Budget and Tax Levy
The City's budgeted spending represents a $10.6 million increase over 2018 at $149.7 million. The portion coming from property taxes is $43.5 million, an increase of $300,000, primarily coming from increased values of new construction. The tax levy itself will be $8.03 per thousand, down from $9.26 last year.
Budget amendments passed by the Council included the following:
- $25,000 to hire an outside consultant to plan for the establishment of a Participatory Budgeting program, described as "a democratic process in which community members decide how to spend part of a public budget." To offset this increase, the Police Department budget for parking enforcement is reduced by $25,000. Proposed by Andrew Werthmann and Catherine Emmanuelle.
- $35,700 to provide additional funding for a Smart Housing Program, in cooperation with local landlords, aimed at helping people with an eviction or a criminal conviction on their records get education and be certified as responsible tenants. To offset this increase, funding for the extended defibrillator warranty in the Fire Department budget is reduced by $27,700 and funding for the ice edger at Hobbs Ice Center in the “Non-Departmental” budget is reduced by $8,000. Proposed by Andrew Werthmann.
- Adding $179,800 to the Library budget to add two positions to improve safety in the building, boost literacy outreach and help serve the city’s low-income population. To offset this increase, the Finance Department budget for courier services is reduced by $4,500 and the General Fund budget for Contractual Services is reduced by $175,300. Proposed by Emily Anderson and Catherine Emmanuelle. Passed in a 6-4 vote. Voting Yes were Emily Anderson, Kate Beaton, Emily Berge, Catherine Emmanuelle, Andrew Werthmann, and Michael Xiong. Voting No were Jill Christopherson, Jeremy Gragert, Dave Strobel and Terry Weld.
- Using about $5,000 to fund hospitality improvement opportunities in the Council Chambers in the remodeled City Hall when it opens next summer. Proposed by Catherine Emmanuelle.
Other items passed by the Council included:
Carbon Fee Resolution
Calls upon Congress to recognize the scientific evidence of climate change and urges Congress to act by adopting a revenue-neutral fee on certain fossil fuels. Passed 9-1 with Dave Strobel voting no.
Family Members at Public Meetings
Authorizing members of City Council and other City of Eau Claire public bodies to bring non-disruptive children, family members or others to be seated with the member during public meetings. Passed 7-3 with Yes votes from Emily Anderson, Kate Beaton, Emily Berge, Jill Christopherson, Jeremy Gragert and Andrew Werthman; No votes from Dave Strobel, Terry Weld and Michael Xiong.
Keeping of Poultry
Residents will be permitted to keep up to five hens for personal use only. Sets minimum health, sanitation and safety standards for coops and poultry. Prohibits commercial sale of poultry and eggs. Provides that all property owners within 100 feet of the applicant’s property will be provided notice of the applicant’s intent to keep poultry. Owners of abutting property may object to the issuance of a license; City Council would then determine whether or
not to grant the license. Passed 8-2 vote with Strobel and Weld voting No.
Penalties for Possession of Marijuana
Citing the recent advisory referendum where a majority of Eau Claire County residents favored marijuana legalization, Andrew Werthmann proposed to reduce the range of penalties for possession of marijuana from $100-$500 to $1. Additionally, the amendments would create a new class of forfeitures applicable only to possession of marijuana at $1 plus all applicable court costs which with mandatory state costs totals an issued citation of $138.76. The current local forfeiture amount is $300, which totals with costs a $515.50 citation.
During debate, Council Member Terry Weld proposed changing the fine to $125, still a reduction from current levels but enough, he argued, to make the total $295 with court costs an incentive for offenders to opt for a $250 diversion program. After a significant amount of discussion, the amendment failed on a 5-5 vote, with Yes votes for the higher fine from Emily Berge, Jill Christopherson, Dave Strobel, Terry Weld and Michael Xiong. No vote for a lower fine were Emily Anderson, Kate Beaton, Catherine Emmanuelle, Jeremy Gragert, and Andrew Werthmann.
Without the amendment, final passage of the measure as proposed was 8-2, with only Strobel and Weld voting No.
Correction: The November 26 Business Advocate incorrectly listed the total city budget as $76.6 million, which was only the amount of the General Fund Budget. The total City budget will all entities is $146.7 million.
Monday Agenda Packet (7 p.m. Public Hearing)
Tuesday Agenda Packet (4 p.m. Legislative session; packet includes budget information and amendments)
Video recording of City Council meetings (Valley Media Works)
New library jobs get into budget (Leader-Telegram)
Speakers offer differing views at budget hearing (Leader-Telegram)
City council approves budget, keeping hens, $1 pot fine (WEAU TV 13 News)
Eau Claire City Council passes chicken-keeping ordinance, lower pot fines, dais changes, and city budget (WQOW News 18)
UPDATE: Eau Claire City Council Votes to Allow Urban Chickens (Volume One)
Posted by Scott Rogers, Governmental Affairs & Workforce Director