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County Executive Falk Releases Proposed 2006 County Budget

For more information contact:

Lesley Sillaman, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 669-5606

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 9/29/2005

Issued By: County Executive
View only releases from County Executive
Madison – Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk today released her proposed 2006 Executive Budget. The budget includes both operating and capital expenditures.

“This budget controls property taxes within the legal limit, makes key improvements in human services, preserves public safety and protects our environment,” said Falk.

Property Taxes

Falk’s budget operates within a new framework this year, with the Governor and State Legislature-passed “property tax freeze”, which limits local governments to the growth in property value attributable to new construction. In Dane County, that limit is 4.2%. This limit generated $4,188,508 in levy. Based on the limit and the resulting levy, the property tax rate will fall from $2.70 to $2.55. 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 increase on a Madison home of $222,928 is $14.

The overall budget totals $427,322,330 with $403,871,330 in Operations and $23,451,000 in Capital; the overall increase in the operating budget is 1.87%.

Falk continued: “We are faced with many challenges in this budget. The cuts from the state and federal budgets hurt the County by about $1.5 million in specific budget cuts. In addition, FEMA’s decision to deny our state’s request for relief from the Stoughton Area tornados cost the county $145,000 in 2005. Also, because of a loss of federal and state reimbursement opportunities for a number of human services activities, we were hit with a loss of $1.9 million in budgeted Prior Period Revenue for our Human Services department. In the Sheriff’s Office, some revenue projections, such as inmate telephone revenue and federal reimbursements for federal prisoners, has resulted in a shortfall of approximately $700,000 in base revenue. The County will also be adding $817,000 in increased costs for the cleaning, maintenance and utility costs of operating the new Courthouse, scheduled for completion in January 2006. Finally, we must include almost $9 million in expected but additional personnel expenses.”

Falk continued: “To deal with these budget pressures, I have worked with County departments heads in several ways. In May, I instructed all county departments to cut costs or raise non-tax revenue by 1.5% for the county’s larger departments and .75% for smaller departments. We can expect a very modest increase in sales tax and increased revenues in the Register of Deed’s and Treasurer’s Offices. In addition, we are selling vacant land in Verona for $1 million and space in the City-County Building to the City of Madison for $1.1 million, while also moving other county staff into the City-County building, saving money and improving customer service.”

Public Safety

Falk said: “This budget preserves public safety and gives our law enforcement community the tools they need to continue to provide excellent service.” Falk then listed some of the improvements in the budget, including:

1. The “Twelve Lead Program” being developed by the Dane County Emergency Management Department. This program will outfit ambulances with equipment that transmits electrocardiogram (EKG) information to the hospital where the patient is going while the ambulance is traveling there, giving doctors an advance sense of the patient’s condition and needs. ($58,000)
2. Additional resources for the county’s 911 Center. Falk will fund an additional Database Coordinator who will update and maintain parts of the 911 system critical to priority medical dispatch and mutual aid requests. ($58,000)
3. Continuation of the Traffic Safety Team, a joint effort begun last year by the County Executive and Sheriff to decrease traffic fatalities in Dane County. Given the program’s success, the County Executive will continue to fund it.
4. The budget also provides the Sheriff’s Department with 19 new squad cars to keep our deputies safe on the roads ($420,000), new bulletproof vests to ensure safety in even more dangerous situations ($8,000), $60,000 for a new patrol boat and $6,000 for an upgrade in needed computer equipment to investigate computer crimes.
5. The budget adds funding for outfitting squad cars with video equipment at a cost of $50,000.
6. In the face of loss of federal and state dollars to the District Attorney’s Office, specifically in the area of services for victims and witnesses of crimes, the County Executive has put additional county dollars ($46,700) to continue these services.
7. Falk has also provided $58,000 for an additional Paralegal to investigate computer crimes, wage liens, and other white-collar crimes.

Falk also made improvements that protect public safety by addressing some of the root causes of crime, such as alcohol and drug abuse. Specifically:

1. Adding 10 additional slots to the popular and successful Drug Court program, which gives first offenders with AODA problems a chance to correct behavior and avoid jail and a criminal record.
2. To help deal with AODA problems that have progressed past first offenses, Falk’s budget will move forward on the specific design of a new AODA facility, adding $1 million in the capital budget to complete blueprints and designs for the facility. This is in addition to the $2.4 million that has already been budgeted for this facility.
3. She also maintained the successful Pathfinder program, which provides treatment and accountability for inmates with more serious offenses and AODA problems
4. Falk has also reallocated services to deal with the growing concern about gang activity in Dane County by providing additional staffing to work on gang prevention.

