Dane County living wage increase

Rabbi Renee Bauer stands with Dane County Board supervisors and others outside the City-County Building Thursday, introducing an ordinance amendment that would raise the living wage for county employees and service providers to $15 per hour.

As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced backing for a $15 minimum wage across the state Thursday, Dane County officials announced an amendment to raise the living wage to $15 for county employees and county-funded jobs.

“If you work, you should be able to afford to live in the city where you work,” Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner said at a press conference introducing the ordinance amendment Thursday.

If approved, the living wage change would go into effect for some people Jan. 1, 2016, raising it from a projected $11.66 under the current formula. Raising the wage for human services department purchase-of-service providers, however, would have to wait until the county receives relief from the state levy limits.

Supervisor John Hendricks said that category includes more than 1,000 employees currently making about $12 per hour who would benefit from the increase.

That increase would depend either on changes in state statute or a levy cap referendum, which Hendricks said supervisors are considering in order to be able to include increases in the 2017 budget.

“If they work hard and they work full-time, they should not be living in poverty,” Hendricks said.

The living wage ordinance applies to employees who are directly involved in providing services through a contract with the county, including general labor, clerical work, janitorial work, security, food service, human services contracts, personal care and home care work.

The measure currently sets the living hourly wage at 100 percent of the poverty level divided by 2,080 (the number of working hours in a year; 40 hours per week times 52 weeks) . This amendment would raise that to 129 percent divided by 2,080.

Hendricks said he did not know how many employees would benefit from the Jan. 1 increase, if approved.

Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, also spoke at the press conference Thursday, urging legislators to at least hold a public hearing on her proposed bill to hike Wisconsin’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“I realize it’s not going to be quick or easy, but it is the will of the people,” Sargent said.

Evette Gardner, a 27-year-old assistant manager at Family Dollar, said she only makes $9.50 an hour, which is not enough to support her family.

“I just really wish that everybody could listen to what Madison and the group behind me is trying to say,” Gardner said, referencing the approximately 20 people standing behind her. The group included other activists, County Board supervisors and local hip-hop artist and activist Rob Dz.

The Dane County ordinance will likely be introduced at the County Board’s meeting next week and will go through committees before returning to the board for final approval.

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