County Executive Falk Sets 2005 Department Budget Requirements
May 20, 2004
Sharyn Wisniewski (608) 267-8823
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk today gave County elected and appointed department heads her requirements for preparing agency budgets for 2005. The County’s 30 departments cover everything from highways and human services, to the zoo and sheriff’s department.
“I will keep spending down and preserve vital services to our citizens,” said Falk. “That is what I have done in the County’s last seven budgets, and that is my commitment for 2005.”
While many viewed the 2004 budget cuts as extraordinary, Falk said she believes the next State budget will require the county to continue a cautious approach in 2005. Last year, by setting priorities and delivering services more efficiently, the County was able to sustain a $12 million base budget reduction in 2004, with the chief culprit the State budget cuts that were passed along to the county.
The State’s next biennial budget deficit is estimated to be about $1 billion or more, making it unlikely that cuts Dane County absorbed in 2004 will be restored. “In fact, it is likely the County will face additional cuts in the second half of 2005 when the Governor and Legislature enact a new biennial budget,” said Falk.
Laying this groundwork, Falk gave each County department a target reduction amount to hit. Large departments, with over $2 million in General Purpose Revenue (GPR) were directed to cut the local taxpayer supported part of their budget by 3.2%. Small departments, with under $2 million in GPR, have a 1.6% reduction target. Departments recommend how to absorb these cuts.
The combined reductions total $4.4 million for all departments.
GPR, composed primarily of the local property tax and sales tax, makes up about 35% of the County’s budget. The balance comes from state and federal sources, other grants, and fees.
No new tax-funded positions can be requested, except through reallocation of already authorized county positions.
Falk cited three employee-related pressures on the County budget for 2005—cost of living adjustments for county employees (after employees accepted a 0% increase in 2004), employee health insurance coverage despite negotiating a very competitive package, and the State increasing the required County contribution to the Wisconsin Retirement System.
Another important commitment is in the county’s Human Services department, where caseload increases and mandated expenses will put an added $1 million to $2 million pressure on the budget.
Finally, the new Courthouse opens in mid-2005, costing $1 million more to operate in 2005 and over $2 million thereafter on an annual basis.
Falk said her goal is to limit any growth in the tax levy to population plus inflation. Current inflation estimates are at 1.9%, and population increase is at 1.5%, which together produce a population growth rate plus inflation of 3.4%. Falk noted that all of these estimates are subject to revision as more information becomes available through the year.
Department budgets are due in the County Executive’s office on a staggered schedule during July and August. Falk will meet with each department head and develop her overall executive budget that she will submit to the County Board by October 1.
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