Rock County could take a hit in state budget

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Ted Sullivan
Saturday, March 28, 2009
— Rock County could lose $2.6 million in state funding in the governor’s proposed 2009 through 2011 state budget, county officials said.

Gov. Jim Doyle’s budget cuts money for Rock County Human Services and other departments, impacting areas where the need is greatest, Rock County Administrator Craig Knutson said.

Child protective services, juvenile probation and medical and food-assistance programs would take a hit, he said.

Low-income families would be affected most by the loss, Knutson said.

“Rock County has lost over 6,000 jobs in the last 18 months. We have one of the highest unemployment rates in the state,” Knutson said. “We just see the demand continue to increase given the unemployment rate.”

A $391,000 cut to child protective services in 2010 could affect investigations into abuse and neglect cases, Knutson said. And economic stress on families has increased demand.

A $147,300 slice to the county’s “income maintenance allocation” in 2010 takes money for the management of medical, food stamp and child-care programs, he said.

The demand for people in need of medical or food assistance has tripled to 15,000 cases since the mid-1990s, Knutson said.

A few hundred cases have been added each month this year, he said.

“These budget cuts are going to make it that much more difficult to provide the services our citizens really need, particularly in these economic times,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rock County hasn’t received a funding increase for these departments since the 1990s, Knutson said, and the cost of doing business has gone up.

“It wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for a lot of these dollar amounts being frozen for the last 15 years,” he said.

Other cuts in the state budget include $413,200 in 2010 to combat juvenile crime with probation, diversion and other youth programs, Knutson said.

Rock Haven Nursing Home also could lose $344,000 in 2010, he said.

While the state budget proposes similar cuts to counties statewide, it has increased funding for the same departments the state controls in Milwaukee County, Knutson said.

Although Milwaukee County might need the money, other counties face the same struggles, he said.

“I think you’ll see counties in general with the same concerns,” Knutson said.

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee will be combing through the budget and making changes in April, said Phil Boutwell, assistant to the county administrator.

The county will lobby the committee and state lawmakers to restore county funding, he said.

Rock County Board members also were encouraged to call lawmakers, Boutwell said.

Restoring the money will be a challenge given the state’s budget crisis, but the county has hope, Boutwell said.

The Legislature is expected to review the budget in May, he said. It could be approved in the summer.

Last updated: 9:47 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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