Automated garbage trucks, iPads for aldermen in city budget proposal

Preliminary 2012 plan holds tax levy steady

Sept. 14, 2011

New garbage trucks for automated collection, iPads to put in the hands of Common Council members and technology that will make employee timecards obsolete and help schedule time off are among the expenditures outlined in the proposed 2012 executive budget.

While it sounds like some heavy spending, each of those purchases will result in savings for Wauwatosa, City Administrator James Archambo said.

Archambo, Mayor Jill Didier and Finance Director John Ruggini put together a budget that calls for a $36.5 million tax levy, or a zero-percent increase.

"Every budget is difficult, but we worked together to make the numbers work," Didier said.

For the average homeowner, the city portion of the tax bill would cost $145 per month.

"You get a quite a lot for that," the mayor said.

She will introduce the document to the Budget Committee on Wednesday, then the committee will review the Police and Fire portions.

One of the new initiatives included is an internal granting process. Departments put forward requests this summer to fund one-time capital expenditures that would help achieve sustainable changes, Didier said. An employee committee scored applications on criteria including return on investment, increased efficiencies and cost reductions, and divvied up about $250,000.

It's an effort to make smart investments and reward innovative thinking, she said.

Purchasing electronic tablets for each of the 16 council members would mean a leap toward paperless communications. Clerks' time could be better spent on activities other than printing and distributing paper copies of agendas and information packets, Archambo said.

As for other major changes, city executives want to move forward with automated solid waste collection. In the first year, the city should see a $168,000 savings, which should grow to $1.5 million over 10 years, Archambo said. That means purchasing garbage trucks with automatic arms and new garbage carts, and would allow for the reduction of three vacant laborer positions.

The Fire Department will eliminate three positions due to changes in supervisory structure and vacant positions. As for the Police Department, vacant patrol officer and parking specialist positions have been eliminated. However, Community Support Officer hours would be bumped up so they could hand out parking tickets.

There's an effort in this budget to reduce overtime costs, Didier said. When it comes to the Police Department, an awful lot of time is spent organizing and manning Tosa's Night Out. City officials have recommended offering the crime prevention event every other year and getting public safety employees more involved with block parties in the off years.

Changes to the city's health plan cut $1 million, while pension contributions will save the city $617,000 from the general fund.

"The budget repair bill did in fact allow us to have some savings," Didier said.

As for revenues, an uptick in the economy saw more hotel taxes and building permits coming in this year and those activities are anticipated to continue in 2012.

"Even though it was a down economy, we still had people opening businesses, we still had construction projects this year," the mayor said. "We've had a lot going on."

2011 adopted budget2012 executive budgetDollar changePercent change
General fund$52.9 million$53.3 million$420,0000.80%
City property tax levy$36.5 million$36.5 million00%
Tax rate$6.92$7.0101.3%
Estimated average residential tax per year1,688$1,710$221.3%


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