The Jefferson County City Council met on Tuesday, Oct. 9. The council met to discuss the proposed 2019 budget along with a few other topics throughout the night.
The budget was the hot topic of the night and included a presentation from County Administrator Ben Wehmeier. He started off by saying, “We’re really proud of where our budget is tonight.”
The proposed budget is for 2019 is just over $81 million. This is significantly higher than the 2018 budget which was closer to $72 million.
The reason for the cost difference was due to a variety of reasons. Mostly, one-time expenditures. As Jim Schroeder said, “We are doing some creative things this next year.”
These creative things include updating the communication systems used throughout the county. A lot of the technology is out of date, and to keep every employee on the same page, updating everything at once is to be the best option.
A few other expenses include the bike trail in Oconomowoc, the county park and the highway shop. All of which either need updates or overall improvements.
One of the largest costs in the county is in the personnel. With the changes in employee’s health insurance, the county is looking to save about $1.2 million. Wehmeier said, “Resources are going to be tougher and tougher to come by,” making the change necessary.
Most of the money that will be used to cover the costs in the budget comes from property taxes. Wehmeier estimates that this covers about $29 million. The rest of the money comes from various sources such as sales tax.
With the rest of the budget, and hopefully finding some savings along the way, the county is hoping to add a few full-time employees, especially in human services. Mental health professionals are psychotherapists are looking to be added to the mix. Dick Jones said, “This is the last safety net for people in jeopardy,” and mentioned that the county needs to be prepared because just one family in need can cost thousands of dollars.
The county is looking to finish up major highway projects in the next few years. The county has a five-year plan set and hopes that major issues will be attended to in that time. Roads are constantly being invested in, and safe, long term solutions are being searched for by the county. No cost is too great, as Wehmeier said, “We don’t want to risk safety for a dollar.”
The rest of the budget presentation included a strategic plan implementation, capital projects and notes about funding in advance.
The financial outlook included some possible challenges, such as hospitalizations, out of state placements, position and/or personnel funding and the infrastructure, to name a few. Any of these costs could prove problematic with sticking to the budget next year.
Some examples of positives listed in the financial outlook include a solid fund balance, limited debt and proactive planning. Along with the contingency plan, the county hopes to come under budget with the proposed 2019 budget.
The proposed budget will soon be up for review and approval, starting on Oct. 23, when a public hearing will take place. The budget will then be approved on Nov. 13, as it is due to the state by Nov. 15.
Other items discussed throughout the meeting included:
- The resolution in remembrance of Leon Zimdars
- the sale of the Lake Mills highway satellite shop and what it means for the buyer and the county
- the denial of the claim by Joanne Vonachen, who wanted a refund for concert tickets purchased, but was not able to attend due to inclimate weather
- the proclamation for 4-H Week
- the truck purchase for the Highway Department which could cost nearly $2 million. This purchase would include the trucks themselves along with the necessary equipment such as beds, tanks, hydraulic equipment and controls to be used by the trucks