Posted Monday, October 1, 2012 --- 5:20 p.m.
Press Release from the Office of the Dane County Executive:
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi introduced his 2013 budget Monday, a document that reflects a series of new efforts the County Executive is initiating to strengthen our communities. The budget makes significant investments in preserving the safety net for the county’s most vulnerable citizens while enhancing public safety and improving Dane County’s already great quality of life.
“My budget capitalizes on our county’s strengthening fiscal foundation and reflects our community’s values – we’re growing our economy, protecting our most vulnerable citizens, addressing the root causes of our community’s challenges, and cleaning up our lakes,” said Parisi. “We continue to live in uncertain times, but this budget addresses our needs and invests in our families and communities to ensure all who live here have the opportunity to succeed."
Parisi’s budget increases the county’s investment in human services for vulnerable citizens by $5.3 million over last year with new initiatives to address the achievement gap in our schools, child abuse and neglect, the public safety problems posed by drug and alcohol addiction, and reducing the time people with disabilities wait for services.
The County Executive’s budget also addresses community priorities by allocating more dollars to improving highways, stimulating economic development and more “green” jobs, protecting public safety, and enhancing the county’s commitment to local foods. Parisi made these accomplishments while holding down property taxes to their lowest increase in four years.
HUMAN SERVICES – SUPPORTING CHILDREN, FAMILIES, OUR MOST VULNERABLE
Parisi’s 2013 human services budget totals over $242 million, representing nearly half of the entire county budget and an amount greater than the entire City of Madison operating budget. The County Executive’s budget builds upon the legacies of effective, smart programs done only in Dane County that serve our most vulnerable citizens and address pressing needs in the community.
As announced last week, the county, United Way, and Madison Metropolitan School District, together with other community partners, will launch a first of its kind “birth to four year old kindergarten” pilot program to help address the achievement gap in our schools.
By expanding the popular “birth to Three” model that the county has used in its successful Early Childhood Initiative, this new “Early Childhood Zone” will help dozens of kids and their families in the Leopold School neighborhood have a successful start in life and support them until they walk through the doors to their four-year old kindergarten classroom.
The pilot will also serve as a model to better integrate the efforts of the county’s Joining Forces for Families and Early Childhood Initiative Offices with the school district. This will help ensure more kids in our community can make a seamless transition from their early years at home to becoming successful students in school.
The County Executive’s budget debuts a new initiative to provide assistance and hope to dozens of individuals and their families currently on the county’s developmentally disabled resource wait lists. Parisi has created a new program offering help to dozens of those waiting for services.
This new $240,000 initiative offers adults with developmental disabilities $3,000 a year in flexible spending they can use for respite care, an independent living skills trainer, or other community support services. That support will enable more adults with disabilities to become active and engaged members of the community.
In Dane County, Child Protective Services (CPS) workers have some of the most difficult work in all of county government. This year, their caseloads are on track to be up 15% over 2011. To respond to this troubling trend in the severity and frequency of child abuse and neglect cases, the County Executive has created three additional CPS worker positions in his budget.
One of these new positions will serve as a liaison to the Dane County District Attorney’s Office to ensure investigations into the abuse of children are expedited, and the resources needed to effectively conduct them are coordinated.
Parisi’s budget also creates a new “Unified Family Court” pilot project. With this program, children can transition out of foster care more quickly during otherwise lengthy court proceedings. The goal is to place children in more stable living settings sooner –in days, instead of months. The new pilot will also help relieve pressure on the county’s over-burdened foster care system.
The County Executive’s budget helps children and their families who might otherwise be homeless after fleeing from domestic abuse. Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) operates a first-rate shelter for domestic abuse survivors, but a rising increase in demand has forced them to turn families away due to a lack of space.
DAIS is in the process of addressing their capacity challenges by moving forward with the construction of a new, larger, facility.
Last year the county was able to contribute nearly half a million dollars to that effort through Community Development Block Grant funds. Until the new shelter is complete, DAIS copes by providing hotel vouchers for emergency housing stays.
