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Dunn County Government Center

Built in 1960, the Dunn County Government Center, which currently houses the county's administrative services and board meeting room as well as Menomonie City Hall, will be sporting a "For Sale" sign.

Dunn County leaders and supervisors are gearing up for a sparse budget in 2020.

The possibility became more real at a Saturday budget workshop, where supervisors had to prioritize 19 county departments, ranking those that could fall prey first to budget cuts.

County administrator Paul Miller asked supervisors to complete the ranking because services might have to be cut in 2020. The county hit its tax levy limit in the 2019 budget.

“It’s not an extreme I want to go to, but neither do I want us to whistle past the graveyard,” Miller said. “We need to go into this with our eyes wide open.”

Supervisors picked several Dunn County departments as most urgent: the Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office, Circuit Court, Child Support Agency, Human Services, Public Works and Emergency Management and Communications are budget priorities.

Lowest-priority were UW-Extension, Environmental Services, the Medical Examiner’s Office, Veterans Services and the contributions to outside agencies, including the Menomonie Public Library, Chamber of Commerce, Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts, Stepping Stones of Dunn County and others.

County staff will use the rankings if a deficit shows up in 2020. Lower-ranked departments will be eyed first for budget cuts, Miller said.

Supervisors used a majority vote to rank the options.

Many supervisors expressed reluctance to prioritize some services over others but agreed emergency services and safety were at the top of the list.

“I’m going for health and human safety as a top priority because the safety of this community is our fundamental first response,” said supervisor Kelly McCullough of Menomonie.

“Think about the county we live in. We all would like everything to be a one, I know that. It’s impossible,” said supervisor James Anderson of Menomonie.

No department staff or services will be cut or reduced immediately, Miller said.

“What we’re doing today is not about actual dollars, not about actual money. It’s about prioritization,” Miller said. “(Low ranking) doesn’t mean it’s not important. What we are saying is, we can’t do everything.”

A perfect storm

An initial $4 million gap in the county’s 2019 budget has Miller and county leaders worried about 2020. Several issues could cause an even larger deficit in 2020, Miller said.

“Historically and in the past decade” Dunn County has been fiscally healthy, but that has changed within the past several years, Miller said.

A spike in methamphetamine cases has upped demand for child and mental health services, driving costs up and straining law enforcement, circuit court and the district attorney’s office, Miller said.

Wisconsin’s low Medicaid reimbursement rate is also hurting the county’s financials.

But it’s the state levy limit — a measure intended to keep property taxes from rising too quickly — that’s strangling the county’s budget, Miller said.

Dunn County’s 2019 tax levy, $21.6 million, is the maximum allowed by the state. Adding net new construction or asking taxpayers to override the levy cap through a referendum are ways to increase that limit.

“The problem is if there isn’t much new construction, we don’t add much (levy), yet the cost of services keeps going up, and the cost of employees goes up if nothing else,” Miller said.

County heads predict 2020 expenditures will increase by 3.9 percent.

Despite the budget troubles, no cuts will be made immediately, Miller said. Saturday’s department rankings aren’t set in stone.

If a low-ranked program or department receives significant grant money or isn’t significantly funded by the county, it might not be worth cutting the service, and budget heads plan to take that into account, Miller said.

Miller also proposed a working list of money-saving measures for supervisors to consider. Included on the list were contracting out services or reducing staff in finance, human resources, IT, county administration, highway, planning and zoning, corporation counsel, surveying or human services departments.

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Dunn County News editor

Sarah Seifert edits and reports for the Dunn County News. Contact her with tips or story ideas at 715-450-1557 or at editor@dunnconnect.com.

(2) comments

THENEWS

"...
And in 2012, AFP piloted charter buses around Wisconsin for “educational” rallies in support of Tea Party Governor Scott Walker.
...
Grover Norquist in 2001: “My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years,” to “get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” Why wouldn’t conservatives shut down the government? They hate it. They’ve just been biding their time, waiting for the opportunity.
...
Now this: Grover Norquist, last year’s revolutionary, is the responsible one, complaining about radical right intransigence. Scary times. At least we have a road map to navigate it. It’s the right’s own history, which doesn’t change much. They’re maximalists. They want it all. And the bigger our democracy deficit, the more they’ll be able to get. "
- https://www.thenation.com/article/grand-old-tea-party/

THENEWS

"Before 2010, Uihlein was just a small political donor. But after the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling lifted limits on certain political contributions, the Lake Forest, IL billionaire suddenly began donating massive funds to Republican candidates and conservative causes.
...
The tax cuts promoted by Trump and passed by Congress provided a lucrative return...

On to Wisconsin, and Free From Taxes


And then there is the mutually beneficial relationship between the Uihleins and Gov. Walker of Wisconsin. Though the Uline corporate headquarters was originally based in northern Illinois, in 2010 the company moved its headquarters into the Wisconsin town of Pleasant Prairie.

After Walker took office in 2010, Uihlein immediately became a devoted and generous supporter. He was among Walker’s largest donors during his two gubernatorial races — one was a recall election — and also poured $2.5 million into the Unintimidated PAC that funded Walker’s brief presidential campaign.

-https://whowhatwhy.org/2018/11/06/from-the-shadows-top-gop-donor-benefits-from-his-investments/

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