Damakant Jayshi

Wausau’s Finance Committee on Tuesday approved budget modifications related to four proposals including a market study on employee salaries, a mid-year cost of living adjustment and an extended retirement notice incentive.

The Finance Committee also approved a budget modification for a transit fueling project.

The cost of the salary study, not to exceed $80,000, will come from the city’s surplus funds. The reserve, Finance Director Maryanne Groat said, is about $6 million. Committee members opted not to use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, which the staff had recommended.

The salary market study, which is typically done every five years, will be performed earlier than usual. The last study was conducted in 2018 and implemented in 2019.

But outgoing Director of Human Resources Toni Vanderboom wrote in her memo that an earlier study was justified “because of the changing market” to ensure the city is “not be left behind” in the competitive labor market.

The Finance Committee also approved mid-year cost of living adjustments for non-represented employees by 2%. The fiscal impact will be $115,000, funds that will also come from the city’s surplus fund.

According to city staff documents, Wausau already granted a 2% cost of living increase in the 2022 budget for non-represented employees. The transit union secured a 2% increase for 2022 and it is negotiating a successor agreement. The police union negotiated a 3% increase for 2022, to be split mid-year. The fire department union negotiated a 2.5% increase for 2022, to be split midyear between 1.5% and 1%.

The cost is likely to be adjusted after the proposed salary market study. HR officials say it will take time to conduct the study and implement its recommendations. Vanderboom wrote that the delay in adjustment would have a possible negative effect on recruitment and retention.

Another proposal approved is a $2,000 incentive, similar to a hiring bonus for difficult-to-fill positions. Officials say the incentive “will be instrumental in granting ability to plan for upcoming vacancies, and can be universally applied to all employees regardless of union status or hiring date.”

The Wausau Police Department made the request, saying a 6-month notice to claim all benefits would help offset overtime costs. The WPD proposal said this will also allow new officers time to train while the retiring staff are still working.

The fourth budget modification involved a fuel tank upgrade for Metro Ride to comply with a state requirement. Metro Ride sought more than double the $21,200 previously approved for the project. The vendor implementing the upgrade, Midwest Petroleum, has asked for more than $44,000 which includes a cost-to-date estimate of $4,700.

Transit Director, Greg Seubert said the fuel storage tank is above ground and the pipes are underneath it, but when Midwest Petroleum broke ground near the tank, they noticed a proprietary pipe from a company that is out of business. That required replacing the piping, prompting the cost increase that required a budget modification, Seubert said.