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Falk Says State Budget Freeze Would Have Big Impact on Dane County

For more information contact:

Sharyn Wisniewski, 267-8823

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 1/14/2002

Issued By: County Executive
View only releases from County Executive
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk today said that state budget “fix-it” plans proposed by Senate and Assembly Republicans could leave Dane County with a budget gap of about $6 million over the next year. It also could stop important local projects such as construction of the new Courthouse, alcohol and drug treatment facilities, roads, the airport, and land acquisition for parks.

“These proposals, however well-intentioned, will hurt people, impair our economy, and disrupt our ability to serve people,” said Falk.

The Senate Republican proposals call for a two-year freeze on local government tax levies and bonding for capital projects, and the Assembly Republicans’ plan has a one-year freeze of levy spending. Both proposals cut state spending and freeze revenue to local governments.

Falk explained the reason the freeze in tax levy could hurt citizens is because the proposals ignore the unavoidable cost increase to provide county services. The personnel “costs to continue,” combined with mandated caseload increases and compliance with the living wage ordinance will require $7.4 million in additional resources for 2003. This is a low estimate, since it does not include any cost of living increases for the many agencies the county contracts with to provide services.

Falk said four of the largest single categories the county spends local tax dollars on, and which, therefore, could face cuts are:

· The Sheriff’s Office budget - $35.6 million
· Highways - $4.5 million
· Services for children and adults with developmental disabilities - $16.2 million, and
· Alternate care (foster care, in-home care, juvenile corrections) - $9 million.

“There’s no way other than through layoffs or cuts in services that we could absorb a cut of this magnitude. That means fewer deputies, fewer services for kids, seniors and people with disabilities, fewer roads repaired and plowed,” said Falk. “I have already cut a long list of worthwhile funding requests to focus county services on what citizens tell me are most important. “

As currently set out in their “Blueprint for Fiscal Recovery,” the Senate Republicans’ proposals call for a two-year moratorium on state and local bonding, which means planned capital projects would stop. Projects such as the new courthouse, parkland and natural areas protection, improved roads, a new alcohol and drug abuse jail alternative facility, airport improvements, and even a new lake patrol boat and replacement bookmobile would be stopped.

Falk said: “People who live in Dane County elected me and the County Board to run county government. Members of the Wisconsin Legislature have many important decisions to make, but the authors of these proposals have stepped over the line. With all due respect, none of the legislators offering these proposals was elected to a local office.

“It is our job at the local level. In Dane County we have done our job effectively. I’ve held tax levy increases to the combined increase of inflation and population. We’ve increased our reserve funds. Our fiscal management has earned Dane County a AAA bond rating.

“Further, when the state mandates that we provide services to kids and adults with disabilities, we provide it. When the state fell short of its commitment to funding services to families, seniors and the disabled, we found cost-effective ways to deliver and improve the services to our citizens. When the state ran out of jail cells to house their probation and parole holds, and demanded that we house them, we did so, even when our county taxpayers had to subsidize the bill.

“The state budget problem is serious and was years in the making. Legislators don’t fix the state budget by imposing freezes at the local level. We will partner with the state in solving this problem, but in a way that is fair and not harmful.”

The County Executive released a Department of Administration memo (attached) that highlighted some of the major impacts on the county’s budget.

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