County Board Approves 2012 Budget
November 15, 2011
County Board Chair Scott McDonell (279-6984)
Monday evening the Dane County Board of Supervisors approved the almost half billion dollar 2012 county budget which continues the county’s tradition of protecting human services while seeking long-term efficiencies in the criminal justice system.
“We faced critical challenges with this budget,” said Supervisor Scott McDonell, Chair of the County Board. “With an economy that continues to be stressed, it was important that we protect services to the most vulnerable members of the Dane County community,” he said. “We did this with the cooperation of key local officials who were open to innovative approaches to cut costs in the criminal justice system,” he added.
The County Board made changes to the proposed budget while keenly aware of the fiscal constraints caused by state levy restrictions, the need to rebuild the general fund reserve, and uncertainty about sales tax receipts in the coming year. The general fund reserve serves as a cushion in difficult economic times and, although the county will end 2011 with a positive balance, the 2012 budget seeks to add to the reserve. At the same time, sales tax receipts last month were $360,000 less than the same time last year, raising concerns future revenues will continue this pattern, reflecting the fact that Dane County households felt the effects of the state’s budget repair bill and experienced a sharp decline in their disposable income.
“In this environment of potentially falling revenue and fiscal pressure, the County Board made difficult but sound choices,” said McDonell. “We both sought to meet short term needs and lay the groundwork for long term savings,” he said.
Over 50% of the County’s almost half billion dollar budget is devoted to human services for children, seniors, mentally and developmentally disabled individuals, and those who require support in this difficult economy. The County Board restored cuts to several human services programs and created a new initiative, the mental health drop in clinic. This initiative is modeled after a small program that dispenses medications and has met with success in alleviating pressure on inpatient services. The new drop in clinic will include other mental health and addiction services for those who are currently not served, thereby reducing waiting lists. The County Board also restored funding for a foreclosure prevention program, a youth crisis program, a housing initiative, and a youth restitution program.
The County Board was able to protect vital human services by aggressively pursuing criminal justice system reforms, which are intended not only to realize cost savings, but also to increase system efficiency and fairness. The County Board hired a consultant to provide a follow-up to a 2007 criminal justice system assessment and began the process of implementing recommended changes. For example, the County Board approved amendments to support the work of the Criminal Justice Council, a group comprised of the Chief Judge, the District Attorney, the Clerk of Courts, the Sheriff, the County Executive, and the County Board Chair. Further, the Board supported changes to reduce the jail population, begin planning for a day reporting center and the possible closing of the Ferris Center on or before December 31, 2012.
The Board also restored funding for a communicator position in the 911 Center, to continue a strong staffing pattern in this critical county department.
Dane County’s lakes are a treasured recreational resource and an economic engine for the county. The County Board approved a five-part initiative to protect and enhance the lakes as part of the budget. The initiative includes:
- An effort to remove carp and reduce sediment, focusing first on Cherokee Marsh and Mud Lake;
- An additional $1.65 million for a program which cost-shares municipal improvements of storm drain outlets that dump untreated storm water and litter into county lakes, rivers, and streams;
- A $3.4 million fund for acquisitions that improve the water quality of Yahara River lakes and their tributaries;
- Initial funding to implement recommendations from the Yahara CLEAN initiative to reduce phosphorus, sediment loadings, and beach pollutants; and
- A clean beach effort to partner with municipalities to address water quality at two beaches each year.
This multi-faceted approach is meant to be the first of a five-year plan to improve water quality.
Although the County Board considered dozens of amendments throughout the last month and a half, the tax rate increased by only one cent from the proposed budget, and the total levy increase was less than $400,000.
“I’m proud that the members of the Board worked together to address this challenging budget,” Chair McDonell noted. “We balanced the needs throughout county government while keeping the taxpayer firmly in mind,” he concluded.
The 2012 budget, as approved by the County Board, will result in an increase of $28.24 in county taxes on an average Madison home of $239,239. Taxes to support county government services, including the Sheriff’s Office and the jail, human services for children, the disabled, and the elderly, emergency radio interoperability, and county roads and bridges, will total about $687 for the average homeowner in 2012.
# # #