOLVMENT) IS ENDORSING CLIFF VAN BEEK

 

https://archive.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/44069847.html/

 

3.  CLIFF VAN BEEK WAS AN AFSME LABOR UNION LEADER

 

https://www.washingtoncountyinsider.com/four-people-file-paperwork-to-fill-vacancy-in-west-bend-aldermanic-district-8/

 

4. CLIFF VAN BEEK RECIEVED $190,000 “BACKDROP” PAYMENT FROM PENSION SCANDAL

 

https://urbanmilwaukee.com/2017/06/06/the-400-million-pension-problem/

 

No wonder the unions support Van Beek. He has a lifetime of experience fleecing taxpayers for the benefit of government employees and their unions. Van Beek and his supporters are now running around town telling people that he is a conservative and mouthing all of the right words to get elected in a conservative community. He claims to be a “fiscal conservative” to anyone who will listen. Don’t be fooled. There’s only one conservative in that race and it’s Meghann Kennedy.

I expect that with a little digging, we would be able to uncover this scenario 100 or more times across Wisconsin. This is how the Left is taking over our schools, cities, villages, and counties – one seat at a time. They are organized and intentional in playing the long game. As we have seen, some of these liberals who get elected to local government then use it as a platform to run for higher office.

Conservatives need to be organized and fight for every local seat or we will cede the state. The ideological battle isn’t being fought in Madison. It’s being fought right down the street. And that’s where conservatives are losing.

RIP West Bend Alderman Hoogester

Sad news from the Washington County Insider:

Hoogester graduated Germantown High School in 1973. He started with the West Bend Police Department in the early 1980s and retired after 34 years from the WBPD as a Lieutenant.

He was first elected to the Common Council in April 2013 replacing Mike Schlotfeldt.

With the City of West Bend, Hoogester was part of the Deer Management Committee and Finance Committee.

“It is devistating news,” said Dist. 5 alderman Jed Dolnick.  “I knew Steve when we first started in law enforcement; I knew Steve through our work at the sheriff’s department and police department. He was a good friend and this is unbelieveable.”

Former Dist. 7 alderman Adam Williquette worked with Hoogester on the common council for several terms.  “I sat next to Steve on council for five years and got to know him well during our tenure. He put a lot of time in for the betterment of our community and will be truly missed,” said Williquette.

Former Mayor Kraig Sadownikow said, “Simply put, Steve was a good man.  He was a good father and husband and he was proud of his City.   Steve did not run for office to be a politician.   He decided to be an alderman for the same reason he chose law enforcement for his career, to help people.”

When nobody was looking, West Bend became liberal

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week.

While the national political scene continues to dominate our attention, local politicians are making decisions that will more directly impact our everyday lives. In the city of West Bend, the Common Council has taken a lurch to the left and is pushing for the second property tax increase in as many years. What is happening in West Bend is a good case study for how much local leadership matters and how easy it is for the big spenders to seize control when the citizens get lazy.

West Bend has always been a conservative community. Like many smallish conservative cities, the city was run by a close cabal of old-time Benders for a long time. Well-meaning, but without much vision, the city leadership plodded along steadily raising spending, raising taxes, increasing debt, and seemingly intent on just making sure everybody would go along to get along.

Springing out of the national tea party movement, local conservatives began to look seriously at the city’s governance in 2009. Groups like Concerned Citizens of Washington County sprang up with the express purpose of recruiting, encouraging, and supporting conservatives to run for local office.

It worked. Election after election, principled conservatives ran for local office and won. In the city of West Bend, the result was a slate of conservative council members and a conservative mayor who were intent on leading the city in a conservative direction. In 2011 they passed a flat-tax-levy budget and then cut the tax levy by 5% in 2012. For the rest of the decade, conservative leadership meant flat taxes year after year, a dramatic improvement in the city’s debt load, the shedding of unfunded liabilities for retired employees, and frugal spending. Along the way, the city upgraded the riverwalk, made parks selfsustained, expanded the police station and City Hall, and attracted businesses to locate and expand in West Bend.

