Mayor's update - January 18, 2016
The City of Kiel budget for 2016 was approved with no major changes anticipated for 2016. The budget for the city calls for an increase in spending of 3% to just over $2.8 million. City taxpayers saw an increase in the levy of 1.24% with the tax rate remaining at just over $5 per $1000 of an assessed property value. On the revenue side of the budget property taxes make up 40% of the city income, followed by intergovernmental revenue (state shared revenue and transportation aids) at 28%, other finances (taxes and transfers from utilities) at 15% and charges for public services (garbage and recycling pickup) at 7%. On the expenditure side of the budget public safety (police and fire protection) makes up 36% of the budget followed by public works (streets, signs, snow removal, storm sewers) at 22%, debt service at 15%, culture and recreation (library, community center, parks) at 11% and capital outlay at 8%. Overall this is a good budget for the city and the city is in good shape financially. Looking forward, over the next several years, we will see the closing of a TIF district and some retirement of debt that will allow for increased expenditures on city infrastructure such as roads. The lean years of the past are behind us and the outlook is positive.
The City approved a contract with the police union of which the major agreement of the contract was a salary increase of 2% per year for the next three years. The wage resolution for other city employees was also approved with an increase of 2% for 2016. The Salary and Budget Committee felt that an overall 2% increase was justified based on recent and projected Consumer Price Index (CPI) increases in the neighborhood of 1.5 – 2.0% although the 2015 CPI increase was actually closer to 0.2% mainly due to the drop in gasoline and fuel prices. Most economists agree that the rate of increase for other commodities was closer to 2% for 2015 and is projected to be 1.5% in 2016; therefore, a salary increase of 2% over the next few years appears reasonable.
The City of Kiel has been slowly moving towards a more merit based salary structure over the last several years where employees are evaluated based on contribution and performance in their respective jobs. Specific goals for each employee are developed by supervisors and raises determined based on performance and attainment of goals. These efforts are all aimed at getting the best possible contribution from employees and providing exceptional customer service to the citizens of the community.
The City reviewed the health insurance plan options for our employees and 2016 sees a change to a high deductible Health Savings Account plan that provides good coverage for our employees with a reduced cost to the city. Employees are now paying 12% of the cost of the health insurance plan. This change also allowed us to provide dental insurance to employees with the employee picking up 50% of the cost. These plans are more in line with the trends for health insurance and benefits in the private sector and are fair to employees without severely impacting the city budget. The recent trends in health insurance have not been favorable for employers or employees, and we are continuing to pay close attention to these trends as we strive to provide a reasonable benefit to our employees at a fair cost to the taxpayers.
The Planning Commission and Kiel City Council recently reviewed Ameriquip’s plans for an additional $8.5 million, 90,000 square foot expansion of their facility in TID 5 on the Northwest corner of the city. This expansion has the potential to add an additional 130 jobs to the facility, while the recently completed expansion has already added 86 jobs out of a projected 100 new jobs to date. A public hearing has been set for February 9, 2016 to consider a new plan and boundary agreement for TID 5. The City will be looking to finance infrastructure improvements to the district to facilitate the expansion.
The Wastewater Treatment Plant is moving forward with several major projects and a public hearing to review options for the plant was held at a recent City Council meeting. Three project phases are anticipated over the next several years to upgrade the plant to increase capacity and meet new DNR regulations. Phase 1 includes updating primary clarifiers, piping and the anaerobic digestion process at a cost of $3.8 million. Phase 2 consists of a new membrane reactor activated sludge process and dewatering system at a cost of $9.9 million. Phase 3 consists of a new Class A solids drying system at a cost of $5.9 million. We will be looking at several options to finance these upgrades with the objective being to minimize the cost to future sewerage rates. The city council approved the plan and authorized McMahon engineers to submit it to the DNR for review. These upgrades are expected to enable the plant be able to service the City’s wastewater needs for many years to come.
The installation of new bio-gas conditioning equipment at the wastewater treatment plant is underway with the engine-generator unit installation targeted for completion by the end of February 2016. This methane gas recovery project will have the potential to generate most of the electrical needs of the plant.
The Kiel Water Utility system in the city recently underwent inspection by a contractor hired to identify leaks in mains and valves in the system. Several major leaks in both older and newer sections of the city were identified for repair. The city has recently been pumping about 800,000 gallons of water per day into the system for customer use. Of that 800,000 gallons about 150,000 gallons per day has now been attributed to system leaks and fixed under this program with several more repairs yet to be completed.
The Kiel Electric Utility system plan for upgrades to the Meyer Road substation are completed through the design phase of the project. This is a joint project between American Transmission Company, We Energies and the Kiel Electric Utility that will upgrade the electrical supply to the city and provide for mutual backup of the electrical requirements for Kiel and We Energy customers. The engineers are now in the stage of finalizing the permits and easements for the project. Construction will begin this year with completion expected in March of 2017.
The Kiel Public Works Department is in the planning stages for the road construction projects that will be completed in 2016. They are expecting to concentrate on areas that do not require major water and sewer construction work to upgrade the streets. Major projects requiring sewer and water upgrades that can be partially financed through TID funds are planned for 2017 and 2018.
Three long time City employees have decided to retire after 30+ years of service to the community. Pat Keltesch, Police Department Dispatcher and Office Manager, Randy Neils, Director of Public Works, and Beatie Dietrich, Community Center Nutrition Manager, will all retire by February 1, 2016. It has been a pleasure working with these individuals and they have all contributed greatly towards Kiel’s success over the years. Their dedication and long standing service is greatly appreciated and I wish them well in retirement.
The Kiel Community Center Committee has been meeting and working on the development of a new organization called the “Friends of the Community Center” that will be chartered with fund raising and improved programming of activities for all generations of citizens within the community. Melissa Brandt has been hired to drive this effort at the Community Center that will encompass the nutrition program, senior center activities, and recreational department activities for the city. The goal of the Committee is improved programming, improved communication of community activities and improved interconnection of all city services at the Community Center, Stoelting House and Library facilities. The Committee has met several times and has had very good input and representation from a nice cross section of people within the community. Watch for updates and opportunities to get involved starting in February 2016.
I have several grandchildren and I am always amazed by the people who work with our children as they grow up in our community. I occasionally drop one of the grandkids off at a local day care center and the care that is provided is wonderful. One can see the enjoyment that the children have in being there and the caring, learning environment that is provided to them is outstanding. I have another grandchild that participates in the grade school basketball program. These children are young and learning the game and the coach’s patience and commitment to teaching the kids is appreciated. These coaches do a great job. I would like to say “thank you” to all the great people and volunteers who work with the children in our schools, churches, scouting organizations, and the sports teams in our community. You provide a great service to our children and the community.
I am looking forward to another great community event as Kiel’s Ice Sculpturing Contest makes it to a milestone 25th year on the streets of Kiel on February 6th. This is always a great event for the city and a nice way to celebrate winter in Wisconsin with support for many of our local businesses and organizations. Hope to see you all there!