Dane County residents will enjoy better public safety, improved human services, more efficient government, and healthier lakes while paying almost no more in taxes -- all because of the 2008 Dane County budget approved by Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. Joining Falk at the signing ceremony were Dane County Board Chair Scott McDonell and other Dane County Board Supervisors.
“The Chair, many other County Board Supervisors, and I worked hard and long on this budget. This budget was also marked by the best cooperation among the different branches of government and among the Supervisors themselves,” Falk said. “All that work produced great results for Dane County.”
Falk and McDonell then listed the budget’s great accomplishments:
-- Almost No Tax Increase. The increase in the levy was 3.36%, right at Falk’s limit of rate of population growth plus the rate of inflation. McDonell said: “This levy, which decreases the tax rate by 6 cents to $2.38, actually means that some residents will see a small drop in their taxes.”
-- More and Better Human Services. The budget improves services for people with developmental disabilities or mental illness. It provides youth with new job-based alternatives to gangs and job training programs for the parents of very young children in two Dane County neighborhoods, with additional shelter and job services for the homeless.
-- Better Public Safety. This budget took huge strides in implementing the recommendations of the audit of the criminal justice system. That report had dozens of recommendations for the County’s Judges, District Attorney, Sheriff, Clerk of Courts, County Board, and County Executive. The budget implements many of those recommendations with the results that the County will save at least $1.8 million by not having to ship inmates to other county jails; defendants will receive more timely trials; people who can be safely released from jail (thereby saving the County $80 per day) will be electronically monitored at all times. The budget also adds 12.5 positions to the Sheriff’s Department, including a new Traffic Safety Team to make driving safer on the Beltline and other major highways.
-- Cleaner Lakes. Our lakes are the big story in this budget’s conservation provisions, Falk and McDonell agreed. In addition to the $5 million Conservation Fund, the budget contains $2.66 million in the Land & Water Legacy Fund to improve the health and enjoyment of our lakes. Falk and Supervisor Brett Hulsey, Chair of the Board’s Personnel & Finance Committee and Chair of the Lakes & Watershed Commission, worked with the Department of Natural Resources to add $138,000 as part of that total. That amount funds University of Wisconsin researchers to determine precisely how, when, and in what amount algae-feeding nutrients are entering the lakes and to work with the public to plan to reduce them. Substantial reduction of these nutrients, mostly phosphorus, is the key to improving the lakes. As importantly, citizens will be able to participate in a countywide visioning process to make sure improving the lakes includes residents’ ideas.
-- More Efficient Government. Falk and McDonell pointed to investments the County will make in 2008 in its methane operation at the landfill. “We hope and expect to be able to convert the methane to natural gas with a doubling or tripling of the revenue we currently receive,” they said. “That would be great news for the taxpayers and the environment.” Another step with those two benefits is the energy conservation work scheduled for the City-County Building and the Zoo.
Falk concluded: “This is the hardest-working Board I’ve had the privilege to work with. Chair McDonell and Committee Chairs such as Supervisors Hulsey, Rusk, and Worzala spent many hours with other Supervisors working hard to make this a great and innovative budget. I offer them my sincerest thanks.”
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