Divided board narrowly OKs village budget

Trustees adopt 2021 spending package on 4-3 vote with dissenters calling for fire chiefs’ salary increases
Ozaukee Press Staff

The Grafton Village Board narrowly approved a $26.36 million budget for 2021, with several trustees voting in opposition because requested salary increases for Grafton Fire Department chiefs were not included in the spending plan.

“I am voting no because I’m concerned the wage adjustment will not be addressed,” Trustee Jim Miller said during Monday’s meeting. “This has gone on for several years at Finance (Committee).”

The budget passed by a 4-3 vote margin. Voting to approve were Village President Jim Brunnquell and trustees Dave Antoine,  Dan Delorit and Tom Krueger.

Joining Miller in voting no were trustees Lisa Harbeck and Amy Luft.

“For me, what’s been disconcerting is the process,” said Harbeck, who has noted in the past that the salaries for Fire Chief Bill Rice and Division Chief Matthew Karpinski are below the average for other chiefs in the area. 

Rice and Karpinski are seeking a total wage increase of about $9,700 between them. Rice’s annual salary is $95,570 and Karpinski receives $79,209.

“No one is more deserving of a change of salary than Rice. I can’t vote no for this (budget) for one individual,” Delorit said. “We have to get a budget.” 

Village President Jim Brunnquell agreed.

“We shouldn’t be attaching personnel issues to a budget,” he said.

Village Administrator Jesse Thyes said the approved budget includes an additional $30,000 for the Fire Department’s special revenue fund that comes from savings the Grafton Police Department will realize by leasing squad cars with Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

Brunnquell said the additional money can be used for pay adjustments, but they will require Finance Committee review and Village Board approval.

The Finance Committee will review employee compensation in January, Thyes said.

“A mechanism has been put in place if that’s what the Village Board wants,” Brunnquell said. 

The board did approve increasing hourly wages for volunteer department members and agreed to add overtime pay for the three full-time firefighters last month. 

Thyes said the tax rate will be $6.22 per $1,000 of assessed property value, a decrease of $1.11, or 15.1%, from last year. The decrease is primarily due to village’s revaluation, which increased the average property value by 22%.

That means the owner of $250,000 house will pay $67 less in taxes than in 2020. The village’s assessed property value is $1.3 billion. 

Thyes said the 2021 budget reflects a decrease of about $1.23 million, or 4.49%,   from 2020.



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