MARINETTE - The Marinette Water and Wastewater Utilities commissions made a first step toward remedying their budget issues at a joint meeting Monday afternoon.
Kathy Cleven, Marinette's finance director, presented the commissions with overtime and budget overviews to give them an eagle's eye view of the water utility's entire financial situation.
Cleven has been looking through the water utility's finances to form a working budget for the commission to look at during its meetings. This is the first budget the water utility has had for the past five years.
The end result of her efforts was a total budget of $2,038,269.82 for the Marinette Water Utility to work with and an employee overtime budget of $71,904.73.
By July 31, the water utility had spent $1,246,196.21 total, leaving $792,073.61 for the remainder of the year.
Overtime payments were at $94,346.79 by Aug. 9, with $31,065.70 going to the office staff and $63,281.09 going to the operational employees.
According to Cleven, the office staff had not worked any overtime for the past week and a half. Water Utility office employees are currently required to give Cleven prior notice of any overtime they think they'll use and receive her approval.
The commission members asked Cleven about the negative effects of restricting overtime for office employees.
"There is going to be quagmires, but everyone is going to have to work together," she replied. "Some tasks are going to have to continue to be given to some of the other people in the office. When you look at the cash flow for the water utility, something has to be done."
This being their first budget, Cleven gave the commissions two versions of it at the meeting Monday afternoon. The papers represented the same information, but it was shown in different ways.
"I want you to give me feedback on the format of these budgets," she said. "These are, essentially, for you so I need to format these in a way that is easy for you to digest."
While many of the commission members and members of the public who attended the meeting expressed confusion at the information, Jeff Zeratsky said he was impressed with Cleven's work.
"I think the breakdown is good with not too much information," he said. "It's good to have a budget that we can look over now."
Cleven urged the commissions' members to give their opinions as well and to point out anything they think should be fixed or would like more information on.
"Everything should be on the table and looked at," she said.
The Water & Wastewater Utilities budgeting issues were brought to light during a joint meeting Aug. 6 between the Marinette City Council members and Water Utility and Wastewater commissioners when Mayor Denise Ruleau revealed that the utilities were $1.5 million in debt to the city. The debt was caused by a series of events leading the utilities to cease reimbursements to the city for stormwater and refuse fees since the end of the 2011 year.
This issue led to a deeper investigation into the financial situation of the Water & Wastewater Utilities. This investigation revealed that the utilities had not had a formal budget since 2008 which led to some mishandling of utility funds.
"It became very apparent that monitoring the cash and the cash flow was not being done," Cleven said at the Aug. 6 meeting. "You're basically functioning from one period to another period without too much of an idea to what your long-term forecast is going to be."
At the time, council and commission members were shocked by the information and did not take any action on the issue. Both Cleven and Ruleau presented several steps that could be taken toward solving the utilities' debt.
There will be another joint meeting Sept. 9 at 5:30 p.m. in the Water Utility conference room between the Marinette City Council and the Water Utility and Wastewater commissions with auditor Thomas Karman in attendance to discuss the issue.