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Taylor County Budget Cuts Delayed?

12/11/14  Budget Cuts Delayed?


  The Taylor County budget cutting meeting took on a “we’ll do it later” theme on Thursday.  The combined Personnel and Finance committee meeting started with chairman Chuck Zenner expressing the opinion that the committee was moving too fast.  He said the goal to have a list of $500,000 in 2016 budget cuts before January 15th is “insane”. 
  Scott Mildebrand indicated he understood that with proposed budgetary cuts, the county could lessen the impact.  "If we don’t make cuts we could be $915,000 short in 2016".

  Tim Hanson said that 2015’s budget is done, and we have 10 months to get 2016 done. 

  Lester Lewis said the reason he proposed a referendum was so the county wouldn’t have to cut services.  He said if we wait until October, then we’re cutting services.  Lewis said that every year since he’s been on the board they’ve spent money out of the reserve fund.
  Dave Krug indicated he thought Thursday’s meeting was an idea search, with committee members to make recommendations for budget cuts, like tossing spaghetti at the wall to see if it sticks.  Then, through the media the committee would get feedback on what the public thinks.
  Chuck Zenner said again that January 15th was too soon.
  Lewis challenged, "when are you proposing we pose the referendum"?
  Zenner indicated he didn’t have a date.
  Krug said he agreed it was too hasty.  He called it a very delicate process involving people’s livelihood. "At some point we may have to challenge the state, we can’t go on like this".
  Lester Lewis made a motion to recommend that the county board postpone the referendum asking for up to $1 million until the April 2016 ballot.  The measure to postpone the referendum passed by a 4 yes 3 no votes.  At that point Supervisor Lewis stood up and left the meeting, indicating he had better ways to spend his time.
  Chairman Zenner asked the group for ideas on additional revenues for the county.  Department heads indicated that they could charge more for permits, they reminded the committee that the funds would be coming from tax payers and that would only add several thousand dollars to the bottom line.  Larry Wobeking indicated that 10 inmates from Marathon County would be housed in Taylor County’s jail bringing in an extra $400 per day. 
  Jim Metz asked if the sheriff’s department could share squad cars.  Larry Wobeking responded that they currently have about 12 and would need to have at least 4 or 5.  But he cautioned that instead of replacing 2 per year as they do now, they would need to replace 4 per year.  He said it may cost more as they wouldn’t be able to lease the vehicles.

  Supervisor Fuchs indicated he felt cuts could be made in the Extension Office, maybe with the exception of 4-H.  He said that could save over $200,000.
  Dave Krug said he saw a value on paying 40 cents on the dollar for research information from specialists.  The state pays 60% of the extension department expenses.  Mr. Krug felt perhaps 2 of the extension departments could be scrutinized. 
  Mr. Fuchs said that perhaps law enforcement could cut from 3 on each shift down to 2.  And that the highway department could save fuel and miles by not doing full patrols each day.  He said when it snows the drivers could be on-call and eliminate overtime pay.
  Chuck Zenner felt that cuts could be made to the Westboro library, the humane society, the grazing specialist, the assistant position in the register of deeds office, and some of the fair board expenses.
  Continuing on potential cuts, Jim Metz questioned Northwest Regional Planning, who’s incubator building in Medford which was designed for business start-ups, is now a glorified storage building.
  Scott Mildebrand suggested closing the housing authority office and shifting it to Northwest Regional.    He suggested cutting the support staff in the Veterans Service Office to ½ time, shave $20,000 from the airport budget, and $20,000 from the IT office, not replacing a half time retiree.  He felt the conference training budget could be cut by 20%, and the highway department equipment replacement fund could be trimmed.
  Tim Hanson suggested eliminating the Human Services department financial director for a savings of $100,000.  He wanted highway department overtime eliminated by changing the schedule.  Regarding the funding of the ambulance service he felt Aspirus could take a more active role.
  Supervisor Krug questioned the $14,000 for the uniform address system.  He also thought that county board pay should be capped for half day attendance.
  Dave Bizer questioned the $5,000 given as startup money every year for the Taylor County Fair.
  Mr. Zenner asked if any county property could be sold such as the Pirus shooting range?
  Jim Metz concluded the meeting by asking all department heads to talk with board members about suggestions for efficiency.
  The Taylor County Board will vote in December on whether or not to delay the proposed April referendum which is asking for up to $1 million in additional county budget funding.


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