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Council removes staff assessor



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January 12, 2011 | 09:02 AM
A third City Council vote regarding the city's assessor meant bad news for Grace Lininger.

On Monday, the council voted 6-2 in favor of removing Lininger, the current assessor who has worked for the city for more than 21 years.

Instead, the city will contract with Accurate Appraisals, a firm which will act as an independent contractor providing assessment services. Although there was no discussion Monday night prior to the removal of Lininger, aldermen previously stated the issue had nothing to do with Lininger's work. Elected officials stated it was all about cost savings for the taxpayers of the city of Lake Geneva.

Also, according to city officials, Lake Geneva was one of the few municipalities which still had an on staff assessor. Most municipalities contract with an assessor for yearly work and revaluations.

However, some officials voiced concern about not having someone in the office or readily available by phone.

City Attorney Dan Draper said Monday night part of the contract with Accurate Appraisals, which is located in Appleton, includes office time at City Hall and telephone availability to property owners at no additional cost to the city.

Lininger was not at City Hall Tuesday morning for comment on her removal. City Administrator Dennis Jordan said she called him earlier and said she did not need to come in because she didn't have anything at City Hall she needed to pack up.

With salary, benefits and other costs related to the office of the assessor, the cost to the city has been more than $90,000 per year. In 2005, the total was the most at $101,483. This past year, the wages for the assessor total $60,136, add in $17,913 for health insurance, $15,850 for other costs and the total was $93,899.

According to numbers provided by staff, the city will save $18,906 in the first year, by contracting with Accurate Appraisals.

The saving in the second year would be $40,961. The final two years, it would be $50,399 per year and that same amount each year after. That would mean the total saving for the four-year contract would be $160,665.

In the fifth year, the cost would be between $35,000 and $40,000. The city would be saving at minimum $53,899 per year starting the fifth year and have a 100 percent valuation each year.

However, Alderwoman Mary Jo Fesenmaier, who voted against Lininger's removal all three times, including Monday night, previously said she didn't believe a city employee should be removed without talking about it with staff. She also said last month she believed those savings numbers aren't up to date. Alderwoman Arleen Krohn also voted against the removal Monday.

Last month, the Regional News obtained a letter Lininger penned on Nov. 18 to the mayor and the council. In it, she stated a taxpayer informed her in April she was being replaced. She wrote that "no one from the city has approached me about being replaced or how to possibly cut costs in the department."

Lininger wrote that she has been a city resident since 1971 and taxpayer since 1977, stated she has been a dedicated employee for more than 21 years. She stated in the letter she was willing to make some adjustments in order to keep her position. She stated she would eliminate her health insurance, which would save the city $17,000; negotiate a possible wage reduction and eliminate $6,500 for help performing the commercial appraisals.

The letter has not been discussed in detail at any council meeting or during considerations of Lininger's removal.

However, Jordan said Tuesday he has discussed the possible removal with Lininger.

On Nov. 22, four days after the letter was written, the council voted 5-2 in favor of removing the staff assessor. Six votes are needed to remove the appointed position. It was the second time a similar motion failed. During the Dec. 13 meeting, the council agreed to again reconsider removal of Lininger.

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