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State Bar to consider $30/year dues increase

By: Eric Heisig//January 23, 2014//

State Bar to consider $30/year dues increase

By: Eric Heisig//January 23, 2014//

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A proposal to increase dues by $30 a year, starting in July, will be presented to the State Bar of Wisconsin’s governing body Jan. 31.

The increase would net the bar $592,620 for fiscal year 2014-15, according to a three-page memo attributed to Nick Vivian, chair of the bar’s finance committee. That money is needed to balance the bar’s proposed $12,002,812 budget for fiscal year 2014-15.

Without the dues increase, the memo states, the bar would be more than $500,000 short of what its proposed needs are for the next year.

Full dues currently amount to $224 a year, but that goes up to $460 with mandatory court assessments.

The increase would be the first since 2005, though the topic has come up several times in the years since. Rather than raising dues, the bar last year chose to dip into its reserve accounts to make budget.

No vote is yet scheduled on the proposal.

The budget proposal, up for discussion by the Board of Governors on Jan. 31, calls for a 4 percent raise for bar staff members, as well as to hire more personnel for the bar’s continuing legal education programs and its practice management help division. The bar still would dip into its reserve accounts, the memo states, though it would not take as much as it did for the FY 2013-14 budget.

“An increase in membership dues allows [the bar] to remain financially stable,” the memo states, “and in a position to better address the needs of its members into the future.”

Vivian did not immediately return a phone call for comment.

However, the memo attributed to him states that the bar has “trimmed expenses and eliminated waste through careful planning, electronic delivery of most publications and continuous cost controls through renegotiating contracts.”

It also states that Wisconsin’s dues are the second lowest in comparison to bars in other Midwest states, and that member services have “significantly expanded” since 2005.

“Were the Committee not to recommend a dues increase,” the memo states, “it would have been required to recommend significant cuts to major programs and would not have been in a position to recommend any salary adjustments for staff.

“The Committee determined these alternatives to be undesirable and not appropriate at this time.”

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