Janesville29.8°

Budget proposal lowers county taxes, expenses

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ANN MARIE AMES
October 10, 2008
— Rock County Administrator Craig Knutson on Thursday night often compared the county budget to a household budget.

But unlike a family that can trim expenses during tough economic times, the county is legally bound to keep providing services to its residents.


And while money is just as tight for the county as it is for local families, the need for services could increase as the economy worsens, Knutson said.


Places such as the job center, the jail and the courts might get busier as times get harder, Knutson said while presenting his 2009 budget proposal to the county board.


"Rather than the demand for services going down as it does for many private sector entities, the demand for county services goes up," Knutson said. "In addition, the county has no choice but to provide many of these services because we are required to by state law."


Here are some highlights from the proposed $171.6 million budget:


-- Knutson proposes a $1 million increase for the placement of residents in state institutions, such as Mendota or Winnebago mental health facilities. The county predicts it will go $1.3 million over budget in 2008 to place people in institutions.


The over-run is a result of increases in the cost of care and an increase of the number of institutionalized Rock County residents, Knutson said. Over the last five years, the average daily census was six people. In 2008, it was 13 people.


-- Here's something to ease the pain: an anticipated one-time payment of $1.8 million from the American Transmission Co. for the new Paddock-Rockdale high-voltage transmission line. The money will offset the need for tax levy in 2009 for the county parks division and land conservation department and could go toward some costs in other departments, Knutson said.


-- Knutson recommends depositing $5.8 million in sales tax revenue into the jail/health care complex project account. That brings the total to $13.5 million that will be available when the county decides to expand its jail, Knutson said.


-- Knutson recommends using sales tax revenue to reduce the amount the county spends from its general fund (or savings account) by $1 million to $700,000. This protects the county's rainy day fund and its bond rating, Knutson said.


"While everyone would probably agree that the current environment constitutes a rainy day, it's hard to know whether there is a hurricane waiting for us in the coming years," Knutson said.


-- You're groaning at your 401(k). The county's investment income is down, too, by an expected $650,564 in 2009 compared to 2008, Knutson said.


-- A slow economy also means less income through the county sales tax, Knutson said. The county estimates it will earn $9.9 million in sales tax in 2008. That's down from $11.4 million in expected earnings.


The county predicts it will earn $10 million in 2009 from sales taxes.


-- Knutson recommends two new positions in the economic support division, which handles BadgerCare Plus, food share and W-2 benefits. He also proposes moving an administrative assistant to the division. The division has nearly twice the cases it had in 2002 but has had no staff increases, Knutson said.


ROCK COUNTY BUDGET

What's next?: At 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 3, the Rock County Board will meet to review the 2009 proposed budget. At 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5, the board will hold a public hearing for the proposed budget. On Wednesday, Nov. 12, the board will meet to take action on the budget. All meetings will be in the board room at the Rock County Courthouse, 51 S. Main St., Janesville.


Total budget


Next year: $171.6 million


This year: $173.6 million


Decrease: 1.14%


Tax levy


Next year: $55 million


This year: $53.4 million


Increase: 3.03%


Tax rate


(Per $1,000 of equalized valuation)


Next year: $5.38


This year: $5.46


Decrease: 1.53%


Note: Percent changes calculated on whole numbers.



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