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Rock County residents speak up at hearing

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ANN MARIE AMES
November 8, 2007
— Making a county budget can be dull.

Until it comes to public hearing night.


More than 20 Rock County residents spoke before the board Wednesday night, sharing their personal stories and asking the board to support programs.


All the speakers addressed the Human Services Department portion of the budget, and many were emotional.


The county board is expected to vote on the budget at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, in the board room in the Rock County Courthouse.


-- Jean Lee, Milton, program director for the Epilepsy Foundation


Lee said one of the foundation’s missions is to train teachers, church officials and others who deal with the public to respond to seizures.


“Our goal is to assist and train as many people in the community as possible, so (epileptics) are safe and don’t have to call an ambulance. The more people we can train to respond to a seizure appropriately, the more money we can save in the community.”


-- Roxanne Hemmerling, Beloit, teacher in the Beloit Turner School District


Turner is one of the school districts trained by the Epilepsy Foundation.


“We’ve had several students who have been diagnosed with epilepsy from teachers who have recognized symptoms.”


-- Rebecca Stellings, Beloit, her daughter, Ally, has a seizure disorder


Stellings said the Epilepsy Foundation helped her get past feelings of hopelessness and loneliness.


“Without the foundation, I don’t know what step I would have taken. At any given point, I can pick up the phone and someone will say, ‘We’ll get through this. It might not be what we would like, but we’ll get through this.’”


-- Gary Bersell, Janesville, executive director of Kandu Industries


“Our funding has changed. In the 80s, we enjoyed getting 80 percent of our funding from Rock County and the United Way. In 2007, the combined funding from those two facilities will be 37 percent.


“The waiting list for Kandu is almost 200 (people.) Because of this list, services are delayed three to eight years after graduation. Parents are drastically looking for services to fill days, weeks, years. Clients are sitting at home and becoming depressed.”


-- Rhonda Doherty, Beloit, clinical coordinator of Beloit’s Community Support Program.


Doherty said the demand for services for the mentally ill is growing. A staffing increase is on the budget for 2008.


“We’re hoping to get the additional staff so we can continue to provide the quality of care we do. We are getting people that are more difficult to work with … It gets to be more challenging as time goes on to do our work.”


-- Judy Schroeder, Cambridge, works with Catholic Charities developmental disability counseling program.


Next week will mark the one-year anniversary of a car accident that left Schroeder’s son disabled.


“Remember, a developmental disability is only a car accident away.”


Rock County budget

A look at the 2007-2008 budget for Rock County.


Highlights:


-- Next year’s budget reflects strides taken in 2007 to reduce overcrowding in the jail, County Administrator Craig Knutson said.


-- The 2008 budget proposal reaps the windfall of the half-percent county sales tax that went into effect in April.


-- The focus in 2008 will be the Human Services Department.


The department has reduced its staff by 42.6 positions since 1999 and should be commended for working hard to save millions, Knutson said.


But the time has come to put resources back into the department.


Caseloads are increasing for county employees. So far in 2007, the Child Protective Services Division has had more calls than it did in all of 2006.


To handle the changes, Knutson is recommending three new child protective services positions, two new positions for the Community Support Program and three new positions in the Juvenile Justice Division. Grant money will pay for part of the staff additions.


What’s next:


The board is expected to approve the budget at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13.


Total budget


Next year: $173.5 million


This year: $168.0 million


Percent increase: 3.3%


Tax levy


Next year: $53.4 million


This year: $51.8 million


Percent increase: 2.9%


Tax rate


(Per $1,000 of equalized valuation)


Next year: $5.46


This year: $5.59


Percent decrease: 2.3%


Note: Percent changes calculated on whole numbers.



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