In addition to expanding dollars for domestic abuse victims this year, Parisi’s 2013 budget includes $25,000 for those vouchers to make sure domestic abuse survivors and their children have a safe place to stay in the coming year.
PROTECTING PUBLIC SAFETY BY ADDRESSING THE ROOT CAUSES OF OUR CHALLENGES
Like child abuse, alcohol and drug addiction continues to place a great strain on families, public safety, and the criminal justice system. Alcoholism remains the greatest underlying reason that people are in the county’s jail.
Many repeat drunk drivers in the criminal justice system turn their lives around through the successful county Pathfinder program. Pathfinder helps these individuals break free from their addiction and find a path back to meaningful employment, stable housing, and educational degrees.
Pathfinder is highly successful, but growing wait lists are forcing people who are ready and want help to sit in jail or at the County’s Huber work release Ferris Center for longer than they need to. To significantly reduce these wait lists and get more people help now, the County Executive’s budget includes a 40% increase in funding for the Pathfinder program – an $80,000 investment that will create 16 new treatment slots. This increased capacity will help convicted drunk drivers who want to leave their addiction behind start fresh.
Heroin and opiates addiction throughout Dane County – in urban and rural communities – remains a significant burden on families and public safety as well.
Last year, the County Executive’s budget created an Opiates Task Force, led by Safe Communities, to bring together health care professionals, law enforcement officials, and other community leaders to create a roadmap to address the root causes of opiates addiction.
In his 2013 budget, the County Executive continues funding for the Task Force but expands treatment for those addicted to opiates like heroin. Parisi’s budget adds six treatment slots for the county’s very effective “Drug Court.” Adding this treatment capacity was the top recommendation of the Opiates Task Force.
Without intervention, those struggling with addiction cycle in and out of the criminal justice system. Drug Court has proven effective at breaking that cycle, and getting at the root cause of why individuals are committing drug related crimes in the first place. In addition to more slots for Drug Court, the budget includes eight more day treatment slots for a variety of substance abuse offenses –including cocaine and marijuana.
Since converting to a Medical Examiners Office and hiring Dr. Vince Tranchida, Dane County has quickly earned a state and national reputation for its work in the area of death investigations and forensic pathology.
In addition to the day-to-day workload of an aging population, the office has taken on and successfully resolved cold cases, helping families find the justice and closure they’ve been seeking. Other counties are now bringing cases to our county office as well. That has resulted in increased revenue, but has also increased workload and created space challenges.
Parisi’s budget includes $3.5 million to construct a new Medical Examiners Office and the money needed to hire a second forensic pathologist (doctor) to meet the growing needs, and caseloads, of the Medical Examiner's Office. This new facility and additional doctor mean Dane County will be able to further regionalize this service.
The County Executive’s budget also provides funds to enhance the county’s Emergency Management operations through the development of a new emergency operations center.
This year, the County Executive broke ground on DaneCom, a county-wide emergency communications network that will allow, for the very first time, emergency responders to communicate with each other regardless of where they are in the county. DaneCom is expected to be up and running next year, and the County Executive’s budget funds the county’s share to pay for the annual operation of this state of the art, life-saving system.
The County Executive’s budget also provides for the technological assistance necessary to develop the county’s first text alert system. Once online, citizens will be able to sign up for timely notifications on road closures, emergency weather alerts, or to help law enforcement locate missing children or adults.
Parisi’s 2013 operating budget for the Sheriff's Office is $68.15 million, and a capital budget of $1.9 million. The capitol budget includes safety and other needed improvements to the Public Safety Building, including replacement of the roof and showers and a state of the art control panel to manage security throughout the building.
The capital budget funds nearly $575,000 for new squad cars along with essential radar and computer equipment to go with them. Also included is more than $100,000 to replace all of the heart defibrillators used in sheriff's squad cars that have helped save many lives since first being deployed in 2002.
The County Executive’s budget also supports the rising number of men and women who are returning home to Dane County as veterans.
To help these brave men and women cope with the unique challenges of resuming what is now their “new normal” life, Parisi provides additional resources to Dane County’s Veterans Service Office (VSO).
