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Sunday, March 1, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 20.0° F  Fair
The Daily
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Wisconsin municipalities brace for 'budget repair' bill changes

Now that the state Supreme Court has validated Gov. Scott Walker's "budget repair" bill, what does that mean for local municipalities?

"We're trying to figure that out too," says Curt Witynski, assistant director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

Walker's bill eliminated the right of public employees (except fire and police workers) to bargain collectively and requires them to pay more toward their pensions and health benefits.

When this change was first introduced in the spring, Witynski says, "it was supposed to take place in two weeks. That was intimidating and overwhelming."

But even though there is still uncertainty about when municipalities will have to begin deducting employee paychecks, municipalities are more prepared now.

Though surprised by how soon the Supreme Court ruled on the law, Witynski expected it to be implemented eventually, either because of a court decision or because the Legislature re-approved the law by the books.

The Department of Administration recently reported that changes will start for state employees and local municipalities will have at least until then to implement changes, Witynski says.

"I don't foresee a lot of logistical difficulties," he says, adding "especially if this doesn't commence until pay periods in August."

Brad Wirtz, Madison city's human resource director, says the city is also "waiting for guidance" from the state.

"Administratively it's not complicated," he says. "There's a big hit to employees."

Non-represented employees -- roughly 425 of 2,750 permanent employees -- will have to start paying half of their contribution to the Wisconsin Retirement System, which this year would have been about 5.8% of their pay.

Employees will also have to start paying more toward health benefits. "Things are changing by the second," Wirtz says. "We were under the impression that we had until Jan. 1" to implement changes to health benefits, but that may not be the case, he adds.

However, city employees who belong to a union will have a longer grace period: the city approved contracts with 12 unions through 2012 in February. Those contracts will be honored.

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