So people ask me all the time, “What’s going on with city government?” Well let me tell you—a lot. We have had several meetings on city finances and we have come up with a 2022 budget. I like it. It’s not everything that I wanted, but a city budget is never going to be everything you want. I am most happy about the process of coming up with the budget. In these budget meetings, the council members were vocal. We were not in lock step, but we acknowledged where each member stood. We each had our views. For those who came to the meetings—and everyone is invited—you learned the arguments for and against every item. Any differences in opinion were well argued, showing thought and strategy behind them. I hope this openness continues.
One large issue is that aldermanic districts were changed. Wisconsin state statutes require that lines be redrawn after every census. Our did not change much. The result is that a few of you may be in a different aldermanic district—the new maps are on the city’s website. Additionally there are three county supervisory districts on the map within our city.
The same number of alderpersons will be elected and we will have the same number of aldermanic districts. The wards are very different, but since we all vote in the same place—city hall—it doesn’t really affect Kewaunee at all.
District 1: Ward 1
District 2: Wards 2 and 3 (this is my district)
District 3: Ward 4
District 4: Wards 5 and 6
There were a few material issues that I supported during the budget process. The first was the ambulance pay increase. This included moving to population vs. assessed valuation to determine township financial support of the ambulance service. The second was a 3% pay increase for staff—they have been working hard and deserve to have a raise. We also reduced the building inspector to a part-time contractual position and eliminated one office position. There were hundreds of line items, but these three were the ones I cared about the most.
The ambulance was simple—this service is more important in Kewaunee for a few reasons. We lost our hospital a few years ago, so a timely ambulance service is critical—that half an hour plus between our homes and the hospital can seem very long when there is a medical emergency. And we have competent nursing staff in the ambulance to make sure we have all the medical attention possible while in transit to the hospital. The other issue is that our average age in Kewaunee is increasing. We have several senior living facilities around town, so emergency healthcare is a requirement.
There was a great deal of debate over the building inspector’s job. Some people think the inspector paid for himself with fees and fines from the citizens. I had a different way to look at it. I saw open-record requests and potential lawsuits. I saw people who refused to fix their homes because they did not want the inspector hovering about, sometimes entering their homes without permission. I saw inspection fees without actual inspections. And in some cases, the legality of the inspections was dubious. Given that the inspector generated the most complaints about city government, I did not think that we should shake down our citizens at the time they were spending money to maintain their homes. If we are in the building inspection business, we need to send in qualified people to provide a real service—not a shakedown to increase revenue for the city.
The other position that we did not continue, at least for now, is the office position sometimes called a grant writer or grant facilitator. Since our current administrator has tendered his resignation, I feel a new administrator may come with grant writing skills—that’s something I would be looking for. This would allow that person to set a fresh strategy for coping with the issues of city government. And that person can suggest staffing changes as they see fit. The new administrator may wish to use city resources in different manner.
Many people have been wondering about our city budget and how it is put together. I hope you find this open process illuminating. What I have found is that we do have enough money to do the things we need to do in city of Kewaunee—it’s just a matter of priorities. I would like to shift those priorities to fixing the things that we have in the city—streets and sidewalks, stairs, tennis courts, fish grinding stations, to name a few. It does us no good to put in new facilities if we abandon them at the first moment they need to be maintained. This is a work in progress. The importance of this budget process is that it was done out in the open, with full transparency—allowing scrutiny from all the residents. There will be another meeting this coming Monday. I can’t guarantee that it will be as exciting as the last Packer game, but we will do our best!
Thanks for listening,