Monday, September 8, 2014

What you may not know: Week of September 8

The Appleton Common Council has a full schedule of committee meetings this week, highlighted by two items that have come up before:

Human Resources, Monday, 6 pm

A few weeks ago the Human Resources Committee elected to hold an item dealing with a potential future pay raise for the Appleton Common Council. The council cannot vote on its own pay raises, so any decision made on this issue will not take effect until April of 2016 when all alderpersons' current terms have elapsed.

When this topic was last discussed a month ago, I was one of multiple alderpersons suggesting that our system of determining future pay raises is flawed and needs improvement. Currently, we vote on a potential future pay raise every year and typically decide on a zero increase. Alderpersons received a 3% pay raise in 2003 and another 3% in 2009. By the time any action we take goes into effect in 2016 it will have been seven years since the last salary increase.

I've been called out a handful of times for speaking in favor of changing this system, so let me make this perfectly clear: This debate isn't about the money for me. Alderpersons currently make $5,805 per year, which is roughly what we'd make if we worked 15 hours/week at minimum wage. If we were to receive a 3% pay raise in 2016 and I'm still in office when it comes around, my pay raise from a 3% increase would be $174 per year. This issue is about more than (potentially) getting less than $200 two years from now.

What this is about, for me at least, is finding a sustainable way to manage this issue that will be less arbitrary than raising salary by an accepted percentage because "it's been a while." That's not a responsible financial practice. We can do better.

Parks and Recreation, Wednesday, 6 pm

Two weeks ago the Parks and Recreation Committee discussed for the first time a proposal to change the way the city operates Reid Golf Course. For years now the city has contracted out operation of the course, but staff has asked us to consider ending the contract and bringing the facility's management back in-house for the 2015 season.

Currently,  the golf course (an enterprise fund of the city) receives 100% of greens fees for rounds played at the course, but the contractor keeps all revenue from cart rentals, the practice range, pro shop and concessions. This arrangement is the only active one of its kind in the state and has left the course short on revenue and operating capital. The course currently owes over $1 million from past projects, is only paying the interest on those loans and cannot afford to make any further improvements.

For the course to continue to survive without having to be subsidized by property tax dollars the city needs to retain more revenue from its operations. This is likely to be a controversial decision among patrons of the course, but from an economic perspective it's clearly time to make a change.

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.

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