Written by BILL SCHANEN IV
Wednesday, 06 June 2012 18:37
Promising budget gives PW-S District room to negotiate pay under new law
A Port Washington-Saukville School District that has slashed employee benefit costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars is poised now to focus on negotiating employee wages.
Although the School Board and Port Washington-Saukville Education Association have yet to open negotiations because of confusion about the state law regulating public employee compensation, the proposed 2012-13 budget can accommodate pay increases, Supt. Michael Weber said. The board will also have to negotiate wages with the union representing secretaries and paraprofessionals.
“We have a group of teachers stuck at step one that we need to move off there. They need to see an increase,” Weber said. “We want to continue to attract and retain strong teachers because that’s what makes the difference in the classroom.”
The current starting salary for teachers is $36,877, Weber said.
A hearing on the proposed budget will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday, June 11, at the District Office, 100 W. Monroe St., Port Washington.
Act 10, the controversial state law that prompted Tuesday’s failed recall of Gov. Scott Walker, stripped public employees of the right to negotiate benefits but permits them to bargain for wages. Wage increases, however, are capped at an amount not to exceed the consumer price index, which measures inflation.
But how wage increase caps are to be calculated and what components of raises are subject to negotiation was unclear until Tuesday, when the district received clarification on these issues, Weber said.
The district must first calculate a base wage, then multiply it by the consumer price index, which is currently 3.16%, Weber said.
The overall salary increase and how that increase is distributed throughout the pay scale is subject to negotiations with unions, he said.
“We want to attract and retain the best teachers, but salary is only one component of staying power,” Weber said. “The biggest factors are job satisfaction and working environment, and we’re leaders in those areas.
“All of this is very manageable in the proposed budget, which puts the district in very good financial shape.”
Although Act 10 was enacted last year, it will not affect most district employees until July 1. That is because teachers, as well as secretaries and paraprofessionals, are working under contracts until June 30, when the agreements expire.
Teachers were granted a one-year contract extension in April 2011, shortly before Act 10 was enacted. That contract contained several concessions, including a partial pay freeze that allowed increases only for educational advancements.
Board members said the contract extension would give them a year to draft an employee handbook to replace the contract and overhaul benefits in a new post-collective bargaining era.
Last month, the board took its most significant step in that direction by ending its long-term relationship with WEA Trust, the insurance carrier associated with the state’s largest teachers union, and giving its roughly $4.5 million worth of health insurance business to Humana.
The change in carriers and benefits is expected to reduce the total insurance premium by $919,000 next school year. Most of that savings — at least $700,000 — is expected to be realized by the district, which pays 87% of the premium for most employees. The balance of that savings will benefit employees, most of whom pay 13% of their premiums, and retirees, whose health insurance benefits are frozen at retirement.
Under the new insurance plan, employee premiums, which are now $100 and $200 for single and family coverage, respectively, will increase to $500 and $1,000. The new plan also introduces a $20 co-pay for office visits and increases the co-pays for urgent care and emergency room services.
Also last month, the board reduced the benefit that pays employees cash in lieu of health insurance benefits.
Currently, employees who opt not to be covered by the district health insurance plan receive an annual payment equal to the district’s portion of the single coverage premium, which is $8,380. Beginning July 1, employees are eligible for a cash payment of $5,400.
The board also changed the criteria for the cash payment eligibility. Employees will have to work at least 80% of full time to qualify for the benefit, even though those who work 60% qualify for prorated health benefits. Currently, employees who work as little as 50% qualify for a prorated cash in lieu of insurance benefits.
In addition, the cash option will be eliminated for employees whose spouses also work for the district. Currently four employees who are covered by the district insurance also receive the cash in lieu payment because their spouses are district employees.
The board also eliminated cash in lieu of insurance payments for retired teachers and hourly workers beginning in 2013.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 30 May 2012 17:59
Port Historical Society poised to acquire building and convert it to museum
The Port Washington Historical Society was expected to buy the historic Business Man’s Club building in downtown Port Wednesday, Society President Jackie Oleson said.
“It’s a big day for us,” she said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s pretty awesome.”
Two weeks ago, plans to renovate the facade of the building at 118 N. Franklin St. were approved by the city’s Plan Commission.
Members were enthusiastic about the project and its anticipated effect on the downtown.
“I think this is awesome,” commission member Ron Voigt said May 17. “Having someone who wants to invest in this kind of work is awesome.”
An anonymous donor is providing the funds for the Port Washington Historical Society to buy and refurbish the structure, recreating its original facade.
“The schematic is impressive,” Mayor Tom Mlada, chairman of the commission, said as the panel reviewed a rendering of the building. “It goes a long way in caring for the rich history of our city.”
Architect Mike Ehrlich told the commission much of the facade was destroyed when the building was incorporated into the neighboring bank building decades ago. Any stonework that jutted out was cut off when metal panels resembling the white facade of the bank were installed, he said.
The society, Ehrlich said, is intent on restoring that work.
“So much has been destroyed,” he said. “The details are extremely intricate in the stonework. We’re looking to remake all of it.”
However, he said, the goal is not to make the building look newly renovated.
“The idea is not to make it look brand new but to look aged,” Ehrlich said.
Construction is expected to begin in late summer or early fall and take nine to 12 months to complete, he said.
The improvements to the building and those being made at the neighboring Schooner Pub will complement changes the city is contemplating making to the alley between the structures, Ehrlich said.
“One thing that will be kind of integral is the alley improvements and making it more of a pedestrian walkway,” he said.
When completed, the building will have 3,500 square feet devoted to interpretive exhibits as well as an area devoted to educational programs.