Human Services

Falk said: “This year’s Human Services’ budget presented some difficulties in continuing what is considered the best program in the state, and one of the best in the country. The loss of $1.9 million in Prior Period Revenue (federal and state reimbursements that no longer exist) presented a real challenge, in addition to our funding of the Living Wage and our efforts to raise the wages of some of the lowest-paid workers. We also continue our practice of assisting disabled persons who entered our system in 2005 and serving new high school graduates and brain trauma injuries.”

“With the efforts of a number of supervisors, we listened to the priorities citizens told us over two nights of human services budget hearings, and we are able to help.” Specifically, Falk added to the proposed human services budget:

1. First-time ever county funding for New Directions, a program which connects mentally ill persons in need of services with available resources ($20,000)
2. Identifies $400,000 in new MA revenue to replace lost federal grants and devotes $20,000 for Kajsiab House, a facility that assists the needs of Hmong members of our community, especially those affected by post-traumatic stress disorder from service in the Vietnam War.
3. Provided an additional $17,500 to expand transportation services for the elderly in northeast Dane County, to get them to necessary places like food nutrition sites, grocery stores and general shopping.
4. Falk provided $200,000 additional dollars to provide a 1% raise to some of the county’s lowest paid contracted workers.
5. Adding 1.5 additional workers at a cost of $84,000 to provide help to those with mental illnesses receiving SSI income to help them manage their personal finances.
6. In response to concerns expressed by citizens at the human services hearings, Falk provided $10,000 to eliminate the fees for seniors receiving case management services from Dane County.
7. The budget adds additional support for Youth Resource Centers for teens to recreate, study and volunteer. ($4,200)
8. Added $1.8 million to the 2006 Capital Budget for the architect’s work necessary to proceed with blueprints for a new Badger Prairie Health Care Center (with groundbreaking scheduled for 2007) and restores the Recreation Therapist Supervisor/Volunteer Coordinator to train and coordinate volunteers at the facility ($76, 493)

Land and Water

Falk said: “Protecting our land and water resources has always been a priority of mine and of the citizens in this county. This goal is becoming increasingly important given the population growth in our county, and the increasing values for land. This year, I am committing $5 million to the New Conservation Fund, the largest allocation from the county budget since we began in 2000. We are exactly on target for our $30-million over 10-years goal, with a total of $22, 750,000 being spent so far (including this year’s allocation.) Our total acreage goal is 9,000, and we are also on target for that, with 5,331 acres bought to date.”

Specifically, Falk said a large number of supervisors encouraged a significant increase in the New Conservation Fund and the following measures that will make improvements and protect our land and water resources:

1. The purchase of one completely new weed cutter and two thoroughly renovated cutters at a cost of $230,000. (Net cost after DNR reimbursement or $95,000)
2. The budget added $100,000 for streambank restoration projects to help remove a source of sediment for the stream, lakes and rivers downstream and improves fish habitat
3. The budget added $100,000 to continue the county’s stormwater rehabilitation program, which partners with local municipalities to provide grants to retrofit old storm sewers to protect our lakes and streams from water pollution
4. The budget also reallocated an additional person in the Land and Water Resources department for planning and increased funding for the county’s five year update of the Parks and Open Spaces Plan.
5. The budget contains an additional $366,000 ($146,000) county share to complete our renovation of the system of locks and dams on Lakes Mendota, Waubesa and Kegonsa. This will not only make our locks more convenient for boaters, but will help staff to more accurately and quickly adjust lake levels, especially in times of high water.

Falk also highlighted some additional items, including:

1. $3.5 million in the Capital budget as the first phase of our commitment to the remaking of the Children’s Zoo, especially the new Polar Bear and Seal Exhibit.
2. Improvements to ease congestion and improve safety in the North Mendota Corridor with improvements to County Highways M and K.
3. A commitment of $350,000 for back-up data storage at an off-site facility in case of a disaster. The data will be stored at the City of Madison’s new water building.
4. Falk approved the Dane County Regional Airport’s request of maintenance staff and two additional Sheriff’s deputies and funds a study and determine whether it needs an additional parking facility.
5. The budget creates $10,000 for a Sports Development Fund for the Alliant Energy Center to continue with the Convention and Visitors Bureau to help develop new business, especially in sports related ventures.

Attached is the County Executive’s transmittal memorandum for the budget, which offers a more detailed explanation of the budget and its different provisions.

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