County raises taxes, cuts jobsDouglas County would increase property taxes by nearly 3 percent under budget recommendations adopted by the administration committee this week. However, a combination of rising costs, cuts in shared revenue and funding for health and human services and sales tax and interest income that’s been flat, the county is faced with cutting positions.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Douglas County would increase property taxes by nearly 3 percent under budget recommendations adopted by the administration committee this week.
However, a combination of rising costs, cuts in shared revenue and funding for health and human services and sales tax and interest income that’s been flat, the county is faced with cutting positions.
“We’ve looked at furloughs, I think, in about seven different ways trying to come up with something – trying to find something that we could recommend to this board,” said County Administrator Steve Koszarek. “There are some benefits to some furloughs. In fact, I think most of the county board received a letter from one of the unions asking that we do look at furloughs. I’m not against looking at it. To be blunt, we have not come up with an answer that is too doable.”
Koszarek said furloughs would violate most union contracts and the county could end up paying the wages anyway. He said he would recommend only voluntary furloughs to help the county get through next year. After all, when Manitowoc County tried furloughs, the unions sued and got back pay.
“Staff and service reductions is the third option – this is the most difficult, but probably has the most significant impact,” Koszarek said.
The budget proposal approved by the committee includes the elimination of positions in central supply, the Register of Deeds Office, a deputy, jailer and half-time clerical position in the sheriff’s department, half-time educator and clerical positions with UW-Extension, a treasurer account clerk and reducing the administrative assistant’s job to part-time. The move will save the county about $379,410 in the next year.
Koszarek said in most cases, department managers made the decisions about the positions that would be cut based on where the county could gain efficiencies. He said he’s hopeful the cuts won’t put anyone out of a job and in the unemployment line. At most, three people would be affected, but positions like the deputy are positions that haven’t been filled since they were vacated.
The county also eliminated $275,000 in spending by reducing general relief and drug and alcohol treatment spending, and downsizing how much equipment the highway department would buy in 2010.
While supervisors expressed concerns about some of the positions slated for elimination, the panel accepted the recommendations because of limits placed on the county by the state, and Koszarek and Finance Director Ann Doucette presented a balanced budget.
If adopted, the county would levy about $14.5 million in property taxes next year.
The full board considers the proposal Oct. 27.