His budget includes the creation of a new Veterans Service Officer position to focus on the growing needs of female veterans. This new position will also help absorb the growing caseload the VSO is experiencing as more veterans seek the resources they are entitled to and deserve.
Parisi’s budget also creates a new program to help service-connected disabled veterans overcome painful transportation barriers that prevent them from making it to regular education, medical, or employment appointments. After the first of the year, eligible veterans will be able to come into the county VSO or visit with a Veteran Service Officer in the field to obtain a free monthly bus pass.
INVESTMENTS IN INFRASTRUCTURE, BOLSTERING TOURISM
The County Executive’s highway budget makes a substantial investment in safer roads. At $3.5 million more than the department requested, and $6.7 million total, it is the county’s largest transportation budget in over a decade.
Parisi’s budget funds the completion of the multi-year overhaul of Monona Drive (Highway BB) and includes dollars to rehab increasingly busy rural routes like Highway PB near the county’s very popular Prairie Moraine dog park in the Town of Verona.
The county’s aging network of rural roads will also get some assistance. The County Executive has moved up the timelines of two important highway projects – restoration of significant stretches of Highway A in the Town of Perry ($1.65 million) and Highway W ($1.85 million) thru the Towns of Deerfield, Christiana, and Albion.
When possible, these projects include the creation of bike lanes to protect cyclist and motorist safety, adding to Dane County’s reputation as a world-class cycling destination.
A new grant program created by Parisi will allow the county to help local communities, like our 34 towns, make safety improvements to their lesser traveled roads to make for better interaction between bicyclists, motorists, and farmers.
As previously announced, the County Executive has been working with diverse partners to ensure that World Dairy Expo remains in Dane County for decades to come.
To make this a reality, Dane County, World Dairy Expo, and others like the Midwest Horse Fair stand ready to work with the state Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, on construction of new barn facilities at the Alliant Energy Center (AEC).
World Dairy Expo brings thousands of visitors to our community each year and is the signature annual event for an industry that represents an over $50 billion part of Wisconsin’s economy.
Should the grant application from the Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection to the State Building Commission be successful, Parisi’s budget represents the dollars needed to complete final architecture and design and begin demolition of the AEC’s aging barns shortly after the conclusion of World Dairy Expo 2013. If support from the Building Commission comes through, construction could occur in early 2014.
The new barns will also help other AEC customers, both new and existing, attract more people to Dane County for their events, and keep the facility a strong contributor to the local tourism economy.
Also previously announced, the County Executive’s budget includes $500,000 to construct a new solar powered system on the roof of a new highway garage the county plans to build next year near the Rodefeld Landfill.
This new “green garage” will compliment the largest municipally owned solar project in Wisconsin that will debut at the Dane County Regional Airport in 2013. Once built, the garage will be heated with gas generated by the county’s landfill and powered by solar energy – taking it completely off the grid.
CLEAN LAKES, ENERGY, LAND
Announced last week, the County Executive’s budget makes a $4.5 million investment in cleaning up area lakes. Included in the initiative is cutting edge technology that successfully removes 100% of the pollutant phosphorus from animal waste. Parisi’s budget will have $300,000 to install this cutting edge system as part of the new manure digester being built in the Town of Springfield in early 2013.
Phosphorus is the main culprit for smelly, unsightly lakes. One pound of phosphorus removed from our watershed prevents 500 pounds of algae growth in our waters.
Also previously announced, Parisi’s 2013 budget will include his ‘CNG by 2023’ budget initiative – the county’s commitment to expanded use of cheaper, cleaner, home-grown compressed natural gas, and the conversion of the county vehicle fleet to run on CNG over the next decade.
The budget will fund the purchase of a pilot fleet of snowplows in 2013 that will run on CNG. Dane County will become the first county in Wisconsin to invest in these new trucks, currently in their final stages of development.
Parisi’s budget also includes an additional $50,000 for a study that will provide a roadmap to accelerate converting county vehicles to CNG. The study will include evaluating existing county facilities for the potential development of additional CNG filling stations, including at the county’s future community digester sites.
