If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — With revenues staying flat or declining while operating expenses are increasing, Dunn County’s budget situation for 2020 will be as bad — or worse — than predicted.
That was the message Paul Miller, county manager, brought to the Dunn County Board’s May 15 meeting.
Now that the first quarter of 2019 has been completed, information is becoming available that will be helpful in forming the 2020 budget, he said.
If the revenues in 2020 do not match the expenditures, the county board will have to decide where to reduce the budget or find ways to generate new revenue, Miller said.
The snow in February took everyone off guard, and the county’s snowplowing budget has already used $700,000 this year, he said.
The Ferry Pit is in the process of being sold to a land conservancy so that it can become a recreational area in the Town of Colfax, but the county took a $200,000 hit on the sale that must be made up, Miller said.
According to the resolution approved by the Dunn County Board, Landmark Conservancy will have the property appraised and will make an offer to purchase for one-half of the appraised value, estimated at $146,000. When the county’s 2019 budget was approved, revenue from the sale of the Ferry Pit property was estimated at $360,000, so the approximately $200,000 difference in budgeted revenue will be made up out of the highway department’s fund balance.
A decrease in revenue from the state of $300,000 for the Neighbors of Dunn County contributed to a total budget deficit for the facility of $1.3 million in 2018, Miller said.
The census is up for the Neighbors so far this year, but the $400,000 deficit in the 2019 budget is likely to be closer to $600,000, he said.
The human services budget also is going to present a challenge for the 2020 budget, Miller said.
In 2018, the department of human services had a budget deficit of $1 million related to the opioid crises and to providing child protective services to children taken out of homes where there were drugs, such as methamphetamine, or where there was a domestic abuse situation. The deficit also was linked to providing certain mental health services for county residents. The cost for someone to stay at the Mendota Mental Health Institute, for example, is $1,000 per day.
The 2019 budget for human services was increased by $2 million to pay for the deficit in 2018 as well as to provide money to cover those services in 2019.
The sheriff’s department budget appears to be all right at the moment, but the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department is now bringing in people every day who have been arrested for methamphetamine offenses, Miller said.
The county continues to suffer labor shortages, and the labor shortages are making the overtime budgets worse, he said.
Various departments are trying to use flex time wherever possible to help cover shifts without incurring more overtime expenses, Miller said.
Commodities and services have been held to a zero percent increase over the past several years, but revenue is flat or declining, and the cost of operation keeps increasing, he said.
Wisconsin is experiencing historically low rates of unemployment, so the county must pay employees at a competitive scale to keep the existing employees, Miller said.
With such a low rate of unemployment, finding replacements for county employees can prove to be difficult, he said.
The 2020 budget will include a two percent increase for employees, Miller noted.
“You will have to make some tough decisions,” he said.
The 2019 budget was balanced, “but you will have to punt (on 2020). It will be as bad or worse than predicted. You will have to make decisions that are unpopular with everybody,” he said.
The Dunn County Board held a budget priority workshop in February to prioritize areas of the budget that could be cut or eliminated, such as certain services provided to Dunn County residents.
At the January meeting, Miller discussed the possibility of Dunn County holding a referendum to exceed the state-imposed revenue limits.
The state-imposed revenue limits have been in place since 1993.
Because of the county’s budget cycle and the requirements for the county board to pass a resolution and to publish the proper notifications for holding a referendum, the most feasible time to hold a referendum would be in November of 2020.