It was a good run, but it is over now. After a decade of good governance, local conservatives got lazy. They stopped recruiting and supporting new conservatives to run for local office. The big spenders and lefties returned to power as local conservatives twiddled their thumbs and harrumphed at each other.

Over the past several elections, big spenders and lefties ran for, and won, seats on the Common Council. They are in firm control. The new mayor, Chris Jenkins, trumpets his conservatism in public, but has proven too weak to provide firm conservative leadership in the face of opposition.

Last year the Common Council passed a property tax increase even though the city had the money to pay for the entire budget without raising taxes. They passed a tax increase because they wanted to see if the public would scream too loud. Aldermen John Butschlick, Mark Allen, Steve Hoogester, Justice Madl, and Roger Kist voted to increase taxes. Aldermen Andrew Chevalier, Chris Jenkins, and Rich Kasten voted against a tax increase. Since then, all three of the aldermen who voted against the tax increase have left the council and Jenkins was elected mayor.

This year, the council is proposing a 5% tax levy increase that will be used to increase spending and pad employee compensation. Most city employees will receive a pay increase with at least one high-level employee receiving a $12,125, or 11%, raise. Meanwhile, the city in increasing the percentage of premiums that taxpayers cover by about 1%. A city employee will pay 13% of the premium for a family plan under the new budget. The average going rate for Wisconsin private-sector employees is more than twice that.

Just like last year, the city does not need to increase taxes. Thanks to new construction, the city will get a 4% increase in the tax levy without increasing taxes on everyone. Just like last year, the Common Council seems determined to raise taxes anyway. The budget calls for a 5% levy increase. A council dominated by former public employees seems resentful that a year should pass without increasing taxes. It is easier to keep increasing taxes a little every year and finding a place to spend it instead of only asking for a tax increase when they need it.

Alderwoman Meghann Kennedy has been the lone voice for fiscal conservatism on the council as the rest seem intent on passing annual tax increases irrespective of the need or the property owners’ ability to pay. 2020 has been a tough year for many, but that fact seems lost in the halls of city government.

As I write this column, the public hearing for the budget is in the future. As you read this, the hearing is in the past. Irrespective of how the hearing went or how the council votes, the only way to truly return West Bend to conservative fiscal management is to elect the principled conservatives who will lead future councils. The liberals will always fill a leadership vacuum. If conservatives in West Bend want to see conservative leadership, they will need to get off their duffs and put some effort into it. The same is true all over Wisconsin. Leadership starts locally.

When nobody was looking, West Bend became liberal

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Last night’s vote pretty well proves the thesis. Here’s a part:

It was a good run, but it is over now. After a decade of good governance, local conservatives got lazy. They stopped recruiting and supporting new conservatives to run for local office. The big spenders and lefties returned to power as local conservatives twiddled their thumbs and harrumphed at each other.

Over the past several elections, big spenders and lefties ran for, and won, seats on the Common Council. They are in firm control. The new mayor, Chris Jenkins, trumpets his conservatism in public, but has proven too weak to provide firm conservative leadership in the face of opposition.

Last year the Common Council passed a property tax increase even though the city had the money to pay for the entire budget without raising taxes. They passed a tax increase because they wanted to see if the public would scream too loud. Aldermen John Butschlick, Mark Allen, Steve Hoogester, Justice Madl, and Roger Kist voted to increase taxes. Aldermen Andrew Chevalier, Chris Jenkins, and Rich Kasten voted against a tax increase. Since then, all three of the aldermen who voted against the tax increase have left the council and Jenkins was elected mayor.

This year, the council is proposing a 5% tax levy increase that will be used to increase spending and pad employee compensation.

[…]

A council dominated by former public employees seems resentful that a year should pass without increasing taxes. It is easier to keep increasing taxes a little every year and finding a place to spend it instead of only asking for a tax increase when they need it.

