FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 1, 2004
Contact: Sharyn Wisniewski, (608) 267-8823
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk today (10/1/04) proposed the Dane County Operating and Capital Budgets for 2005.
Falk said: “The budget I propose today improves human services, enhances public safety, preserves our lakes, and controls property taxes.”
Falk stated: “The limit I try to meet on property taxes is to hold increases to the rate of population growth plus the rate of inflation. This year, population growth was 1.23% and inflation was 2.26%, for a limit of 3.49%. This budget meets that limit. The mill rate will fall from $2.89 to $2.70 per thousand dollars of assessment. Because of many variables among municipal governments within our county, it is not possible to estimate the impact of this rate on the average Dane County homeowner, so traditionally we provide that figure for the owner of an average Madison home. Under this budget, the average county property tax rate on a Madison home of $205,859 value (this year’s average) would produce an increase of $6.86.”
She continued: “While this was a tough budget, it is not as severe as last year’s. The reasons are varied. The local economy has been rebounding so that some key revenues have strengthened. The sales tax, for example, since July has resumed more normal growth. In addition, many county department heads, staff, and Board Supervisors have devoted unprecedented time and energy in working with me on this budget with great results. We have been able to identify new ways of claiming over $4 million in federal/state revenue for human services and another about $170,000 in federal IV-D money for child support, for examples. We pursued focused re-organizations in Human Services, the County Executive’s Office (including the retention of my salary cut), the County Board and Clerk’s offices, and Public Works which saved about $180,000. DOA’s budget office worked with the Sheriff to claim an additional $200,000 for the federal prisoners we hold in the jail. Our Public Works and Highway Department has reduced our fleet with substantially fewer and more efficient pieces of equipment when equipment needs replacing. Finally, a rare bit of good news about state revenue came in with a $340,000 increase in the utility plant component of shared
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revenue. We’re also seeing the results of past efforts. For example, an accelerated expansion of our methane/electricity project at the landfill will bring in an additional $160,000 in revenue.”
The amount of tax levy in the ’05 proposed budget is $100,857,647. The budget (operation and capital) totals $412,402,411; of that, the operating budget accounts for $396,033,196. Besides the tax levy, the operating budget is funded by $42,548,000 in sales tax revenue and $248,274,121 in outside or program revenues.
Falk continued: “After listening to hours of public testimony, I worked hard to maintain and improve vital human services.” She then listed some key improvements in the ’05 budget.
1. Continuation of vocational and other supportive services to young adults with developmental disabilities as they leave the public education system at age 21 and continuation of immediate services to adults who suffer serious, permanent brain injuries (cost: $115,000).
2. Improved services to the elderly with the addition of a social worker to investigate physical, mental, or financial abuse of elderly residents (cost: $53,000 annualized salary and benefits for the social worker).
3. Increased funding for the Purchase of Service (POS) agencies that are important partners in the County’s delivery of human services. One of their biggest problems is wage compression. Because direct care workers who earn more than the living wage ($9.07 in 2005) but still receive modest wages, have seldom received raises, these agencies face more turnover of staff and less reliable service for clients. The proposed budget addresses this problem by increasing funding to POS agencies with a 1% increase to workers who earn less than $13.60 an hour (in effect, a 1% COLA for these workers; cost: $410,000).
4. AODA services are sustained in the face of federal cutbacks. In particular, the Drug Court was threatened by the loss of federal grants totaling approximately $100,000. By modifying the Pathfinders program for jail inmates with AODA problems so that it is more closely integrated with the successful Halfway House program, we have reduced funding for Pathfinders, fully restored funding for the Drug Court, and fully restored funding for halfway houses. Human Services has worked with Catholic Charities, which runs the halfway houses and Pathfinders, to identify significant new revenues for the halfway houses. As a result, those services will continue at current levels (net cost: about $200,000).
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5. Increased funding to the Urban League’s very good “Fatherhood Program,” which helps young fathers become responsible parents (cost: $33,000).
Falk commented: “This budget improves public safety immediately and in the future. For all the firsts Dane County can be proud, there is one we must lose as soon as possible: Dane County must not continue to be one of the leading counties in traffic fatalities. I propose the creation of a Traffic Safety Team (TST), which will promote traffic safety by improving driver compliance with traffic regulations, especially speeding and drunk driving laws. We create the TST economically by reallocating vacant deputy positions; it will also generate revenue with the citations it issues. It still has costs (approximately $150,000) but I view this as a fundamental investment in citizen safety.”
