We’ve accomplished a lot in 2016, making changes inside and outside City Hall that will impact how we serve our customers – you, our residents.
Yesterday, I wrote about our work to explore partnering with the Oak Creek Health Department on sharing of services. And we’ve already begun contracting with Oak Creek for IT services.
Among the other actions we’ve taken in December …
- New Street Department leadership. We recently named Dan Ratajski as our new Street Department superintendent. He replaces Rich Davidoff, who is retiring effective Jan. 5 after 32 years with the department, 22 as superintendent. I wish Rich the best, and thank him for his service. I’m excited to welcome Dan to his new role as well. Dan has been with us 12 years, including four years as the assistant superintendent at the department. We are also using this as an opportunity to take a closer look at the structure and operations of the department and see what, if anything, we can do to enhance what I consider a really strong service; we’re hiring a firm to study this into 2017.
- New assessment firm. The council also hired Tyler Technologies as our new outside real estate assessment firm, with a five-year contract being approved at the Dec. 6 council meeting. They also handle assessor duties for the cities of Franklin and Oak Creek, and the Village of Greendale. I want to wish outgoing contract assessor Dan Walker (and his company, Ad Valorem) well, and thank him for his 28 years serving this city. It’s not easy work, but I’m confident Tyler will be an able replacement.
- Benefits changes. We have also made changes to our benefits for civil service employees – about 70 employees who are not in the police or fire unions, and not in managerial positions. The biggest: We have reduced the city’s liability for retiree and disabled employee health insurance contributions. For example, we will no longer offer retiree health insurance to employees hired into civil service roles after Jan. 1, 2017. The liabilities communities like ours face with this legacy cost have been well-reported, and while we won’t feel the effect of this change for many years, it’s simply too high of a cost for us to continue. (Instead, we are exploring offering employees another vehicle that will allow them to save for retiree health with pre-tax dollars.) We are also working to get our current-day health costs better under control – you will recall we were faced with a 25% increase this year at one point – by requiring employees to pay more for health insurance (80% of the cost, compared to 88%) if they do not take part in the city’s wellness program.
Change is hard, and these are tough choices, especially around those to some of our benefits.
We need to remain competitive, both with other communities and private employers, and I think we are. But we also need to make sure we’re offering benefits that are sustainable for the long term, especially in this era of increasingly constrained budgets. We will continue to look for ways to better strike that balance.