New residency requirements for some city workers

Published On: Jul 21 2011 06:19:44 PM CDT   Updated On: Jul 21 2011 05:38:41 PM CDT
New residency requirements for some city workers

The La Crosse City Council has decided that if you work for the city and use taxpayer money to run city functions, you should have to live in the city too. Starting Aug. 1 any non-union hires will be required to live within city limits if they want a city job.

For years now new city workers have been required to live in La Crosse, but they've been allowed to move out of the city after three years on the job. According to these new rules, non-union city workers must live in La Crosse for the duration of their employment.

Critics of the residency requirement say it will limit the pool of qualified applicants the city can draw from, even more than the current three year requirement already has.

"I can think of multiple times, say in the last five years, where we've gotten into interviews and actually have had candidates where you say, you know, you understand there is residency. And that completely changed their mind," says Water and Sewer Utilities manager Mark Johnson.

People in favor of the change say city employees that reside within the city itself are better able to empathize with its residents and understand the city's problems. Mayor Matt Harter hopes the residency requirements will also help boost the city's dwindling property values.

"That will overall raise the median income of the city. Therefore that will help us overcome declining property values and the tendency of the middle class to move outside of the city of La Crosse," says Mayor Harter.

But the impact of these new requirements might be limited. With the budget the way it is, many city departments aren't looking to hire anytime soon.

"The hiring process right now is uncertain at best. We're going through looking at the 2012 budget. Each department has basically been asked to reevaluate their vacancies and their staffing needs," says Public Works manager Dale Hexom.

The city of La Crosse has about 80 non-union positions, which range from engineers to clerical workers. Right now these new residency requirements only apply to non-union workers. But Mayor Harter says, in the future, he'd like to see it on the table for all city employees, including union workers. He wants residency requirements to become part of union contract negotiations in 2013.

Applicants will not have to be La Crosse residents to apply for a city job, but they will have to agree to become residents if they accept the job. The city can grant a temporary residency waiver to give new hires time to move.