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Dodge County tax rate to decrease 10 cents from 2018

November 14, 2018

Male Huber prisoners will be housed in the Dodge County Jail as of Jan. 1, following action a the county board meeting on June 30. Resolutions to close the male Huber facility (Pod J) and to oppose building a jail addition to accommodate more prisoners were both approved with majority votes.

JUNEAU — Even though spending is up for Dodge County, the tax rate is down, evidence that the economic outlook is good and that growth continues to support the cost of area services and infrastructure.

The county’s annual budget was approved by the board of supervisors at its monthly meeting Tuesday morning.

Dodge County Administrator Jim Mielke summarized: “The tradition of providing high-quality programs and delivery of services would not be possible without the collaboration of department heads, elected officials, employees and the support of county board supervisors. I would like to thank the 900-plus employees for their continued hard work and dedication to the residents of Dodge County.”

According to Mielke, spending is up nearly $547,000 over 2018, with a levy of more than $34 million. That increase is within the limits imposed by the state, carrying forward nearly $102,000 of unused levy from last year. The county tax rate is set at $5.40 per $1,000 dollars of equalized valuation, down from $5.50 per $1,000 in 2018.

Property valuation in the county is more than $6.3 billion. Projected county expenditures are more than $112 million. Total revenue will reach nearly $69 million. Other revenue stands at nearly $5 million. Sales tax revenue is anticipated to be $4.5 million.

A substantial amount of money (more than $2 million) is being taken from the unassigned general fund balance to cover costs. That is a controversial move, cutting that fund in half and reducing the total available for other projects should they arise.

Nevertheless, a request for further balance funds was proposed by Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt. The request proposed replacing two squad cars for $90,000. Each sheriff’s deputy is assigned a patrol squad. A high degree of personal responsibility is said to increase the level of care for each squad and to increase each car’s longevity.

The request was passed on an 18-14 vote after a long debate that included discussion of other needs and whether the county board should even be diving into such matters.

Supervisor Jeff Schmitt pleaded for the county to spend more money on road repairs. In an effort to maintain county roads and bridges, the Highway Department is allocating $2.3 million for those projects, even though that will only cover a small portion (6.2 miles) of the 27 miles of road that should be repaired annually. Projects scheduled for next year include Highway YY (from Y to Highway 49), and Highway KW (from Highway 26 to Lowell).

In response to that, and other comments, Supervisor Lisa Derr suggested that the board do less micromanaging and focus more on overall policies.

“We’re constantly being told in training sessions that we’re supposed to talk about and direct policy, and what does the county need to have at the least expense to the taxpayer,” Derr said. “We end up talking about how this department head should have this extra car, or this extra highway truck. We end up almost making managerial decisions. Hopefully we’ll spend more time next year talking about where we are headed and how we’re going to get there and what’s it going to cost, instead of retroactively scrutinizing the decisions of our department heads.”

Another amendment — this one from the Highway Department — removed a roof replacement project to compensate for a shortfall of $348,000 in the state-allocated General Transportation Aids. Funds from the roof project ($115,000) and applying $233,000 from the highway department fund balance will cover the balance.

Further amendments to reduce allocations from the unassigned general fund balance were made by supervisor David Guckenberger of Oconomowoc. One of them ($51,000 for the sole employee of the Central Service Department) was approved. Amendments were defeated to reduce a $30,000 allocation for a rescue boat and a $30,000 reduction from board member per diems.

Guckenberger also proposed a $208,000 cut from the jail budget, which was rejected. The cut, according to Guckenberger, would recapture funds still budgeted for staffing Pod J. The 1959 building, to be demolished in 2020, houses male Huber work-release and lower-risk prisoners. Beds (inmate accommodation units as opposed to actual beds) from the old facility will be moved into the main detention facility on West Center Street as of Jan. 1.

The loss of the Pod J beds is anticipated to reduce income for the sheriff’s department, although reduced staffing may offset a portion of that loss.

“We’re constantly being told in training sessions that we’re supposed to talk about and direct policy, and what does the county need to have at the least expense to the taxpayer. We end up talking about how this department head should have this extra car, or this extra highway truck. We end up almost making managerial decisions. Hopefully, we’ll spend more time next year talking about where we are headed and how we’re going to get there and what’s it going cost, instead of retroactively scrutinizing the decisions of our department heads.” <&textAlign: right>Dodge County Supervisor Lisa Derr

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