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City budget handcuffs police force staff size

Failed agreement tied to move; levy rises 2.8%

Nov. 20, 2009

West Allis — Five fewer police officers will serve in the West Allis Police Department in 2010 as part of the city's budget.

Under that $55.5 million operating budget, passed by the Common Council last week, the property tax levy will rise 2.8 percent over last year.

The tax rate of $8.94 per $1,000 of assessed property value means a person owning a $200,000 home will pay $1,788 in city property taxes. The tax rate is an increase of 2.76 percent compared to last year.

Pay issue payback?

The police positions were eliminated from the budget after the police union failed to reach an agreement with the city on a revenue-based pay plan.

Under that plan, accepted by the other unions representing West Allis city workers, 2011 pay raises would be directly tied to income received from investments, permits and state-shared revenue.

Police union representatives have criticized the budget move as unfairly punishing officers for not agreeing to a deal they said was rushed and not negotiated.

West Allis officials still hope that discussions next year with the police union during the "traditional bargaining flow" will produce some savings for the city, even if it comes later than 2011, City Administrator Paul Ziehler said during a Nov. 17 committee meeting.

Upbeat view of changes

Despite the staff reduction, Police Chief Michael Jungbluth said the service level will remain the same. In fact, he's hoping that by not filling positions left vacant by retirements, the department may avoid layoffs.

"The public will not feel the impact of this staff reduction," he said. "Internally, we will see a slowing in promotional and career development opportunities as well as other operation changes that are required to adapt to this change in staffing."

Two police positions have not been filled since retirements in May and October. Two officers have confirmed they will retire between January and March and another officer currently on medical leave may also retire, Jungbluth said.

That would put the number of sworn officers in the Police Department at 127, down from 132. The positions that will not be replaced are a detective, traffic investigator and three patrol officers.

The police command staff is meeting to determine how to reassign work and will soon finalize a reorganization plan, Jungbluth said.

A look at overall spending

Other aspects of the 2010 West Allis city budget passed with much quieter fanfare.

The city's $55.5 million operating budget amounts to an increase of 2.4 percent from last year. Officials said the spending increase is due mostly to anticipated salary and benefit increases.

Due to new mandates in state law, covering health insurance costs will be an even bigger challenge next year, Finance Director Gary Schmid said.

The city used $1.3 million of its reserves to offset a larger property tax increase. However, thanks to the city's deals with the unions, reserves will probably not be used in 2011 when those savings are realized, Ziehler said.

The council's approval of the budget was unanimous Nov. 17.

"This is one of the better budgets we've have had so far considering economic conditions in our community," Alderwoman Rosalie Reinke said.

BY THE NUMBERS

$37.2 million

city's property tax levy for 2010 budget

2.8 percent

increase over levy for 2009 budget

$48

increase in municipal taxes for the owner of a home assessed at $200,000

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