The Jefferson council met this past Tuesday, and discussed the overall budget, as well as a few resolutions that would be added to enhance the work flow in the community. In a meeting that not many people testify in, Chairman of the Finance Committee Dick Jones spoke regarding the county’s budget before they went into their meeting with the other council members.
Jones mentioned that the county is, and has been in good financial shape for some time now. The main reason that they haven’t had to worry about their finances is due in part that the county does not take on too much debt. Jones pointed out that they were debt free for a while, but recent construction of a highway shop has put them under, and they are currently working to pay that off. Regardless, Chairman Schroeder says, “they have money in the cookie jar,” and have money available for the future.
Another one of the big things featured in the budget is the Human Services area. Schroeder made a point that, “opiates is one of the things driving this budget.” Opiates are quite a problem in Jefferson county; “at any given time, we have about 200 people under treatment for opioid addiction,” said Jones.
This issue doesn’t just affect the human services area; Schroeder explained that the courts, child support, and medical examiners are all impacted by the epidemic. The amount of treatment that goes into helping those 200 people at a time significantly bring up the expenditures in the human services area, which currently stands at $24 million dollars. However, the county is currently working towards a resolution that would allow the state to sue opioid and drug manufacturers. The suit is sponsored by the Wisconsin Counties Association, and it is believed that most of the counties will join the suit. The opioid crisis is a severe issue right now, both emotionally for families, and from a financial standpoint from the county, but this suit could do a lot of good.
Regarding how the county is doing unrelated to finances, Chairman Jones believes that “the only way we’ll be able to sustain county operations, and provide for the prosperity of our citizens is if we develop.” Jones knows that this is considered a big statement for such a small county, as the county has been traditionally seen as anti-development. The county has believed firmly in farmland preservation, and the preservation of green space.
Though they have stayed true to their land preservation, Jones acknowledged the fact that there needs to be a balance between the preservation of agricultural land with well thought out common sense development. With this thought process it would hopefully bring more revenue to the county, and provide more jobs to the citizens of Jefferson.
As for the future in the budget, Jefferson’s county clerk office will be getting more money in the year 2018. This is mainly due in part to the implementation of a new voting machine that will be used for the gubernatorial election. The new ballot machines will significantly increase workflow and ease of elections, as Finance Director Marc Devries points out that, “these new machines print their own ballots,” which will make them more efficient and helpful.
The budget for 2018 doesn’t change significantly, as the main sources of revenue and expenditure stay consistent from 2017. The county clerk budget does go up, mostly due to the new machines, but the good news for the county is that the debt service is projected to decrease in next year’s deflection. As the county continues to work on paying off the highway shop, and no other significant projects are brought about, the debt service number should continue to fall. The final vote for next year’s budget will be held on Tuesday November 14.