Alderwoman Meghann Kennedy has been the lone voice for fiscal conservatism on the council as the rest seem intent on passing annual tax increases irrespective of the need or the property owners’ ability to pay. 2020 has been a tough year for many, but that fact seems lost in the halls of city government.

As I write this column, the public hearing for the budget is in the future. As you read this, the hearing is in the past. Irrespective of how the hearing went or how the council votes, the only way to truly return West Bend to conservative fiscal management is to elect the principled conservatives who will lead future councils. The liberals will always fill a leadership vacuum. If conservatives in West Bend want to see conservative leadership, they will need to get off their duffs and put some effort into it. The same is true all over Wisconsin.

Leadership starts locally.

West Bend Council Passes Tax Increase on 6-2 Vote

There you go, Benders. Enjoy the higher taxes. Alders Randy Koehler and Meghann Kennedy were the only two who voted against the tax increase budget. Alders John Butschlick, Mark Allen, Brett Bergquist, Jed Dolnick, Steve Hoogester, and Justice Madl all voted to increase taxes in a year when citizens were losing their jobs and businesses in the face of a global pandemic.

You get the government you vote for.

Will you do anything about it?

Mark Allen and Steve Hoogester are up for election in April (assuming they run).

West Bend Budget Public Hearing Tonight

They want more money. Per the Washington County Insider.

November 8, 2020 – West Bend, WI – There is a public hearing Monday night, November 9, 2020 as the West Bend common council votes to pass a .08 cent increase in the tax rate which would bring the proposed rate from $7.85 to $7.93.
Pay raises are a large part of the budget increase.
In June 2020 two employees received $12,000 pay increases. Another employee received a $5,000 pay raise to jump to $100,814, and two others had a $4,000+ salary increase to climb to the mid-$90,000 mark. Members of the common council confirmed those employees who received large salary increases will also be part of the cross-the-board 2-percent staff salary increase in 2020.
A request was put in several weeks ago for the 2018-2019 employee payscale. That amount has still yet to be shared.
Right now with the way the 2021 budget is written, we will be imposing a tax increase on our constituents. While some may argue it is a small increase I want everyone to understand I am unequivocally opposed to an increase due to what is happening right now in our community and the impacts we are seeing as a result of COVID.
Layoffs, mandatory furloughs, reduced hours and business closures are common place right now in our community.
Washington County is forcing the county government staff to take 5 mandatory furlough days this year as a cost cutting measure.
Several large Wisconsin companies reduced its staff in 2020 to cut cost, including the #7 largest employer in the state Kohl’s who laid off 15% of its local WI corporate headquarters staff in September.
Within the last year the Wisconsin government ordered non-essential businesses to close their doors for an extended period of time during safer at home and just this week ordered capacity limits of 25% to already struggling businesses.
Data released in late September by the Dept. of Workforce Development showed 713,508 unemployment insurance claims are STILL being processed, that number represents over 98,000 Wisconsinites, and some of those claims date all the way back to March.
Wisconsin unemployment rate has essentially doubled from this time last year.  Currently WI has 6.2% unemployment rate, it was only 3.4% at this time last year.
I do not think it is appropriate for the West Bend common council to raise taxes on our citizens during this time.  Many citizens are trying to sustain their homes and families with less revenue this year.  I think it is unjust for us to turn around and vote to charge more in taxes when with that tax increase the average citizen will not see or feel an increase in services.  It is no secret that a large sum of money will need to go to rising insurance costs for city employees.
Amen.
Hearing is at 6:30. Show up and be heard.

City of West Bend Budget Public Hearing Tomorrow

In a year that was pretty bad financially for a lot of people, the City of West Bend Common Council is looking to pass a 5% property tax levy increase to help cover pay increases and shrink the employee contributions for health insurance.

Some of the pay increases already enacted this year were a $12,124 (11%) increase for the police chief and a $12,642 (12%) increase for the fire chief. The new budget has across the board pay increases and seeks to cover a big increase in health insurance costs while also decreasing the percentage that employees pay for it. A Common Council dominated by former public employees seems intent on shoving taxpayer money into the pockets of government employees as quickly as possible.

