As a representative on the Monona City Council, I view it as my responsibility to help ensure Monona is a great place to live, work, and play for all its residents, businesses and visitors. This also applies to the amazing employees who keep Monona moving.

Unfortunately, in a city like Monona with limited resources, it’s inevitable that we will lose current and prospective employees because of salary. Are there other ways to retain and recruit talented employees? What benefits can Monona provide that set us apart? Is there a cost-effective strategy to put our money where our values are?

On March 2, 2020, the Monona City Council approved the final piece of a policy that enacts two weeks of paid family leave and paid family care for all city employees. Paid family leave provides paid leave for the birth, adoption or foster care of a child, while paid family care offers time to care for a close family member with an acute or unexpected serious medical situation. Until now, city employees had to deplete their vacation and sick time to be with family in these situations.

I proposed this policy for three reasons.

First, I wanted to ensure city employees would not have to use all their paid time off to attend to critical family matters. These are important moments in one’s life. As a community, we should not force our employees to choose between family and getting paid.

Second, employee recruitment and retention is so important. With a staff of highly talented individuals across city departments, Monona has to worry about employees leaving for better-paying jobs in neighboring communities. While we’re not always able to match higher salaries, adding a benefit not provided by other municipalities gives us some advantage. A few of our neighbors offer paid family leave, but Monona is now the only local municipality offering paid family care.

Third, and most importantly, we want to care for our employees as people – parents, partners, children, etc. – both at work and at home. With this benefit, we hope to help alleviate stress during critical life events for all our employees. Our employees work hard and do great work for our community, and we want them to know they are valued.

As with most initiatives, cost is an important factor, but I believe it is far outweighed by the benefit to our employees and the strengthening of our city. We were able to estimate cost by utilizing Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) data from 2008-2017. We found an average of four Monona employees per year used FMLA policies to take an average of four weeks of leave each for some form of family care. Based on this historical data, we estimated it would cost the city $11,894 annually to provide this benefit. Since the implementation of the paid family leave policy in early 2019, six employees have utilized the benefit, costing the city $1,834 to date. I consider this a success in just a short period of time.

Monona is in a unique position to lead by example, something I’ve touted for a long time. This policy is only one small step in the right direction, but I felt it was an important one to take. Without the federal or state government taking the lead, communities like Monona can and should step up to do what’s right. As a community, we value people and families, and we want to reflect those values in what we do and the way we treat our employees, who are so important to the city’s success. I am proud the city council agreed it was important to reflect these values in our budget, continuing to make our great city an amazing place to live, work, and play.

Andrew Kitslaar is a member of the Monona City Council.

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