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Vernon residents struggle to set clerk's salary

Oct. 30, 2012

Town of Vernon - Emotions ran high as town residents spent nearly a half-hour setting the salary for the town clerk position during their annual budget hearing Oct. 24.

After researching the salary of area clerks who perform similar duties, Town Clerk Marie Kumershek had asked that the clerk's salary be raised 17.8 percent, from $43,711 to $51,500. In the end, she had to settle for a 2 percent raise.

"I think you have to remember that this position hasn't gotten a raise in four years," she said to residents in arguing for her proposal. She added that if the raise wasn't approved for the 2013 budget, the position would have gone six years with no raise.

But some residents didn't see things that way. Resident Mary Ann Karas said, "How many of us in this room haven't gotten a raise in how long?" She added that her insurance premium goes up every year. "I could (not) care less whether they have to pay 15 percent (of their insurance premium) or not, because they are getting a monthly salary."

Supervisor Bill Craig opposed the raise, saying that a study should first be done to determine the best way to run the office. He added that the study has been talked about for the past few years, but no action has been taken. "We need to stop in our tracks, study where we're at," he said, and then decide whether the town needs to change positions, the number of staff, etc.

Town resident and Waukesha Town Clerk Jamie Salentine supported the raise and said, "I think the Town of Vernon has been underpaying for a while for the position."

Former Supervisor Rodell Singert strongly supported the raise. "I feel the person (currently) in that position - or any future person - deserves the increase in salary because of the duties that are asked of that person," he said. Resident Jim Slawny expressed his support of staff raises, stating that having been president of many companies, he know how expensive replacing good people can be. "You really have to take that into consideration."

After voting on several different salary amounts, residents barely agreed on $44,586, a 2-percent pay increase, in a 29-27 vote.

The town treasurer was also given a 2-percent pay raise, from $16,341 to $16,667 in a 32-17 vote.

Budget highlights

Residents approved the proposed tax levy, which was set at about $1.67 million, a 0.59-percent decrease from the 2012 levy of about $1.68 million. Total proposed expenditures for 2013 are about $3.21 million for 2013, a 4.6-percent increase, or $142,526 over 2012's budget of about $3.07 million.

Town Auditor Wendi Unger explained that several major factors affect the tax levy and the 2013 budget. The property revaluation reduced the town's assessed value by about $4 million, an amount that Unger said is not unusual, given the economy.

Major expenditure changes include a decrease of $40,994 in general government expenditures, mainly due to a decrease in professional fee expenditures and a decrease in committee expenditures. Highway department expenditures increased $39,783, mostly due to increases in capitol outlay for equipment and road maintenance.

The Town Board and management are proposing to use $150,000 of reserves to balance the 2013 general fund budget. Unger explained that this amount represents funds budgeted for in 2011 but not spent in 2012 for highway department capitol outlay.

Also on the budget is $478,710 slated for capitol expenditures in all funds which is being funded through $190,000 in new debt, $150,000 in reserves carried over from 2011, $9,000 in grants and $129,710 in tax levy.

Residents voted to keep the tax rate the same as the past few years at $2.01 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The board will make its final vote on the 2013 budget during its Nov. 8 meeting.

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