The public hearing is tomorrow at 6:30 in the City of West Bend Common Council chambers. Show up and be heard.

 

Tax Raisers Dominate West Bend Common Council

Here we go again… From the Washington County Insider:

November 4, 2020 – West Bend, WI – There will be a public hearing Monday, November 9 prior to the West Bend Common Council voting on a tax increase for 2021.

[…]

During Monday night’s meeting the proposed tax increase was dropped from a .09 cent increase to .08 which brings the proposed tax rate to $7.93. That is a $248,000 increase from 2020’s budget total of $24,246,478.

The 2021 total budget and accompanying details were not part of tonight’s agenda packet.

Readers might remember (probably not) that I rung the warning bell last year when they raised property taxes for the first time in a decade when they didn’t even need to.

November 11, 2019 – West Bend, WI – The West Bend Common Council voted 5-3 Monday night to increase the mill rate to $7.85 per thousand dollars. That’s 6 cents per thousand more than 2019 and will raise taxes on residents whether their property increased in value or remained the same.

If you want to know where they are spending those higher taxes that they intend to impose on the property tax payers of West Bend, look no further than employee benefits:

  • Health insurance for a family non-union coverage is $250 per month for 2020 with a $5,000 deductible in network
  • On a percentage for a family the employee is paying 14% of the premium and the taxpayers are covering 86%
  • The new 2021 proposal for a family jumps $20 to $270 a month however the family is now paying 13% and 87% will be covered by taxpayers.

The overall budget is going up $248k to cover a $255k increase in health insurance costs and employees will pay a lower share of their health insurance premium.

There is a core of former public employees on the Council who see it as their job to transfer money from the taxpayers into the pockets of public employees. They will continue to increase taxes every year because that’s what they do. West Bend is returning to the bad old days of annual tax increases, increasing debt, and nothing to show for it.

Mayor Christoph Jenkins had this to say, but he only gets a vote if there is a tie on the council. Call your Alderperson. They meet on Monday.

My Fellow West Benders,

This letter is to update you on the final steps of the City of West Bend’s 2021 Budget.

First, thank you to Administration, Department Heads, and our Finance Director for helping to put together our 2021 Budget. The annual budget lays a foundation for what we look to accomplish moving forward and supports our overarching goals. The budget is a collaborative effort, and inevitably in this effort there’s not always 100% agreement. The City Council recently sat down for an in-depth roundtable discussion on the budget, and many ideas, thoughts, and questions were shared. While sometimes at odds with each other, we all work for and represent the City of West Bend, and our residents are blessed to have a group of people advocating for them in such a strong manner.

As it stands recommended, the City of West Bend would see an 8-cent tax increase moving from 7.85 to 7.93. This would result in the average $200k valued home seeing a $16 increase in the City portion of their taxes. Though this is a nominal effect, as I stated at the roundtable, it is not a levy increase I am in favor of for our taxpayers.

There are certainly good things planned and budgeted for next year; these include, body cameras for our police officers, critically important in this ever-polarizing world, a $3 million increase in road bonding to tackle our main thoroughfares, and CARES Act grant funding that covers the cost of operating our taxi service for those in need. We also face challenges – an ever-increasing employee health insurance policy, increased tax incremental financing district obligations, and continued desire to recruit top-talent to serve the great City of West Bend. In the end, many requests for funding were made from department heads, and a total of $1 Million in requested funds were removed.

We have seen and continue to see astounding growth, economic development, and investment in our City. Accounting for our increase in net new construction and overall value, even with taxes stable at 7.85, the City would net an increase of $909k of revenue. At the proposed 7.93 rate, we see an increase of about $240k of additional revenues. I believe closing a $240k gap to prevent pushing more of a burden on to our taxpayers is a drop in the bucket in a roughly $25M annual budget. Our Finance Chair, Alderman Meghann Kennedy, has been diligent in asking tough questions and brainstorming solutions to adjust these budgeted costs. Many Aldermen have continued to dig deeper throughout this process, and we have been open to feedback and ideas on all fronts.

