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Study: Walworth County gained least in state aid

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Mike Heine
November 20, 2007

For the first half of the decade, Walworth County received the lowest average amount of state aid per capita, according to a study released recently by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.


The county received just $156 in reimbursements for each of its citizens, according to the study, “A Snapshot of County Finances: 2005.” It was one of only four counties to receive less than $200 per citizen.


Rock County was fourth lowest out of 72 state counties, receiving $193 per person.


Over the span of the study, from 2000-05, Walworth County also lost 32.7 percent of state funding—the largest loss in the state. It was one of 13 counties to lose state revenues.


On the whole, state aids to counties went up 10.6 percent over that span.


According to the study, most of the $1.64 billion in state funds that went to counties funded health and human services ($1.19 billion or 70.4 percent).


The state average for those services was $365 per citizen. Walworth County spent about $373 per citizen.


Counties receiving the most state aid—Menominee, Pepin, Florence, Rusk and Iron—tended to be in northern Wisconsin, areas more sparsely populated with lower property values and income levels.


Menominee, the state’s poorest county, received $1,082 per person in state aid in 2005, or about 45 percent more than the second-highest recipient. Most of the money went for health and human services activities, according to the study.


Such studies are an excellent snapshot of the situations around the state, but the devil is in the details, Walworth County Administrator David Bretl said.


“I did a double-take,” said Bretl. “I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’”


Then he thought about the study’s parameters.


With the lion’s share of state funding tied to health and human services, it’s not surprising Walworth County was low on the list of state aids per capita, Bretl said.


From 2000-05, the county’s health and human services department was using a system that captured little state reimbursements, Bretl said.


After a complete department revamping, in which programs were tailored specifically to capture state aids, Bretl expects the county’s position to improve.


It would be interesting to see a study that shows the county’s position on aid recuperation from 2006-10, Bretl said.


“I would venture to say, if we replicate that (study) again, we’d do better than the $156,” he said.


Overall, the county is continually searching for state and federal funds. It has hired outside agencies to research grant funding and used in-house department heads to see what additional funding might be available to support programs and offset taxes, Bretl said.


TO LEARN MORE
To read more about the study, visit the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance Web site at www.wistax.org.

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