Dane County board chairman opposes $1,000 one-time payment for employees; says the plan was not prepared properly

MADISON, Wis. – The Dane County Finance Committee voted unanimously to deny a plan to pay full-time Dane County employees a one-time $1,000 “inflation offset” payment using funds federal Covid stimulus packages.

The move came after the plan failed to garner support from newly elected county board chairman Patrick Miles, who delivered a memo with additional information to the board on Sunday evening.

County Executive Joe Parisi had helped create the plan, and four county supervisors presented it to the board. the Wisconsin State Journal reported in April that the $3 million plan would send $1,000 checks to full-time employees and prorated payments to part-time employees, affecting 2,430 employees and some additional term employees.

“Public employees have worked around the clock since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic to provide basic services,” Parisi said in a statement to News 3 Now. “This proposed payment was an extension of gratitude for all the hours they put into helping people during the most difficult years of this generation.”

Miles said Monday, ahead of a vote on the item at a meeting of the county’s finance committee, that he did not believe Parisi exercised due diligence in creating the plan.

“The administration, in my view, hasn’t really done any type of analysis or data collection to address the long-term problem in any meaningful way,” Miles said. “They certainly did not consult any employees when developing the proposal.”

In a memo to county council members on Sunday evening, Miles said he had asked County Director of Administration Greg Brockmeyer for more information about the plan’s origins. Brockmeyer told him that there was no single payment request from an employee, group of employees or bargaining unit; nor had there been any data collection on the plan’s potential impact on issues such as employee retention.

Brockmeyer was also unaware of other Wisconsin municipalities making similar one-time payments, Miles wrote. The city of Madison tried unsuccessfully to make similar one-time inflation-adjustment payments last year using US bailout funds — at a cost of $2,661 for city workers. That wouldn’t have included employees in the police, fire, or Teamsters bargaining units, all of whom received raises in 2021. The plan was ultimately scrapped because it didn’t comply with federal rules for spending the ARPA funds, a technicality the county says was avoided in their version of the plan.

County employees got a 3% raise in January and are expected to receive another 3% raise in July.

In response to Miles’ questions to employee groups about whether they support payouts, one group’s president said he discussed payouts at a recent group leadership meeting.

“The general sentiment was that while we appreciate the impetus to share the windfalls with county employees, we also recognize that a one-time, one-time payment will not seriously address ongoing inflation,” he wrote. . “It’s also hard to see how a one-time payment in 2022 would affect recruitment in 2023 or 2024, let alone retention in those years.”

Miles said in an interview that he and a handful of other board members were getting a lot of opposition to the plan from voters in direct emails. The nearly $3 million in one-time payments would be funded by the US federal bailout law; municipalities have until 2024 to use these funds.

“If we’ve learned anything since the start of this pandemic…it’s that it’s unpredictable,” Miles said. He pointed to the need to send additional funds to the county’s Second Harvest food bank as an example of needs that may require funding in the future from ARPA. “We need to be in a position where we can be ready to respond when acute needs arise.”

The denial recommendation will be taken up by the county council.

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Elaine R. Knight