Our residents, businesses, and property owners continue to experience one of the most challenging years ever. An ongoing pandemic and uncertainty in the economy has led to increased cost of doing business, reduced revenues, furloughing, or laying off employees, and upending our way of doing things. We, as a City of West Bend organization, have been blessed to not have to go to these harsh lengths to continue the high-level of service and operations. But in the end, I do not feel it’s right at a time like this in our history, for the City to ask for more when others have had to sacrifice or work with less. We are truly in this together, and my hope is the City can do our part and keep this tax rate stable.

As is the case every year, there is an opportunity for YOU to make your voice heard to your elected officials. Monday, November 9th at 6:30PM at City Hall will be our Public Hearing on the budget where you can do so. In addition, you may contact your Alderman to ask questions or share thoughts and ideas, by visiting: https://www.ci.west-bend.wi.us/government/elected_officials/common_council.php

Stay informed, stay safe, and stay positive. There are always good things to look forward to in the great City of West Bend.

 

Christophe E. Jenkins

 

West Bend Police to Send Officers to Milwaukee for Convention

Call me less optimistic than Chief Meuler about Milwaukee officials supporting the police. I’m very wary of putting West Bend’s finest in harms way to protect another city’s residents. Perhaps some other city leaders will weigh in.

West Bend Police Chief Kenneth Meuler said he remains committed to sending about a dozen officers for the effort.

“I am confident that Chief Morales and city officials will work out an agreement to address the concerns that some of the other chiefs have raised,” said Meuler, a former Milwaukee Police Department captain.

West Bend Cancels Summer

The Common Council is cancelling summer events in public parks. More From the Washington County Insider:

All community events in West Bend Parks are cancelled for summer 2020.

On Monday, May 18, West Bend City Administrator Jay Shambeau presented a resolution to the Washington-Ozaukee County Public Health Department Blueprint for reopening Washington and Ozaukee Counties. The resolution passed on a 7-1 vote with Alderperson Mark Allen voting against. The Blueprint does not allow for community events, therefore, West Bend Biergarten, German Night and Regner Fest have all been cancelled for the summer of 2020.

And a bit more from the Washington County Daily News

The Common Council created a resolution stating that the city will follow guidance from the Washington Ozaukee County Public Health Department. This includes the Blueprint to Reopen and FAQ relating to the blueprint. The resolution encompasses future amendments and guidance to reopening services and activities.

In addition, the city will acquire all guidance from the health department in reviewing all permit and license applications, including special event permits, block closing, parade permits and temporary Class B beer license applications

So I think this means that they will be using their permit power to restrict businesses, but there isn’t any other enforcement. The Ozaukee Washington County Health Department says:

If you choose to reopen your business, you are not in violation of Safer at Home or orders issued by the health department. Under the direction of the Ozaukee County Board Chair, the Ozaukee County Administrator, and the Washington County Executive, the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department will issue no countywide orders limiting the public or businesses at this time in response to the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic in our counties. The health department will address any localized COVID-19 outbreaks on an individual basis and continue to provide follow up for positive cases and contact tracing. We urge you to refer to our Blueprint FAQ for recommendations on how to safely reopen our counties. Email covid19@washozwi.gov if you have any other questions.

What does all this mean? I’m not really sure. I think that the West Bend Common Council may revise permits with different compliance requirements in line with the Blueprint. Then, if a business violates the permit, they can pull the permit.

We’ll see how this is implemented in real life, but it is incredibly disappointing that the strong majority of the West Bend Common Council and the new mayor are looking to micromanage businesses. Where am I? Madison?

 

UPDATE: Here is a comment from the mayor:

No, the Council’s adoption of the County blueprint does not affect anything to do with private businesses. We also did not “cancel everything” throughout the Summer. This simply gave health guidance to our municipal organization as a whole. Splash pad will be open. Parks are open. We are looking at ways to hold fireworks (just as Kewaskum and Hartford are). We are working with non-profits to help them draft ways to hold events (like Germanfest). And, most importantly, as with every organization, this is an ever-evolving situation. We wouldn’t cancel events that are 2 months away, as who knows where things will be at by then.

