JANESVILLE—Rock County Supervisor Mike Zoril says he plans to propose at Thursday’s county board meeting that the county treasurer’s office budget be cut up to 50% in 2023.
The treasurer’s office’s 2022 budget was $432,696. Zoril said the proposal comes as the office remains closed to the public due to COVID-19.
County Treasurer Michelle Roettger, who’s an elected official, confirmed to The Gazette Wednesday that her office remains closed to the public, as it has been during the pandemic, although staff are working inside.
She said the closure is protecting the health of the office’s staff.
“Some of us are taking care of our elderly parents. It’s just a precautionary thing to keep the office going,” she said.
The Rock County Board meets Thursday at 6 p.m. in Courtroom H on the fourth floor of the Rock County Courthouse in Janesville.
Zoril, who represents parts of the city of Beloit and town of Beloit on the county board, is presenting the proposal about a month before the county board votes on its 2023 budget.
Zoril told The Gazette on Wednesday that he will, at minimum, ask for no increase to the treasurer’s office budget for 2023. He said he will ask for a budget cut if the office doesn’t take steps to re-open by Dec. 31.
Roettger told The Gazette she would consider reopening the office in December if there isn’t a local spike between now and then in COVID-19 cases or variants.
Zoril countered that, while it was necessary to take measures like closing offices temporarily starting in 2020, keeping them closed now has become “excessive.” He said the county has taken measures to install new air filtration systems at the courthouse and to clean surfaces that are touched frequently.
Roettger said if people come to the office door to make payments, staff members “absolutely” open the door to process payments and have never turned anyone away.
However, that contradicts a post on the treasurer’s office page on the county’s website as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.
“With the desire to limit possible spread or exposure to COVID-19 and variants, our office will no longer accept payments in person until further notice,” the post said.
When asked about that, Roettger said that “is for the people that are coming in who are giving us their tax payment when the line gets long.”
She added, “I guess I better change that (wording).”
Roettger said there are long lines, particularly during tax season, that span the hallway and down the stairs, which added to COVID-19 concerns.
Zoril said he went to the treasurer’s office Tuesday and knocked on the door.
He said he waited outside the office for several minutes for a response and did not get one, which Roettger disputed. Both later confirmed to a Gazette reporter that they did speak in the hallway outside the treasurer’s office, at which point Zoril shared his concerns about the office not being open.
Roettger said there are four staff members in the office, including her, the deputy treasurer and two others.
“There are only two people in this office that know what we’re doing. If I get sick and my deputy gets sick, then nobody is going to get paid because I sign everything. I’m trying to keep everyone safe,” Roettger said.
Zoril declined to send his draft resolution to The Gazette, but he said in an email he might share it “after I get some more feedback from staff.”
“Because the treasurer position is an elected position, the board doesn’t have much authority over that office—other than the budget,” Zoril wrote in the email.
County Administrator Josh Smith said no other courthouse offices remain closed because of COVID-19 precautions. He said offices may be closed briefly, such as over a lunch hour or if there isn’t enough staff to keep an office open.
The closest example to an office being closed, Smith said, is the Veterans Services Office, but that is still open to the public.
“The Veteran Services Office keeps the door closed because they have interviews with veterans and they have sensitive files. The office is still open to the public, but the door is closed,” Smith said.
Interviews with veterans entail confidential information, which also prompts the door to be closed, Smith said.