The Oneida County Administration Committee is spending much of last week reviewing proposed 2013 departmental budgets in preparation for November’s final budget hearing and, two days into the process, was finding most departments asking for less money during this budget cycle.
The proposed budgets covered in this article were reviewed during hearings held last Monday and Tuesday.
The committee is tweaking the proposed departmental budgets in anticipation of the county budget hearing scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Nov. 13.
The county’s 2013 budget, and the tax levy, will be finalized at that time.
Here is a summary of the departmental requests made on Monday and Tuesday.
Department on Aging
The Department on Aging requested a 2013 budget of $266,521 from the county tax levy, down about $14,000 from its 2012 request of $280,763.
The department is also expecting to receive $928,202 in grants and program income to give it a total budget of $1,194,723.
Though the Department on Aging is asking for less money this year, committee members worried about the availability of state and federal aid, wondering aloud whether the county would have to foot the bill if the state and federal governments don’t come through with the money.
Department head Dianne Jacobson tried to reassure the supervisors there is no cause for concern.
“What’s happening is it’s flat funding,” Jacobson said. “Our federal and state funding, for many, many years (has stayed flat), even though the number of people we serve goes up. So, we’re not looking at risking a reduction, it’s just continued flat funding.”
The department’s budget was approved unanimously.
Planning and Zoning Department
The Planning and Zoning Department requested a budget of $419,241 for 2013, down from the $442,522 budgeted this year.
Supervisor Jerry Shidell questioned Zoning Director Karl Jennrich on why the department needs that much money when it appears that permit sales within the county are on a downward trend.
Jennrich said that his staff does a lot more than just hand out permits.
“The permits may not be there, but the headaches still are,” Jennrich said.
“I still get the calls from the county board people that want answers on complaints. I still get the calls from town board members that want us to deal with complaints. I still have to talk with the public on the development projects that they want to start or not start. So, we are busy that way. My phone is not ringing because of a lot of permit questions, my phone today is ringing mostly because of zoning complaints or other issues that are arising.”
Shidell said he wants Jennrich to look into any technological advances that may make the department more efficient.
“If we can improve technological advances within the department, we can eliminate, through attrition or whatever, an employee. That saves the county, not only immediately, but over the long haul, it saves a ton of money,” Shidell said.
The zoning budget was approved unanimously.
The Oneida County Tourism Council requested $100,000 from the county for 2013, up from the $85,000 it received in 2012.
The council gave a presentation on the importance of tourism during last month’s county board meeting hoping that the information would help come budget time.
Included in the information presented was the fact that every dollar spent on marketing in 2011 brought back $6 in local and state taxes, as well as a cautionary tale from the state of Colorado.
From 1993 to 2000, Colorado eliminated its tourism marketing funding after officials decided that the state was so popular that it didn’t need to market itself to travelers anymore.
Because of that decision, Colorado lost billions in tourism revenue annually, proving that even the most popular tourist destinations still need to market themselves to travelers.
Supervisors Bob Martini, Gary Baier, and Ted Cushing also spoke on behalf of the council and in support of the work it does for the county.
Supervisor Jerry Shidell, however, said he wants to see area towns start putting more into the pot instead of leaving the lion’s share of tourism funding to be paid by the county.
Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce Director Kim Baltus, speaking on behalf of the council, said area towns and chambers do help the council, but also focus on their own marketing activities, which also helps bring people to the county.
Shidell then made a motion to amend the county’s contribution to the council to $75,000 but the motion failed as he was the only one to vote in favor of it.
Committee member Sonny Paszak then made a motion to amend the amount to $85,000. That amendment passed with Cushing and Dave Hintz voting against it.
The amended budget of $85,000 was then passed unanimously.
The Oneida County Sheriff’s Department requested a 2013 budget of $7,784,727, down $17,500 from its 2012 request of $7,802,227.
Sheriff Jeff Hoffman told the committee he tried to put together a realistic budget while also stressing the importance of public safety.
“I made every possible attempt to provide the county board with a realistic budget,” Hoffman said. “In the past, the county board has endorsed realistic budgeting and my hope is that continues. My hope also is that public safety remains a priority in our budget process. My budget is consistent with our long-range and strategic planning process.”
Hoffman also said he hopes to be able to house more state inmates in the county jail this year, which would increase the revenue stream for his department.
The sheriff’s department budget was approved unanimously.
The Forestry Department is a little different from most county departments as it is a revenue-generating department for the county.
According to Forestry Director John Bilogan, the department is expecting to bring more money into the county in 2013 than it did in 2012.
“Last year, in 2012, we brought a budget that had an estimated $760,000 profit for the county and (for 2013), our estimate is $780,000,” Bilogan said.
“This resulted in two things about equal in size. One was a reduction in our expenses, largely due to the elimination of a full-time employee and entering into a contract with RASTA (Rhinelander Area Silent Trails Association) to do some trail grooming. The other was a slight increase in our stumpage revenue.”
The forestry budget was approved unanimously.
The Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport requested $162,500 from the county for 2013, up from the $155,000 it has requested since 2009.
The reason for the increase is the new stormwater utility expense implemented by the city of Rhinelander.
The county is planning to move the UW-Extension offices from the airport to the courthouse but since the project may not be complete before the end of the year, the committee also decided to pay another year’s rent ($40,000) to be safe.
The airport will also be asking the city for $162,500.
The airport budget was approved unanimously.
The UW-Extension Department requested $206,144 for 2013, compared to $219,653 for 2012.
The main point of contention surrounding the budget was the 4-H/Youth Development Agent position which has been vacant since Jim Winkler retired in August.
The position coordinates the 4-H program while also running other youth programs such as the Teen Court.
Shidell said he has a problem with the county funding 4-H and other youth activities when it does nothing for other, similar programs.
“How much money does Oneida County give to the Boy Scouts of America? How much money does Oneida County give to the Girl Scouts of America, to Campfire USA, the YMCA, the Rhinelander Ice Association?” Shidell asked. “They all serve youth with no direct subsidy from the county. I submit that by providing these subsidies, we are ending up treating other equally valuable and beneficial youth services unfairly.”
Erica Brewster, department head for the UW-Extension, said the position is vital to youth development.
Shidell moved to amend the department’s budget so that the position is only half-time.
The change would save the county about $17,000.
The amendment passed with Hintz and Cushing voting against it.
The amended UW-Extension budget then passed unanimously.
The Highway Department requested a 2013 budget of $1,367,924, down from $1,399,224 in 2012.
The decrease is due to a reduced staff and added revenues Highway Commissioner Freeman Bennett was able to work out through maintenance agreements with the state.
The budget was passed unanimously.
The Oneida County Economic Development Corporation requested $85,000 for 2013, exactly on par with what it got for 2012.
The request was approved unanimously.
Marcus Nesemann may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.