Rhinelander finance committee gets first look at department budgets
By Eileen Persike
Rhinelander City Administrator Daniel Guild ended his first day of work Monday at the city Finance, Wage and Salary Committee meeting. The committee heard the first slate of 2019 budget presentations which included the Rhinelander Oneida County Airport, Rhinelander Police Department and Rhinelander Fire and Inspection Departments.
This is the first budget for recently-hired Rhinelander Airport Director Matthew Leitner, whose request of the city is $197,081.
“We’ve been doing more with less like a lot of public agencies have,” Leitner said. “When it comes to making up the difference we have been working with our partners at the airport, namely the airline and our (fixed base operator), Rhinelander Flying Service to obtain additional funding necessary to keep the airport open.”
He noted it is a “minimalist budget” which is proactive and includes provisions for “things we foresee will need attention in the relatively near future.” One of those projects is to expand the secure area of the airport toward the former restaurant, and add restrooms. Leitner said he expects that work to be done next year.
The airport is not just the airline, Leitner emphasized.
“We support a lot of activity, we have flight instruction, we have general aviation, we have corporate traffic, med flights, cargo, we have all that kind of stuff out there,” he said. “It’s a big, big part of our community, our county, our region and I think it warrants the support were asking for.”
Police Chief Lloyd Gauthier told the committee that when he became chief, he met with city attorney Carrie Miljevich and then-city administrator Keith Kost to find out what their expectations were of him as the new chief. “And it was very clear that their expectation was for the department to be financially responsible with our budget.”
Gauthier said last year his department returned “a significant amount of money” to the city and he anticipates the 2019 budget of $2,251,482 will be 1.9 percent lower than the current budget.
Gauthier expects to see savings in the electricity portion of the police department’s utility bill next year due to a change to LED lights, a move that was approved by the council. Additional savings would come in recruitment and vehicle expenses, by budgeting “realistically.” Areas of increase include building repair and maintenance.
“We have a 40-year-old building that has been nickel and diming us,” Gauthier said. “Last year we cleaned the air vents. Those are things, getting the carpet cleaned; trying to get that environment healthy for our employees, that pays off on the other end so we don’t have to pay cost for health care and that sort of thing.”
The Police Department budget also includes the DARE program and the K9 unit, both of which receive community contributions and donations to help offset costs.
Calling it the “elephant in the room,” Rhinelander Fire Chief Terry Williams began his presentation with an $8,500 increase in the overtime line of his 2019 budget, which he said was calculated on an eight-year average. Like Gauthier, Williams is projecting lower energy costs due to a change to LED lights, as well as a new roof and additional insulation.
Williams is seeking $2,117,509 for the fire and inspection departments for 2019. That’s an 8.72 percent increase over 2018. The fire chief also oversees an ambulance special revenue fund, health officer, hazardous materials and tank inspection budgets.
Other city budget presentations will include the Rhinelander District Library and Streets.