The Historical Society also plans to purchase the building at 205 N. Franklin St. immediately south of the former Lueptow’s Furniture store.
The society is about $45,000 away from its $350,000 goal to purchase and renovate that building, Oleson said. That purchase is expected to be completed Aug. 31, with interior renovations completed this fall and occupancy by the end of the year.
“Hopefully, we can raise the funds earlier than this fall and get started on that ahead of schedule,” she said.
That building will house the Society’s offices, archives and resource center. There will also be a small display area in the building.
Written by Ozaukee Press
Wednesday, 23 May 2012 18:47
Fifth annual community celebration will feature music, vendors and more
The fifth annual Port Washington Community Street Festival will be held from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 27.
Franklin Street will be closed off for the festival, which is a celebration of the community and its downtown.
“This is a great opportunity for people to support their local businesses,” said Cathy Wilger, chairman of the festival’s organizing committee.
This year’s event will include many of the attractions found in previous years — booths by city businesses, a bounce house, chalk drawings, face painting, a Port Washington Firer Department truck, the police department’s DARE vehicle and children’s games.
The Disney princesses — including Cinderella, Belle, Jasmine and Mary Poppins and perhaps Snow White — will be on hand from 1 to 4 p.m. outside Pear & Simple, and a princess boutique will be set up next door so youngsters can primp for their visit with royalty, Wilger said.
A hole-in-one contest will be held in Rotary Park throughout the day. Golfers will try their hand at hitting a ball onto a hole set in a boat in the west slip.
The Port Washington Yacht Club will be offering free boat rides throughout the festival, with a shuttle taking people from Franklin Street to the marina, Wilger said.
Port Washington Main Street, which sponsors the festival, will begin to participate in foursquare, where people can check in using their smartphones to accumulate points for various rewards, Excutive Director Sara Grover said.
In addition, Main Street will begin selling naming rights to the trees, planters, bike racks and benches that line Franklin Street, she said. The street festival began when Franklin Street was reconstructed and amenities like these were placed along it.
More than 70 vendors, including businesses and service clubs, will line Franklin Street to sell a variety of items, including children’s books, fresh produce, plants and baked goods.
Duluth Trading Co., which will open in the Smith Bros. Marketplace building, will have a booth, as will the Port Washington Historical Society, which is purchasing two downtown buildings for its archives and a museum.
Northern Cross Science Foundation will set up telescopes so people can safely view the sun, she said.
Ozaukee Sports Center will offer laser tag, and a number of city restaurants will have their specialties on hand for purchase.
A full lineup of entertainment will be part of the festival. Wilger said that at the Performing Arts Stage in front of Port Washington State Bank, Port Washington High School’s award winning a capella group Limited Edition will perform at 12:30 p.m. followed by Impact Dance from 1:30 to 3 p.m. and Lake Shore Dance from 3:30 to 4 p.m.
Otto Day and the Nites will play at the South Stage beginning at 1 p.m. and Soul Kitchen will be at the north stage beginning at 12:30 p.m.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 16 May 2012 17:52
Ozaukee Christian School’s proposal for facility at Friedens Church sparks protests about traffic, parking
A proposal by Ozaukee Christian School to open a preschool at Friedens Church this fall hit a snag Tuesday after several neighbors objected to the use.
“It is a residential neighborhood. I’d like to protect the integrity of it,” said Stacey Berg, 431 N. Milwaukee St. “I’m concerned with traffic on a daily basis, with the noise. Our street is extremely narrow.”
Celia Shaughnessy, 425 N. Milwaukee St., concurred.
“We have a lot of children in our neighborhood,” she said, and traffic is a major concern.
Parking is another concern, added Jane Kircher, 504 Harrison St.
Principal Kris Austin said she would work with the neighbors to alleviate their concerns.
“I give you my pledge we will work with you as a good neighbor,” she told the residents during a public hearing on a conditional use permit for the preschool.
Austin told the Common Council that plans are to have two preschool classes of 10 to 12 students during the first year. If the demand is there, the preschool could expand in the future, she added.
Classes would be in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays or Tuesdays and Thursdays, she said.
Austin noted that from 1992 to 1995 Ozaukee Christian School was located in Friedens Church, 454 N. Milwaukee St.
More than 50 children attended the school then, she said.
“We didn’t, to my knowledge, have any problems with our neighbors,” she said. “We did our best and it seemed to work.”
Friedens isn’t going to be home to the preschool forever, Austin said.
“We’re not seeing this as a long-term solution,” she said.
“In our heart of hearts, we would like to bring the preschool to our school,” she said, noting that kindergarten through eighth grade classes are held in Immaculate Conception School in Saukville.
Housing the preschool and elementary classes in one building would result in significant efficiencies to their operation, Austin said.
But despite Austin’s pledge to work with the neighbors to alleviate their concerns, the neighbors were adamant.
“I appreciate that, but it doesn’t matter,” Berg said. “A daily preschool is not something I would be behind.”
Neighbors are willing to live with the noise and traffic during the annual Vacation Bible School, but regular classes during the school year are different, she noted.
“This is everyday,” Berg said.
Ald. Jim Vollmar suggested the city could place a limit on the number of students enrolled during the first year and review the conditional use permit after that time to see how it works.
Aldermen voted 5-2, with Dan Becker and Dave Larson opposing, to table action on the permit until their Wednesday, June 6, meeting. This, they said, would give school officials a chance to meet with neighbors and try to hammer out an agreement with them over the preschool.
Ald. Paul Neumyer also suggested the Police Department look at traffic concerns in the neighborhood.
“I would like to slow this down a little bit so they (the school) can talk to the neighbors and we can talk to police about the traffic,” he said.