One resident still thinks there's fat in West Allis budget
He complains despite 0.32% levy hike
West Allis — Despite a proposed levy hike of only 0.32 percent, West Allis' proposed 2014 city budget still generated one comment at last week's public hearing.
Jeff Klass lambasted officials for proposing a budget that is hundreds of dollars more per capita than Greenfield spends and for not cutting back on spending. The general fund, thought of as the operating budget, is going up a proposed 1.2 percent.
Klass called for an across-the-board reduction.
"Don't tell me there isn't 3 percent of fat," he scolded. "Citizens are finding ways to cut back because they have to, and you guys aren't."
That isn't so, Mayor Dan Devine said after the meeting.
The city is always trying to find efficiencies, Devine said. Sometimes it works and sometimes it backfires — like the time the city put off buying vehicles only to wind up with maintenance going more than 140 percent over budget.
Devine said he gives department heads a zero increase guideline every year. He sees finding efficiencies as one thing, but cutting programs as something else. Every program serves people, he explained.
"We try to maintain the level of service people have come to expect and try to do that as cheaply as we can," Devine said.
West Allis has been finding efficiencies all along, said finance manager Mark Wyss, noting that the number of city workers declined from nearly 750 in 1970 to 515 proposed next year. The 2014 proposed plan calls for a net loss of three workers.
At least for the next budget year, a position was added to, in fact, save money.
The city is creating an innovation position for someone to analyze processes in all departments with an eye toward greater efficiencies.
He or she also will focus on energy savings.
The city looked into privatizing services about five years ago and decided it wasn't worth it. Wyss said that hasn't changed.
"Generally speaking, the cost of the service doesn't change that much," he said.
Also, when a complaint comes in, aldermen like being able to call a department head rather than a contractor to fix the problem, Wyss said.
Comparing West Allis' spending with Greenfield's is unfair, also, Wyss said.
"Greenfield is half our size and half our age and doesn't offer the same level of service and doesn't offer the same complexity of services," Wyss said.
Some of the West Allis infrastructure is 100 years old, he said, a problem the much newer Greenfield doesn't have.
Not only do communities offer different services, but some like West Allis pay for a lot of large purchases from their general fund while others borrow for them outside the general fund, complicating comparisons of operating budgets even more, he said.
The Finance and Administration Committee on Monday recommended the proposed budget for Common Council approval. The council vote could come Dec. 17.
The total 2014 proposed budget is more than $122.2 million, about 2.2 percent higher than the 2013 budget. The proposed general fund is nearly $56.8 million. The proposed property tax levy is $40.1 million.
WHAT: possible West Allis Common Council vote on the proposed 2014 city budget
WHEN: 7 p.m. Dec. 17
WHERE: City Hall, 7525 W. Greenfield Ave.
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