Dane County’s parks will also receive additional resources in the County Executive’s budget to keep them cleaner and more accessible for everyone. An additional park staffer will monitor park and trail conditions, keeping them clean and safe for public use.
New investments in technology will also bring WiFi to the Lussier/Lake Farm and Babcock County Parks, and develop mobile web applications that will allow park visitors to make camping reservations from the palm of their hand.
WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT, STRENGTHENING THE AGRICULTURE ECONOMY
One the County Executive’s top priorities in 2012 was the creation of a new county office to help coordinate and streamline economic development efforts. Parisi’s 2013 budget takes the next steps in ensuring the county has the right people in the right places to help keep our economy vibrant.
By reallocating staff resources, the County Executive’s economic development office will work with THRIVE’s Advance Now Initiative, as well as entities such as the Workforce Development Board of South Central Wisconsin and Madison College, to match the skills of our available labor force with the needs of our local employers.
A quickly growing part of Dane County’s economy is in local foods. The County Executive’s budget continues funding for the county’s successful Institutional Food Market Coalition – connecting our food producers with large-scale buyers to help them expand their operations and their bottom line.
Parisi’s budget also invests in the start of a new agriculture incubator for farmers in need of land by funding $150,000 in improvements to the county-owned Silverwood farmstead in the Town of Albion. Development of this new park holds great potential for groups like Operation Fresh Start and others who focus on developing job and life skills.
A STRENGTHENING FOUNDATION IN UNCERTAIN TIMES
Sound fiscal policy in Parisi’s 2012 budget – efficient management, conservative revenue projections, and declining property tax delinquencies – has enabled him to quadruple the county’s General Reserve Fund in the past year.
These practices, combined with Parisi’s directive to correct millions in chronic budget line item variances a year ago has put the county on pace to end the year without drawing on its reserve fund for the first time in five years.
The County Executive includes an additional $1 million in his budget for the reserve fund in his budget. That addition puts the county on track to end 2012 with more than $11-million in its reserve fund – a $14 million swing to the positive in the past 2 years.
Economic indicators continue to improve as well. Dane County continues to have among the lowest unemployment rates of other urban areas from across the country. Permits for new construction this summer exceeded levels seen during the boom years of the mid-2000s, and home sales are increasing. Sales tax collections year to date have also been on target.
Dane County’s workforce also continued to step up to be part of the solution in difficult budget times. New agreements negotiated by the County Executive’s administration resulted in nearly $2 million in savings before his work began on the 2013 budget.
While there is evidence that the economic downturn that so severely impacted county finances has stabilized, Parisi introduces his 2013 budget in uncertain times. The county still operates under the most restrictive tax levy formula in state history. Of additional concern, the next state budget (2013-15) will likely pass halfway through the county’s upcoming fiscal year.
Deep cuts in the last state budget resulted in a historic $8 million deficit for Parisi to navigate in his first budget as County Executive.
Funding reductions and modifications to reimbursement formulas have also placed a significant strain on the county’s Department of Human Services. Parisi’s budget uses local tax dollars to compensate for cuts that, if left unresolved, would have resulted in a nearly $850,000 reduction for our services to the developmentally disabled.
It’s for that reason his budget includes a $100,000 contingency fund for the Department of Human Services. This fund is available to preserve services in the event of state budget cuts in mid-2013.
LEVY AND CAPITAL BUDGET
The County Executive’s budget contains combined operating and capital budgets of $522 million. The operating budget is $493 million.
The 2013 budget proposes an increase of $9.48 on the average Madison home, the lowest increase since 2009, and a 1.38% increase on this December's property tax bill. The overall levy increases $4,072,240. It is the lowest levy increase in 22 years.
County taxes comprise about 12% of the annual property tax bill of a City of Madison resident.
The County Executive’s budget will now be sent to the Dane County Board for review and approval. Parisi has been reaching out to Dane County Supervisors throughout the budget process to incorporate their ideas and goals into his proposal. Historically, county committees meet in October to review the proposal and bring it to the full board for final approval in Mid-November. The County Executive has the power to approve, veto, or partially veto the spending plan that is returned to him.