Given the grave danger posed by intoxicated drivers, Falk noted that the budget’s continued and increased investment in Pathfinders, Drug Court, and the halfway houses directly contribute to public safety. In addition, because of the success of the cooperative pilot program for dispatching paramedics (it has already saved two lives this year), the budget continues support of the pilot program ($50,000). The budget enhances vital 911 services by adding both a full-time trainer and a new dispatcher ($122,000 annualized).
Falk then announced a new initiative and the continuation of an existing project to relieve jail overcrowding in an effective and economical fashion. They are:
1. A new contract for the yearlong lease of thirty cells in Sauk County’s new jail at a reduced rate per cell. This contract (cost: about $510,000) will significantly assist the Sheriff in reducing overcrowding and shipping costs with respect to the jail.
2. Additional funds ($500,000) are proposed in the capital budget for the continued design work (including architectural plans) for the new jail facility to house Huber prisoners, AODA programs, and inmates with mental illnesses.
Falk said: “Our lakes’ water quality is good and they offer an astounding range of fishing, swimming, and boating opportunities. But, we need to act now to preserve these resources.”
She listed the budget’s new programs to protect the lakes.
1. The capital budget contains $70,000 to fund a pilot cost-sharing program with municipalities around the Yahara chain of lakes to improve the old storm sewers that dump untreated storm water and litter into our lakes so they can filter out
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debris and trap some sediment. Some of these projects may also be eligible for state funding.
2. The budget recommends $50,000 for stream bank restoration. Stream bank restoration improves water quality and fish habitat; this program should also enable the County to capture federal grant funds.
3. The budget upgrades the Sheriff’s Lake Patrol with the purchase of a new boat ($65,000) and begins a three-year program to replace aging weed cutter barges. In both instances, the state will partner with Dane County by offering substantial reimbursement.
4. A dredging project at the Mud Lake railroad trestle will improve the ability to move water through the system, especially during high water conditions and is funded at the $35,000 county share.
The capital budget proposes a return to the traditional level of spending for the New Conservation Fund — $3 million. With the Old Conservation Fund maintained at about $646,000, the County will be able to protect precious land and continue to implement the Parks & Open Spaces Plan. To help maintain the parks system and plan for the preservation of newly acquired lands, the nationally renowned Parks Internship Program is recommended for restoration ($20,000).
Falk concluded: “I received the most good advice I ever had from County Board Supervisors. I am most thankful for this help and think it’s a hopeful sign for our continued cooperation. Supervisor Scott McDonell offered many helpful suggestions and some occasionally tough arguments with the result that this is a much-improved budget. Supervisor McDonell was joined by many other Supervisors including Supervisors Gross, Hendrick, Worzala, Wheeler, DeSmidt, Rusk, Fyrst, Vedder, de Felice, Eggert and Matano, in helping me with additions and improvements to the Human Services budget. Supervisor Brown was very helpful, especially in his determination to help me fashion a budget that meets our mutual property tax limit. Supervisors Kostelic and Pertzborn urged limiting spending. Supervisor Olsen provided leadership on several key environmental and justice system issues. Supervisor Hanson was a great advocate for the TST. Supervisor Ripp had a wonderful idea for reorganizing part of Public Works, improving our engineering services, and saving $120,000. Needless to say, that idea is in the budget! Supervisor Martz had a thoughtful follow-up to this year’s audit of the Area Agency on Aging’s focal points, while Supervisor O’Loughlin was a strong advocate for RSVP. Supervisor Salov advocated for more 911 resources. Supervisors Hulsey, Erickson, Richmond, and Graf worked hard on the initiative to preserve and improve our lakes and parks system.
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Chairman Kesterson has laid out a thoughtful, thorough process for budget consideration; the hearings he helped organize and chair provided important public testimony for these budget proposals. I look to continue working with these Supervisors and all their colleagues to fashion a good budget for Dane County’s residents — a budget that improves vital services and controls taxes.”
Under state law, the County Executive must introduce the budget by October 1. The County Board reviews the budget through its standing committees and begins action as an entire Board in early November. The Board approves the budget and the County Executive makes her approval/veto decisions by the end of November or early December.
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Attached is the County Executive’s transmittal memorandum for the budget, which offers a fuller explanation of the budget and its different provisions.