FALK PROPOSES 2003 COUNTY BUDGET
October 01, 2002
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk today (10/1/02) proposed the 2003 $396 million Dane County budget. Falk said: “In order to maintain and improve human services and public safety, we make tough cuts elsewhere in this budget.”
She continued: “A big step in controlling property taxes is meeting the limit on levy increases which I require for the budget. The limit is the rate of inflation plus the annual population growth rate of Dane County. This year the limit is a very low 3.11%. This budget hits that target. The tax rate falls 17 cents, from $3.16 to $2.99 per thousand.
“To improve human services and public safety and yet to limit property taxes, we had to cut other parts of County government. Because we are facing $4 million in state Shared Revenue cuts in 2004, we have to cut some of the basic costs in County government, especially personnel costs. This budget meets that challenge with over $7 million in cuts, including $1.8 million in permanent base cuts.”
Examples of key base cuts include (details of these and other proposals in the budget are included in an attached memo to the County Board):
-- Eliminating Vacant Positions – Approximately 20 positions are eliminated for a savings of about $1 million.
-- 25% cut in LTE funds – LTE’s are fill-in or temporary workers used by the county; the reduction generates savings of about $280,000.
-- Consolidation of the Department of Public Works and the Division of Facilities Management – The budget proposes additional study for several other consolidations, including the creation of a Land & Water Conservation Department, for possible implementation in the 2004 budget; savings related to the DPW/FM consolidation are $90,000.
-- Elimination of the Law Library – The budget identifies computer technology which can fulfill this state mandate with savings of about $118,000.
-- Early Retirement – This program will offer employees who will be eligible for retirement in 2003 the opportunity to increase their sick leave balance with an affordable increment if they retire before July 1, 2003. Vacated positions will not be refilled until they are thoroughly analyzed for possible consolidation or elimination in the 2004 budget. Savings from this program are conservatively estimated at $800,000; the estimate is based on a survey of county employees, which projects that an additional 40 retirements will occur as a result of this program.
-- Across-the-Board Cuts with savings of over $2 million.
-- Extended Vacancies with savings of about $1.8 million.
[These last two cuts will be reviewed for continued inclusion in the 2004 budget.]
Falk concluded: “Our employees will do a great job of managing these cuts while maintaining services. Nevertheless, they will have to work harder than ever to do so and some will make a personal sacrifice with delayed raises. It is important that I set a good example in these tough times. I will continue the 5% pay cut in my own salary and the 3% cut in my staff’s salaries that I instituted in February of this year (approximate savings of $28,000).
Falk mentioned two fee increases proposed in the budget:
-- “There will be a modest fee ($5 daily, $50 seasonal) for boaters using the Tenney Park Locks. This user fee will take operation of the locks off the property tax. In this tight fiscal environment, it makes sense to develop fees for specific optional services used by a clearly defined group of users. I am also proposing a parking fee for County employees who have free underground parking in the City-County Building and Public Safety Building garages. When downtown parking is hard to find and expensive for many of our citizens, County employees should pay for this desirable benefit.”
“We cut costs for two reasons,” Falk continued, ”to control costs and to have the funds to improve human services and public safety.” She cited the following examples:
-- “As I listened to testimony at the public hearings on the human services budget, I was moved by the testimonies of several citizens: a mentally ill woman who was jailed; the parents of a young man mired in the criminal justice system because of mental illness; a woman struggling to afford her medicine on her low paying job. Directly as a result of this testimony, I am including an additional $50,000 to provide medication and monitoring to an additional 65 individuals with serious and persistent mental illness. Besides the help to these individuals, this increase will keep some of these persons out of jail. I also propose the use of $56,000 in Medical Assistance Crisis Stabilization Revenue to develop a crisis house for people with mental illness.”
Other improvements in human services include:
-- Full funding for elderly nutrition programs, an increase in transportation for elderly persons, and an additional $25,000 for more case management for the growing senior population.
-- An additional $239,000 to fund the increasing caseload of people with developmental disabilities.
-- Matching funds of $7,200 to create another new youth center.
In addition, $20,000 will provide alternatives to detaining youth in the Juvenile Shelter, a positive option for the children and their families and cost-savings for the County.
Falk finished her remarks on human services by noting: “Key to our delivery of excellent community-based human services are our partners in the Purchase of Service (POS) agencies. The providers of these services gave strong testimony for increasing funds to the POS agencies. Because of the difficult budget conditions, the increase is not as much as I would wish. Nevertheless, this budget allocates an additional $1.4 million for POS providers to pay for salaries and benefits of their work force, including a general COLA of 1% for the POS agencies and funding of the Living Wage Ordinance.”
In addition to the pilot program in intensive treatment for jail inmates who keep endangering the public because of their AODA problem, Falk listed some of the budget’s other public safety improvements:
-- Funding for full implementation of Priority Dispatch for 911 calls (additional $70,000).
-- Funding for a paralegal and additional services in the District Attorney’s office to assist victims and witnesses of crime.
She noted that the Capital budget keeps the new Courthouse on schedule. It also carries forward planning funds of $975,000 to continue planning for physical facilities that may be needed for jail purposes. The pilot treatment program for AODA inmates will be evaluated for success in terms of its ability to reduce overcrowding in the jail, improve public safety, save tax dollars, and reduce recidivism. Pending that evaluation, further program and facility planning can begin. The Department of Administration and the Department of Public Works will evaluate potential options to accommodate an expanded AODA treatment program, including:
-- Renovating vacated space in the City-County Building once departments are relocated to the new Justice Center;
-- Renovating the Ferris Center to accommodate AODA programming; and
-- Constructing a new facility to house AODA programming efforts and inmates currently assigned to the Ferris Center. The existing Ferris Center site would be analyzed for possible redevelopment.
In addition, vacated space in the City-County Building will be evaluated, as part of this study, for its potential to house maximum-security inmates.
Falk completed her presentation of the budget with the following remarks: “These budget cuts mean that everyone in County government faces maybe the toughest year of work ever. But other options were worse. In Milwaukee County, for example, there will be about 170 layoffs of managers and staff, significant (6%) cuts in managers’ pay, and some controversial new fees and cuts in human services. In Rock County, the nursing home staff is proposed to be cut by 30 positions. Fond du Lac, Kenosha and Marathon Counties all report the layoffs of staff. If we work together, we can avoid the painful disruption of layoffs. This budget does not contain layoffs.
“Budgets are more about the future than the present. With its base cuts, this budget prepares us for the even more difficult budget challenges of tomorrow. As importantly, it offers improved services so that our citizens can lead healthier and safer lives. Offering such services is the reason County government exists. I am pleased to propose a budget to help us progress in our fundamental mission.”
The total for the operating and capital budget is approximately $396 million. It now goes to the County Board for review by the standing committees and action by the full Board. Final action by the Board normally occurs shortly before Thanksgiving, with the County Executive’s approval and partial vetoes coming about one week later.
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See the attachments: a variety of budget charts, including the table showing the effect of the budget on the owner/property taxpayer of an average Madison home and Falk’s detailed memorandum to the County Board and other elected officials. Because of the length of those documents, we are not automatically faxing them to you. If you’d like them faxed to you, please call our office at 266-2444. These charts and other budget documents are also available for downloading off the Dane County website at www.co.dane.wi.us. Click on “2003 Executive Budget.”
Topf Wells, 266-9069