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CALEDONIA — The Village Board, accompanied by various public employees, spent a total of seven hours on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings pouring over every line of the 45-page proposed 2019 budget.

In total, the 2019 budget is currently set at $14,770,691, just shy of 2 percent greater than 2018’s budget. The overall tax levy is set at $14,129,824, about $360,000 more than the previous year. While more than $3.84 million was budgeted for capital projects in 2018 (although only $1.43 million had been spent through Aug. 31), the 2019 capital projects budget is set at $2,075,550.

The board may make changes to the proposed budget Monday and Tuesday next week, and a public hearing is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 5. A final vote can then occur in the following weeks.

Fire and police

Despite requests from Police Chief Daniel Reilly and Fire Chief Richard Roeder, it appears unlikely that new officers and firefighters will be hired in 2019.

“If there is money in this budget to add firefighters and police officers I would, but I did not find it,” Village Administrator Tom Christensen, who plans to retire in April, said.

Roeder said that the fire department’s current staffing isn’t presently creating major problems, but that it could get worse in the near future. He said that a half-a-dozen of the department’s 39 current firefighters are ready to retire.

“Somewhere in the near future, you’re going to have to start looking at staffing the fire and police department,” Roeder said. “I asked for six (new firefighters earlier this year), but I would have been happy with three. I didn’t get any.”

Reilly, who was sworn in on Tuesday, said the police department and its 33 officers are facing similar problems.

For 2018, the department was budgeted $130,000 for overtime pay. Through August, it had already spent $88,440 on overtime this year, which is on pace to surpass the budgeted amount by 16 percent.

As of Aug. 31, police salaries are on pace to go over-budget by 11 percent in 2018.

“I believe we’ve maxed (our police department) out,” Christensen, a retired police officer, said.

The total fire department budget is planned to grow from $4.70 million in 2018 to $4.77 million in 2019. The total police budget combined with the police support budget (which includes pay for non-officer staff, education fees and funding for the joint dispatch center) is planned to rise from $4.48 million to $4.56 million.

City’s August jobless rate estimated at 5 percent

Pay raise

The Village Board came to a consensus on Tuesday that Caledonia Clerk Karie Torkilsen was underpaid, compared to clerks in surrounding municipalities.

By a 6-1 vote, the board directed Christensen to draft a resolution that would increase the salary for the clerk’s position from $61,000 per year up to $72,000, with 2 percent increases for each of the next four years.

If the board passes that resolution at a coming meeting, the raise would take effect in April, Torkilsen said.

Trustee Jay Benkowski was the lone dissenting vote on drafting the resolution. He wanted the yearly pay increases to be variable based on the consumer price index, rather than on the flat rate of 2 percent.

The board noted that Caledonia’s clerk is an elected position. However, the board feared that potential candidates may not be interested in the position if the salary remains low.

President Jim Dobbs said that the salaries of some public staff members are “grossly inadequate … We all know that they need to be adjusted.”

The board plans to re-evaluate all employee salary schedules on Tuesday.

Other changes

Below are listed a series of significant adjustments in policies, expenses and revenues in the 2019 budget:

  • The village plans to hire a development director in 2019, bringing planning and zoning services in-house. $108,955 was set aside for that, most of which is planned to go toward salary and benefit costs.
  • More money is planned to be allocated to the village attorney in 2019, from $75,000 to $100,000, after having not allocated enough for each of the last two budget cycles.
  • The Central Racine County Health Department’s budget, which was adopted by its board on Aug. 16, included a 12.39-percent increase to $2.99 million, which includes a $181,223 contribution from Caledonia. The growth in that budget is largely the result of staff expansion, as the department looks to fill what it sees as a shortage in staffing.
  • No plans have been fully laid out yet, but the board hopes to construct a brand new police station in the coming years. Christensen estimates this will cost around $5 million.
  • The board agreed to allocate $250,000 of debt levy funds to pay off the rest of its debt on Tax Incremental District 4.

Edited: This story was originally published with the incorrect date for the public hearing for the budget. It has now been corrected.

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Adam Rogan (SCHS '14, Drake U. '17) has been covering homelessness, arts & culture and just about everything else for the JT since March 2018. He enjoys mid-afternoon naps, loud music played quietly and social media followers @Could_Be_Rogan

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