Supervisor Baumgart cites county’s efforts to balance fiscal out-flow with income

"Your County" column

To tax or not to tax, that is the question. Well, it’s not exactly the question, but with recent limitations on state revenue sharing and increasing local costs of state mandates, it has become an issue.

Sheboygan County Administer Adam Payne recently provided a long-range financial review to the Sheboygan County Board’s Finance Committee with about half of the members of the Sheboygan County Board in attendance.

In Payne’s hour-long power-point presentation, he listed many of the major cost containment initiatives that have taken place in Sheboygan County, including consolidation and relocation: Register in Probate with Clerk of Courts (2000), Comprehensive Health Care with Rocky Knoll (2002), Payroll with Information systems (2003), Printing with Information Systems (2006), Privatization of Sunny Ridge (2007), Property Listing with Treasury (2009), Land and Water co-located with Planning Department (2009) and ADRC (Office on Aging) from the private Baxter Building to a county building in Sheboygan Falls (2009). These were done at an initial cost savings of $2,932,462 to Sheboygan County taxpayers.

In addition, he pointed out that Sheboygan County eliminated funding for the Homespun Post (2006) and eliminated funding for County Game Wardens (2007) for a yearly savings of $53,037.

Payne showed that Sheboygan County staff changes have been major; county staffing has been reduced from 1,349 employees in 2003 to 962 in 2010, for a savings of $3,735,751. Also listed was the combining of a shared purchasing agent with the city of Sheboygan (2008) that has provided a cost savings to the county in 2009 of $51,222.

He went on to point out that Sheboygan County established a County In-Health Clinic (2008), County Wellness Program (2008) and developed Health Insurance Plan Design Changes (2008) for an overall cost savings to the county of $500,000.

To ensure the most cost-efficient efforts are being followed, there have been major reviews and operational studies of Health and Human Services (2006), Sheriff Department (2008), Highway Department (2008) and Child Support (2009). These studies will not only save some dollars, but will improve efficiencies over time.

Payne went on to list other major efforts, including prioritizing of major project expenses and limitation of capital project expenditures to $4,000,000 a year – which started in 2003 and has continued each year thereafter – a major change from earlier policies. Because of that fiscal policy change, over $21 million dollars have been saved in principal and interest since 2003.

He reminded the County Board Supervisors and others present that Sheboygan County is the only county in Wisconsin to have reduced property taxes in real dollars three years in a row and that major efforts have been made to provide quality services to the citizens of Sheboygan County while at the same time keeping costs down.

But, looking at the long-range financial demands in the future, Payne pointed out serious financial issues that will need to be addressed.

Payne stressed that with the state of Wisconsin already about $2.5 billion short for their next fiscal budget, financial help is not on the way. He said that state shared revenues to counties have been frozen or reduced since the mid-1990s, and increased state mandates to local units of government often come without enough funding, thus adding to the county’s financial burden. He stressed that the County Board needs to take new steps to plan for long-term finances.

Next week: The need for a solution.

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