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Town of Waukesha Board disagrees on budget amendments

Will discuss again at next meeting

March 5, 2013

Last week's Town of Waukesha Board meeting that highlighted its audit and budget amendments allowed residents to see where the Town of Waukesha stands on its finances.

The 2012 budget amendment draft showed that the town is under budget on a number of items, including road repairs and other maintenance by close to $295,500, and that the net total under spent was around $250,000.

Because of its under spending, the town has about $123,700 to move to the 2013 budget and another $127,000 for future capital items. The draft also showed how the town has $157,000 in expenditures over budget, including close to $104,000 in legal fees.

But the meeting, which lasted 3.5 hours, also showed how the board has struggled interacting with one another for a number of months as well as the division within the town with an election less than four weeks away.

Despite Renee Messing, a partner with the auditing firm of CliftonLarsonAllen, which conducted the town's audit, giving the town a clean audit, Supervisors Brian Fischer and Everett German voted against approving the budget amendments.

Since four votes are needed to pass this resolution it failed. It will again be discussed at the town's next meeting scheduled for March 14. Fischer and German said that according to town ordinance they believe that the town can not spend money that has not been appropriated and go into the general fund.

Van Scyoc clears air

Their disapproval sent off a feisty exchange between the chairwoman and Fischer.

Van Scyoc said, citing an email from an assistant legal counsel for the Wisconsin Towns Association, budget amendments have no timeline because "such a notion is impossible in practice."

"You are stopping the town from moving forward," Van Scyoc said. "We can not close out our books until our work is done.

"Why can't we just move on? What do you object to?"

Fischer fired back in a tense discussion that lasted more than 40 minutes.

"I guess what I object to is the demeaning kind of attitude," he said. "I respect your prerogative to disagree with me but that doesn't give you the opportunity to personally attack me. I don't think doing a budget amendment at this time accomplishes anything other than to make us feel good."

Fischer added that he believed the town was "too late to be doing major budget amendments and too soon to be doing re-appropriation."

"Our fiscal year ended (Dec. 31) and attempting to amend it two months after our fiscal year ended is an ill-timed farce. A budget is a before-the-fact plan, not an after-the-fact gimmick to cover your hindquarters."

Van Scyoc called Fischer's reasoning "a misguided approach" and that "it is not a service to the Town of Waukesha to not handle the financial matters in an appropriate way."

Delaying process

The chairwoman said that while the town's budget amendment process is ahead of schedule, the supervisors are still delaying the process.

"It needs to be done," Van Scyoc said. "We should be doing it proactively. I'm disappointed by the positioning the two of you are taking. I don't think it's in the best interest of the Town of Waukesha.

"We have our audit done and it's a clean audit and we're ready to put our money where it needs to be, including the capital plan which this organization has never had."

Fischer took issue with that statement.

"I got the (draft) this afternoon," Fischer said. "We're making important decisions. I'm not prepared to do this at the whim. That's not good policy. So don't take that personally. But for someone to digest this at the meeting, I don't think that's a very good way to budget or plan the future of the Town of Waukesha."

Van Scyoc said she isn't taking it personal, but that "it's the business of the town that's at risk."

Referencing legal fees

Before this exchange, during the open-forum, the legal fee expense was highlighted. Supervisor Joe Banske said the litigation with the Town of Brookfield's proposed incorporation, which cost $131,615 in legal fees in 2012 after only costing about $29,000 in 2011, was the reason for the over expenditure.

"I didn't anticipate the Town of Brookfield would go through such gymnastic-like efforts to throw us out of the right to be an intervener," Banske said. "It was a very expensive fight that we could not see coming."

While Fischer called the Town of Brookfield a good fight, he said because the Town of Waukesha has used seven attorneys for legal services last year he noted there is "a lot of duplication, a lot of inefficiency, which drives up the cost."

But Van Scyoc said that all approvals come before the Town Board and that one was approved because Fischer didn't take the advice of the town's own legal counsel.

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