West Bend Continues to Bow to Madison as Hartford Propels Forward

This is a disappointingly sheepish position.

While remaining open, West Bend has complied with the Safer at Home Executive Orders throughout all departments and is actively preparing for the Badger Bounce Back plan. “West Bend takes great pride in being a business-friendly community and we’re committed to supporting businesses throughout this process,” said Mayor Christophe E. Jenkins. “We’re actively working with businesses to propel them forward.”

The Police Department has worked with citizens and businesses to educate them on the Safer at Home Order and to seek their voluntary compliance. West Bend businesses have been directed to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) for clarification and questions on compliance regarding the State’s Emergency Health Orders. In a number of cases, WEDC was able to guide businesses to remain open in compliance with the orders. The City is grateful for the understanding and support that citizens and businesses have shown.

Business owners who have specific questions or concerns regarding the Safer at Home Order may contact WEDC. Residents may contact their state legislators.

I would have hoped that the City of West Bend would have taken a more muscular approach to protecting our rights and supporting the local economy.

Randy Koehler Throws Hat in for District 4

Koehler is a solid choice for West Bend.

April 15, 2020 – West Bend, WI – The West Bend Common Council will be in a familiar situation in the coming weeks as it looks to fill a vacancy in District 4.

Earlier this week unofficial April 7, 2020 election results showed Chris Jenkins winning the mayoral post for the City of West Bend. Jenkins had been alderman in Dist. 4.

In the past the Council filled a vacancy by appointment. As of Tuesday afternoon, there was already one candidate in the mix as Randy Koehler contacted the city clerk.

Koehler has past experience with the city; he was the alderman in Dist. 4 from 2011 to April 2015. Koehler always maintained a strong conservative stance and listened to his constituents. Koehler was also popular with city staff, visiting individual departments and learning how the city worked.

Koehler’s term ended when he lost his seat to Jenkins in 2015.

Rich Kasten for Mayor of West Bend

I had intended to write my column for this week about the various offices on the ballot, but the pandemic took precedence.  With the April election being impacted by Coronavirus, I hope you are all voting early or absentee – just in case. Next week’s column will cover several races, but with the word limit, it will be necessarily light on explanation for each race. I think that several races require a fuller discussion, so here we go…

There are two candidates for West Bend Mayor: Rich Kasten and Chris Jenkins. Both of them are currently Aldermen for the city. I wrote a column a couple of months ago with some details on their backgrounds. After a lot of thought, I voted for Rich Kasten (yes, I already voted).

I like both men. They are both conservative, smart, pragmatic, and passionate about serving the community. They have both been assets on the Common Council and helped lead the city in a positive direction. For me, the decision came down to two factors.

First, Kasten is a bit older and more experienced. I worked with him years ago on a task force of some kind and he’s been my representative on the council for years. I’ve seen his patient, thoughtful work first hand. I’ve seen him get things done while building consensus along the way. He’s just been around a bit more; seen a bit more; and experienced a bit more. I have found occasion to disagree with him from time to time, but his decisions are always well thought out and rooted in conservatism and the best interests of the community.

Second, and this really came into clarity for me with the Coronavirus shutdown, Kasten works in the private sector and has for decades. His coworkers are in the private sector. His friends work in the private sector. He sees and lives with the consequences of government action and inaction every day. Particularly as the people and businesses of the City of West Bend recover from the government-forced recession, I am more comfortable with a Mayor who is living it like the rest of us. I have no doubt that Jenkins’ heart is in the right place, but he only worked for a short time in the private sector. He currently works for a government and serves/has served in multiple government positions. As conservative a someone might personally be, being a government employee brings with it a different mindset.

Rich Kasten has been a great Alderman and he’ll be an even better Mayor of West Bend.

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