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.


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