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Panel turns down Sauk County dental hygienist position

October 6, 2018

The Sauk County West Square Building in Baraboo.

An oversight panel approved job reclassifications and new positions for several agencies Friday as Sauk County’s 2019 budget moves closer to adoption.

During a joint meeting, the Sauk County Board’s finance and personnel committees approved $94,000 in reclassifications and $396,000 in new positions that were included in department budget requests.

The panel only rejected one request, the creation of a new $86,000 dental hygienist position within the Sauk County Public Health Department. A 4-4 vote prevented it from moving on to the full board.

The agency’s director, Tara Hayes, said a new state law allows hygienists to provide cleanings and screenings in places like nursing homes or apartment complexes without a licensed dentist present. Other counties already have begun to take advantage of the law, she said, and approved hygienist positions.

The county’s Board of Health, which oversees the department, approved the new position earlier this week — revising the budget request it already had submitted.

Personnel Committee member Tim McCumber of Merrimac questioned whether the public health department could find a creative way to address the public health need without creating a new position. He suggested a program in which professionals from the dental community volunteer to provide the service.

“I think we’d probably find some support for that,” said McCumber, who voted against the new position, adding that providing dental hygiene services is not a service the county is mandated to provide.

The county’s proposed budget includes $96 million in total spending. Nearly one-third of that will come from local property taxes. A state-imposed tax limit formula will restrict the county to a $31.16 million levy for 2019, an increase of 0.6 percent.

The finance committee heard from department managers last week about their 2019 requests. When that process began, the committee was in the position of needing to find about $90,000 in cuts to bring the levy within state-imposed limits.

Finance Committee Chairman John Dietz of Rock Springs encouraged the joint committee to approve the dental hygienist position and allow the finance committee to figure out whether to include it in the budget. He said the position shouldn’t be denied simply because it was proposed late in the game.

“I’m going to look at every department, every line, and they’ll all be treated the same,” Dietz said. “It’s a little bitty thing in a big huge budget.”

The health department’s deputy director, Cathy Warwick, said the agency can look for grant funding to support the new position and come back with a request next year.

“We feel really supported already, whatever you decide,” she told the panel before the 4-4 tie vote prevented the position from advancing to the board.

The finance committee will meet again Monday to finalize its budget recommendation. That proposal will be formally presented to the full board this month.

Supervisors will then have the opportunity to propose budget amendments before the board holds a public hearing and considers final adoption at its November meeting.

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