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Public hearing for Wausau budget talks set, amid renewed calls for administrator

in Investigations/News

WAUSAU — Taxpayers will have the chance to offer feedback and ask questions about Wausau’s proposed 2018 city budget at a public hearing set for Tuesday, while one city council member is renewing a call for a city administrator.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Nov. 14 in the council chambers at Wausau City Hall, 407 Grant St., Wausau. Council members will vote on the proposed budget two weeks later, on Nov. 28.

Some numbers in the budget, including the overall tax levy, are still in flux, as city leaders await final word on several state credits that will impact the rate. Based on the budget, the assessed tax rate would be $9.92, versus $9.67 last year, a 2.59 percent increase, according to a Nov. 8 letter to council members written by Finance Director MaryAnn Groat. That means the owner of a $100,000 home would pay about an additional $26 in taxes.

At an Oct. 24 meeting of the finance committee, council member Romey Wagner said he plans to ask the council to consider adding $100,000 to the budget for a city administrator to add to Mayor Rob Mielke’s staff. Wagner said the money would be a good investment in the city, giving Mielke another advisor who would work with department heads.

In a Nov. 10 email to Wausau Pilot and Review, Wagner stated, “I will propose a $100,00.00 addition with about $30,000.00 being used to identify the job tasks and responsibilities and do the search nation wide and up to $70.000.00 for salary and benefits for the person to be found and put in place by June 1, 2018.  This money would add to the tax .04 per thousand and be the best reason to raise taxes in my opinion because that person would be educated in municipality administration and reel in some of the unwise extra expenses to help reduce our taxes in the future.

“On the day of the referendum 48 percent of the voters said they approved the administrator position and I believe I am speaking for them, “Wagner wrote.

The issue of an administrator has been debated for years. In April 2015, voters in a non-binding referendum selected mayoral government on a 52 to 48 percent split, making an administrator an unlikely choice at the time. But Wagner, who has repeatedly raised the issue, told the committee such a plan would not need to go to referendum, since the move would add a staff member rather than replace an elected position.

The proposed budget includes a number of increases in license and permit fees, according to budget documents. Licensing fees for most pets would remain the same, but licensing an animal deemed dangerous would increase from $37.50 to $75 per year. Bartender licensing fees would increase between $5 and $10. Registration fees for playground programs and swim lessons will increase by $3, and shelter reservation fees — along with rental fees for The 400 Block —  will also be higher next year.

For a complete breakdown of the changes, see the document embedded below.

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