July 25, 2008

Are Racine Concert Band members city employees?

Are members of the Racine Concert Band city employees?

The answer to that question is a puzzler for city attorneys, officials and even the band itself. It could also have important ramifications for the band, which has been playing community concerts for 88 years.

At issue, like it seems almost everything these days, is liability. The concert band uses city vehicles to move its equipment to concerts. If the band gets into an accident, or has its thousands of dollars worth of instruments stolen, is the city liable?

If the band members are considered city employees, the answer may be yes. But in some ways, it's clear the band members do work for Racine. For starters, they're paid by the city and get a W-2 every year. Also, the band was originally called the "Park Board Band" and was part of the city's parks department.

But the arrangement is unsual. Should the city be counting the band members as employees? A better designation may be independent contractors, but that would require a different tax form, according to city officials. The city could also give the band a lump-sum payment and have it pay its members.

The City Attorney's office is reviewing the issue and should bring a report to the Personnel and Finance Committee's next meeting.

In the meantime, you can go see the Racine Concert Band on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at the Racine Zoo. The concert, directed by Mark Eichner, is free.

The Racine Concert Band has played 1,400 free concerts since 1923, and has been named one of the top 10 community bands in the U.S.

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