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W'bago bumps up levy 2.52%

December 12, 2012
Jodelle Greiner - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

WINNEBAGO - Winnebago City Council approved a 2.52 percent property tax levy increase Tuesday.

The preliminary levy of $536,106 set earlier this year represented a 3.9 percent increase from 2012.

"I'd like to see more cuts to make that 2.5 percent," said Councilman Rick Johnson, who suggested some specific cuts.

Chris Ziegler, serving in his first meeting as city administrator, studied the numbers and adjusted the levy downward by 0.6 percent.

Johnson suggested putting more money back into certain funds.

Councilwoman Jean Anderson, meanwhile, asked why the library's funding went up $6,000. Councilwoman Stacy Huntington-Scofield, the council's representative to the library, said repairs are planned in the near future.

"It's a very old structure," she said.

Referring to the Municipal Center, Police Chief Bob Toland said, "This building is going to need serious maintenance in the next year or so."

According to water superintendent Rick Mauris, the building was constructed in 1991 or 1992.

"The rivets are shot; everything is shot on the roof," Mauris said.

He noted there are pails over the administrator's office. Toland said there are pails over his office too.

"It's leaked from day one," Mauris said.

In the end, Ziegler designated $18,000 for the contingency fund; $10,000 for the pool fund; $15,000 for the street shop fund; $20,000 for the ambulance fund; and $15,000 for municipal center improvements.

That brought the levy to $529,106, a 2.52 percent increase, or $13,008 more than last year's, which the council approved.

In other business, the council decided to table a grievance filed by IBEW Local Union 949. Rick Bartz, IBEW representative, said the city had left vacant an administrative and accounting assistant position.

"We don't have issues when an employer doesn't fill the position" because the work has been automated and a computer does the work, Bartz said, but in this case, the work is being done by non-bargaining city employees. "That's the basis of the grievance," he said.

Former city administrator Austin Bleess sent a letter to Bartz stating the grievance is not valid because the decision was made in an open meeting and was discussed with the union steward on Sept. 12. Furthermore, Bleess stated the city has the right to fill vacant positions.

Bartz told the council a letter about the decision should have been sent to the union.

Johnson pointed out the meetings are covered by the media and minutes are published.

"I don't read the city of Winnebago's paper. I live in Burnsville," Bartz said.

He did acknowledge the city might be limited in its options.

"You guys are a small office and work is shared," Bartz said, but he added that the positions should be filled by someone in the bargaining group, not management.

On other topics, the council approved making a down payment of $13,482, or 50 percent of the total bid of $26,964, to Blue Earth Monument for construction of the Winnebago Veterans Monument in Whiting Park. The balance is due in 30 days.

Ziegler said the memorial group, headed by Jerry Johannsen, has an account with the city for $26,000, and has committents for $8,500.



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