Wausau Police Chief Jeff Hardel said a new 12-hour shift system in the department is expected to save as much as $100,000 a year in overtime costs. / Daily Herald Media file photo
The Act 10 factor
Most city employees in Wausau and many village employees in Weston had lower projected base salaries in 2012 than they had in 2011. Officials say the decrease in gross salary last year can be explained in part by Wisconsin’s Act 10, the controversial budget legislation passed in 2011 that resulted in vast changes to pension contributions for public employees statewide. Employees also received one less paycheck in 2012 compared with 2011, officials said, because of where pay dates fell on the calendar.
For police officers, the contract negotiated with the city for 2012 did not include a pay increase and required an increase in contributions to the Wisconsin Retirement System, Wausau Police Chief Jeff Hardel said. The WRS program provides retirement, separation, disability and death benefits for Wausau and Weston employees. Most government employers in Wisconsin, other than the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County, participate in the program.
Wausau employees paid 2 percent of their salaries to WRS in 2011 and 4.9 percent in 2012, Hardel said. City Human Resources Director Michael Loy said changes to retirement contributions took effect for most city workers in January 2012 and for employees of the Wausau Police Department in April.
Top 10 OT/extra pay earners for 2011
|Name||Title||Entity||Years experience||2011 Overtime|
|James Wadinski||Lieutenant||Wausau Police Department||32||$13,386|
|Cord Buckner||Detective||Wausau Police Department||15||$11,401|
|Thomas Peterson||Police officer||Wausau Police Department||21||$10,856|
|Mark Krueger||Battalion chief||Wausau Fire Department||23||$10,693|
|Craig Groshek||Utility operator||Village of Weston||17||$9,634|
|Nathan Pauls||Detective||Wausau Police Department||13||$9,600|
|Edward Gault||Lieutenant||Wausau Police Department||32||$9,520|
|John Borth||Utility operator||Village of Weston||18||$9,433|
|Douglas Beula||Battalion chief||Wausau Fire Department||26||$8,803|
|Allyn Mathwich||Equipment operator||City of Wausau||25||$8,705|
Top 10 2012 projected salaries
|Name||Title||Entity||Years experience||Projected 2012 salary|
|Gary Buchberger||Fire chief||City of Wausau||14||$106,807|
|Maryanne Groat||Finance director||City of Wausau||17||$106,807|
|Jeffrey Hardel||Police chief||City of Wausau||32||$106,807|
|Bradley Marquardt||Director of Public Works/Utilities||City of Wausau||19||$101,181|
|Keith Donner||Director of Public Works||Village of Weston||15||$99,744|
|Anne Jacobson||City attorney||City of Wausau||14||$96,656|
|John Jacobs||Finance director||Village of Weston||12||$90,390|
|Ann Werth||Community Development director||City of Wausau||36||$87,894|
|Nanette Giese||City assessor||City of Wausau||32||$86,985|
|Bryan Hilts||Deputy police chief||City of Wausau||17||$86,985|
A city of Wausau Public Works driver plows snow in downtown Wausau on Friday. / Dan Young/Daily Herald Media
Wausau and Weston officials say plans are in place to significantly reduce the amount of overtime paid to employees of both municipalities without slashing services to residents.
With just less than $700,000 of overtime and other extra pay earned by employees in 2011, Wausau ranked 22nd in the state among the 91 municipalities with a population of at least 10,000, based on data collected and analyzed by the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team. The data include only overtime paid to employees with total earnings of $25,000 or more and for some entities included other bonus pay such as longevity and shift differential.
The village of Weston, which paid just less than $127,000 in overtime and other extra pay, ranked 70th. Although those numbers are considerably lower than many other municipalities of similar size, officials acknowledge there is room for improvement.
Wausau and Weston are the only municipalities in Marathon and Lincoln counties with a population greater than 10,000, based on U.S. Census Bureau records.
Five of the top 10 local overtime earners for 2011 are members of the Wausau Police Department. But Wausau Police Chief Jeffrey Hardel said a new scheduling model the department adopted this year could save the city as much as $100,000 annually in overtime costs. Under the new plan, officers work 12-hour shifts instead of their former eight-hour shifts, a schedule that many other departments around the state have implemented.
“Just about every community in the state that has gone to the 12-hour shifts has seen a 30 to 35 percent drop in overtime pay,” Hardel said.
Not all overtime expenses are paid directly by Wausau city taxpayers, the police chief said, because state grants fund more than $100,000 in overtime reimbursements annually. The department receives at least six separate grants to provide extra patrol services. Hardel said the city’s top overtime earner at $13,386, Wausau Police Lt. James Wadinski, put in 111 hours of overtime in 2011 and 124 hours of overtime in 2012 that were funded through state traffic grants. It is unclear how much of his total overtime pay was included in those grants.
Special events incurring overtime, such as the Tomahawk Fall Ride, also often are eligible for reimbursement, Hardel said.
The city is expected in February to vote on whether to add an officer funded by grant money from the Judd S. Alexander Foundation, but that position is unlikely to have an effect on overtime expenses, Hardel said.
“That new officer won’t be on patrol,” he said. “There won’t be a specific sector assigned. The new officer will be working throughout the whole city to address specific problems. While that fills a need we have, (the position) won’t eliminate overtime.”
Michael Loy, human resources director for the city of Wausau, said less than 10 percent of the Wausau Police Department’s $3.5 million annual payroll is paid in overtime. That rate is supported by the Gannett Wisconsin Media salary database, which shows that police officers and supervisors in the department totaled $238,000 in overtime and other extra pay in 2011.
Some overtime is unavoidable and makes fiscal sense, Hardel said, because paying existing employees overtime costs less than hiring new officers. Loy said benefit packages typically represent an additional 50 percent of salaries.
“Benefits are enormously expensive,” Loy said. “We have to take that into consideration.”
City of Wausau equipment lead operator Allyn Mathwich also landed on the top 10 list of overtime earners for 2011. Loy said overtime for this position is weather-dependent and difficult to predict. A lead operator is the person called in to lead snow-removal operations and ensure proper staffing for city road crews whenever a snowstorm hits the area.
“Could we change overtime rules in that department? Sure,” Loy said. “But the fraction of savings we would see is not worth the change in service. Everything has a cost-benefit analysis.”
New approach in Weston
Two Weston employees were among the top 10 overtime earners for 2011 among all employees of the village and the city of Wausau. Craig Groshek and John Borth both are utility operators for the village. Weston Administrator Daniel Guild said utility workers have a wide range of duties that include taking required daily samples of public water supplies and addressing water main problems.
“A pipe freezes; a water main breaks; we’ve got a sewer problem; these are the guys that are getting called out when that happens,” Guild said. “Some of that is weather-related, and some of it you just can’t avoid.”
Borth said he and other utility operators incur overtime because one of the village’s four workers always is on call.
“It isn’t that we’re looking for the overtime, but things happen that need immediate attention,” Borth said. “That’s where the overtime comes from.”
Significant changes are expected in Weston in 2014 with the implementation of a strategic plan that calls for condensing three separate departments into a single unit, Guild said.
“Our strategic plan is, I believe, going to take a much different approach to how we manage and how we train employees, and that will have an impact on overtime,” he said.
Under Guild’s proposed plan, employees will be cross-trained on a variety of tasks to better provide services without incurring overtime costs. Future overtime expenses, Guild said, will be spread out within the organization.
“In the past, the idea was that you hired men and women, found work for them, and everyone had their own set of tools and their own specific job to do,” he said. “In the future, local governments are going to have to look at tasks, prioritize them and assign people to complete those tasks. We’ll be expecting people to accomplish a little bit of everything.”