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Hudson has less to lose in shared revenue than many cities

The cuts in state shared revenue and transportation aid expected to be included in Gov. Scott Walker's 2011-13 budget proposal likely won't have as great an impact on Hudson as many other cities around Wisconsin.

The reason is Hudson doesn't have as much to lose.

Because of the city's high per-resident property valuation compared to other municipalities, Hudson will receive $199,923 in shared revenue in 2011.

By comparison, the city of River Falls will get more than $2 million.

"I don't know exactly what the impact is, because I don't know what the final bill will look like," Hudson City Administrator Devin Willi said last Friday.

Walker was scheduled to present his biennium budget proposal to the Legislature at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Democrats are opposed to what they have heard of the Republican governor's plan.

Fourteen Democratic senators remain in Illinois to prevent passage of the governor's repair bill for the current budget, which would strip public employee unions of most of their collective bargaining rights.

Willi said Hudson could lose all or none of its state shared revenue, or more likely, some percentage of it.

"It won't impact us as much as it could other communities," he said.

Willi said he also wouldn't be surprised if the city loses some of its annual state transportation aid, which will total $657,725 in 2011.

Every municipality in Wisconsin receives the aid, based on the number of miles of streets and roads that it has.

Budget repair bill impact

The budget repair bill that passed the Assembly 51-17 and is now stalled in the Senate would also impact city finances.

All city employees, except for police officers, would be required to begin contributing 5.8 percent of their gross pay into their Wisconsin Retirement System accounts.

Willi said it was his understanding that union-represented employees wouldn't start making the contributions until the end of 2011 because they have a contract that runs through the end of the year.

He said non-union employees would have their paychecks reduced by 5.8 percent of their gross pay (with the money going into their retirement accounts) at a date called for in the bill.

The city wouldn't be affected by the bill's requirement that employees pay at least 12.6 percent of their health insurance premiums, Willi said, because the city left the state health insurance plan a couple of years ago.

The requirement would apply only to public employees covered by the state plan.

City workers now pay 8 percent of their health insurance premiums, Willi said.

Teamster comments

The fact that Hudson's employees negotiated a change in health insurance with the city wasn't lost on Steve Novacek, the Teamsters union representative for city employees.

Novacek said he has a copy of a Star-Observer article in which then-mayor Dean Knudson, now the 30th District representative to the Wisconsin Assembly, said Hudson had saved "thousands and thousands of dollars" by leaving the state insurance plan.

"That was done right at the bargaining table," Novacek said. "Apparently, he forgot that it was with the union's blessing and we sat down and talked about it."

Knudson was one of the 51 Assembly Republicans who voted for Walker's budget repair bill.

Knudson said Monday that collective bargaining system is "broken" and that the state and local governments can't manage their budgets with it in place.

Novacek said public employees would essentially be working without a contract if Walker's plan is adopted in its current form.

The only thing they could negotiate would be wages, he said, and then only up to the rate of inflation. With health care costs continuing to rise, and 5.8 percent taken out of their gross wages for pensions, public employees would go "backwards" financially, he said.

"Every public employee in the state is against it," Novacek said. "They've witnessed collective bargaining for years and years and years. It works. We try to do everything we can to save money on anything. We're not married to any insurance company. We're willing to change to get the best price. That's exactly what we did in Hudson last time."

"We're in the middle class," Novacek replied when asked about the perception by some that public employees are overpaid.

"We're not high paid," he said. "Most people doing comparable work in the private sector are paid more than public employees."

Novacek said public employees have sacrificed wages for benefits over the years.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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