City workers forgo raises

Budget cuts, increased spending create financial conundrum.
Jessica Cuffman
Nov 11, 2013
Norwalk city employees will go without raises again next year, as council members consider the 2014 budget.

Department heads, too, will likely go without funding they’ve requested for supplies and training and to maintain vehicles, equipment and buildings.

Like many municipalities, Norwalk has lost local government funding from the state in the past few years, more than $1 million total since 2008, according to a memo from city finance director Diane Eschen to city council members.

That coupled with other reductions — and the closing of Janesville Acoustics — will continue to chip away at the city’s declining cash flow, Mayor Robert Duncan said.    “We’ve learned to do a lot more with a lot less,” he said. “The manufacturing jobs that we’ve lost are pretty incredible, the amount of them.”

The plant employed about 290 people in August, when it announced its impending shuttering. This means about $140,000 of an income tax loss for Norwalk in 2014, not to mention the possible trickle-down effect, Duncan said.

“It’s huge,” he said. “It affects other suppliers, and possibly restaurants and the stores when those people are employed.”

Norwalk’s cash balance could sit between $2.5 million and $2.6 million at the end of the year, an actual increase from its rainy day fund at the beginning of 2013, which sat at about $2.2 million, according to city documents.

But its expenses will increase by about $140,000 to almost $7.1 million in the general fund, likely requiring city council to dip into that reserve by the end of 2014.

On the bright side: The police and fire department staffing will be back up to standard levels with the hiring of additional employees.

“Unfortunately, bringing safety forces back up to the levels that we have, there’s more costs,” Duncan said. “With the heroin and drug problems, we have no choice but to bring those back up to full staff.”

Last year, city employees saw a 2 percent increase in their wages, after four years of going without.

For the foreseeable future, they’ll go without, again.

“It’s on a year-by-year basis,” Duncan said.