County budget constructed with strict procedures

Jim Baumgart  Sheboygan County Supervisor

Sheboygan County’s annual budget process is well on its way. Presently, each of the different departments are meeting with County Administrator, Adam Payne and Finance Director Terry Hanson and his staff.

With limited county financial flexibility allowed and limited shared revenue provided by state government, hitting a financial target and still proving needed services can be difficult.

This County has done a reasonable job in meeting those needs.

As a reminder, Sheboygan County has lowered property taxes four out of the last six years by being both very innovative as well as slowing up some programs, like road building and maintenance, delays that will hurt us in the future.

The budget process is also not easy because the state requires counties to meet certain obligations as required by law. But rather then discuss state requirements and their financial support (or lack of), this week’s column is to remind readers on how Sheboygan County budget process works and provide a quick review on what is now taking place.

Shortly after the first of the year, the start of the Sheboygan County Board’s fiscal year, the Finance Department, Finance and Executive Committees and County Administrator begin to think and plan for the following budget.

On June 26, 2013, in a letter and attached budget booklet to the Sheboygan County department heads and key personnel, were instructions and targets that all departments were expected to follow in developing and attaining their 2014 budget. It included the following goals and guiding principles to follow:

- Goal: Strive to succeed with existing financial resources and tax levy, associated with net new construction (new tax dollars expected to come to the County), projected to be a property tax increase of less than 1%.

- Guiding Principles: Maintain essential quality programs and services. Improve departmental efficiency. Direct resources based on County priorities. Position the County for continued fiscal stability.

It is true that two of the most powerful Sheboygan County Committees, Finance and Executive, set the stage for the budget process, leaving limited flexibility for the departments and elected liaison committees, a process intended to be tough.

There are some opportunities for financial modification after a department budget has been introduced, reviewed and found to have a special need when all other options have been researched.

The final opportunity to make a fiscal change is when the full Sheboygan County Board meets to vote on the final budget; amendments can be introduced, discussed, and voted on. Changes that pass at this late date tend to be more technical in nature, lower in fiscal cost and with general acceptance by most county supervisors.

But first, after departments receive their budget directives, department directors will meet with their elected liaison committees having oversight in their operations.

This provides an opportunity, if needed, for the liaison committee leadership to request information from the Finance Department, county administrator, county corporation counsel, state agency or others to clarify issues and concerns.

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