By Joe Kubicki

The Jefferson County Board is one step closer to adopting a 2018 final budget after last night’s public budget hearing. Counties are required by state law to hold a public hearing in a meeting prior to adopting a final budget. The meeting was short as no one from the public made any comments.

On the surface the budget is not very different from last year. However, a closer look at the details of the budget will paint a different picture of the changes in Jefferson County.

General Information

– The 2018 proposed budget is over $72.3 million. That is roughly a $200,000 increase from 2017.

– In 2018 the mill rate drops to 4.16 percent.

– Despite the decreased mill rate, the overall budget increased because the overall property value in Jefferson County increased.

-The highway department, human services, and sheriff have the highest spending. No drastic spending change from 2017.

– The County Clerks budget increased by roughly $170, 000 to add additional staff for next year’s election and to pay for new voting machines. This will standardize voting machines across the county and eliminate the need to buy ballots as the new machines will be able to print them onsite.

– There are no drastic changes between the proposed 2018 budget from the 2017 budget.

Finance Committee Chairman Richard Jones believes that the county is currently financially stable. He stated that the county has built in a three month working reserve, emergency and retirement contingency funds, and has a low level of debt.

While many counties around the state are taking on debt to pay everyday bills, Jefferson County only has the debt of the new highway shop located at 1425 Wisconsin Dr. which was completed 2 years ago.

Despite the current stability, County Board Chairmen Jim Schroeder believes that the county is going to have to face some challenges in the near future.

One such problem is levy limits. Levy limits restrict the amount of property tax money municipality can take. These limits make it harder for communities to operate with a static revenue stream while the cost of things they need increases. This forces municipalities to be leaner and more efficient in their operations in order to avoid cutting services.

Schroeder said that, “the only way we will be able to sustain county operations and continue to provide the services we provide today and provide for the prosperity of our citizens is if we develop.”

According to Schroeder, Jefferson County has traditionally been seen as a county that is “anti-development” and has focused on the preservation of farm land and green space.

Schroeder said the board is recognizing “that there has to be a balance between preservation of agricultural land and other green space with well thought out common sense development that is going to bring more revenue into the town.”

The county and surrounding municipalities have increased their annual investment in economic development by 50 percent. Another source of economic development is the Glacial Heritage Development Partnership (GHDP) which is tasked with rising money for economic development.

Another problem that is driving the budget is the opioid crisis. While this is a national epidemic, it is state and local governments that battle the problems on the day to day basis.

According to Jones, this crisis specifically drives the $24.1 million human services budget. It also drives up the cost for the child services, emergency services, medical examiner and county courts budgets.

At any one time Jefferson County has 200 people in treatment for opioid addiction. As a result, Jefferson County last month voted to join with the Wisconsin Counties Association to investigate suing the opioid manufactures.

The board is proactively addressing all of these future issues in their long range planning.

In the meantime, the budget is the final stages of completion and the board plans to approve the budget on November 14.


At last night’s Whitewater Common Council meeting, the council discussed the issues of university parking, the budget, and city owned Landmarks.

The council and The University of Wisconsin Whitewater continued their discussions regarding parking on and around campus. Chancellor Beverly Kopper, Vice Chancellor of Administrative Affairs Grace Crickett and Police Services Chief Matthew Kiederlen represented the university and presented the policies for parking regulations and enforcement to the council. The issue stems from the university’s decision to remove parking meters from Prince and Prairie streets, requiring people to pay for a parking pass to park on those streets, and the cost increase for parking permits. Many residents and council members feel that these new changes are unfair to the tax paying community.

Whitewater resident and former university employee Pam Zarinnia believes this is an issue of “double taxation” and said, “I think it is absolutely outrageous what they have done with the streets on either side of the campus. I am embarrassed to be part of a city that basically let them do that and get away with it.

Ald. James Allen also addressed concerns that nearby residents are being affected by the expansion of people from the university parking in neighborhoods as a result of limited parking and permit cost increases.

Despite the concerns from the council and residents, the current memorandum of understanding states that since the university leases Prince and Prairie streets from the city, they have the ability to regulate and enforce parking as they see fit. While no true action was taken at this meeting, the council discussed the issue further in executive session and will continue to address it in future meetings.

Zarinnia, in her comments also brought up the issue of the safety of students crossing in the crosswalk in front of the Anderson Library. She stated that the current situation is unsafe and that, “I really don’t want to see another dead person on that crossing.”

Since the issue was not on the agenda, the council agreed to review it at another meeting.

The Budget

Following discussions of parking was City Manager Cameron Clapper’s budget presentation. The budget is still in the planning stage and has not been approved yet. The 2018 budget is anticipated to be approved by Nov. 21, 2017. Here are some of the major points of the proposed budget.

  • 2018 Budget $9,174,846 which is roughly $30,000 less than last year.
  • The source of revenue is primarily from taxes and intergovernmental revenue
  • Minor increases and reductions in various funding, not any drastic changes for this budget.
  • Addressed the need for a long term financial plan.
  • Major issue in the near future is a gradual reduction in revenue. Proposed ways to increase revenue.

Some of the options are…

  • Diversify revenue streams
  • Economic growth- bring in more tax dollars (hotel example)
  • Extend life cycle for equipment/vehicle replacement
  • Extend infrastructure replacement schedules
  • Referendum
  • Reduction in operations

Clapper’s largest concern for the budget is the general trend in the reduction in revenue. This is partially a result of state limits on taxation in small communities. To address the problem of dwindling revenue, the council plans to vote on a resolution to work with Ehlers and Associates to create a long range financial plan. The budget will be discussed further by the finance committee on Thursday nights. Times and Locations will be posted in the near future.

City owned Landmarks

The last major discussion point was the issue of landmarks. Many concerned residents and people from the Landmarks Commission protested before the meeting over a fear of the city being able to rescind landmarks. Whitewater resident Carol Cartwright said “I am concerned that these city owned Landmarks could be threatened.”

Discussed at the meeting were two potential ordinances. The first would give the city council the ability to approve or not approve potential Landmark designations when the site is city owned property. After some discussion this ordinance was unanimously approved with Ald. Carol McCormick missing.

The second ordinance would give the right to city council to rescind Landmark designations on city owned property. Ald. Christopher Grady, the author of both ordinances, stated that he wants the city council to have the same rights to rescind Landmarks as a private citizen. His major concern was that in the event of a disaster, the city would be forced to pay the repair bill if a city owned Landmark was damaged. This ordinance died without a second. Members of the city council and the Landmarks Commission are going to work together in the near future to resolve any further issues.