2018 budget message

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October 17, 2017


Pursuant to my responsibility and authority under Chapter 59 of the Wisconsin State Statutes, I hereby present to you the proposed Fond du Lac County 2018 budget.

The proposed budget that I am presenting to you provides adequate funding for the county to continue the same level of service in the areas of public safety and maintaining the county road system, and allows the county to continue operations through 2018.  The exception being the ability to address all of the needs of our most vulnerable residents in the county.

While there were no significant revenue reductions in the state budget that affect counties, there are state departmental revenue reductions of about $150,000 in the Department of Social Services budget.  Adding to the difficult budget, there are few revenue increases in the state budget with the exception of a 12.9% increase in general transportation aids for the Highway Department budget.  Counties, like all municipalities are still under the state-imposed property tax freeze capping revenue while costs continue to rise in many areas.  This budget was again difficult to develop without cuts in services, due to cost increases in several areas.  My frustration is that the governor and state legislature take credit for controlling property taxes, but it is the counties that must do the difficult work of making our budgets balance with inadequate revenues.

Other financial impacts in this budget include net new construction growth which for 2017 was 1.51% compared to 1.49% for 2016, which allows for a maximum levy increase of $547,089.  Total equalized value rose 2.80% versus 1.34% last year which equates to an inflationary increase of 1.46% in overall property values.  The state retirement rate for employees decreased by .1% of wages resulting in a county savings of a little less than $30,000 for 2018. There is also one extra payroll day in 2018 due to the calendar change.

Wage increase

I am including in the salary contingency fund, dollars for a .25% increase for all county employees for 2018.  I had hoped to do more, but that is all the funds that are available.  I am very concerned about the county’s ability to attract and retain employees because our wage increases are no longer keeping up with the private sector.  Since Act 10 when employees began paying the employee share of state retirement which will now be 6.7% of salary, our wage increases have not kept up.  Fond du Lac County wage increase for 2011 was 0, for 2012 and 2013 .5%, for 2014 1½%, 2015 2%, for 2016 .5% and for 2017 1%.  For many of our employees their take home pay has grown very little if any from what it was in 2010.

During last year’s budget discussion, there was a suggestion made that we cap the sales tax dollars at the 2017 level and use those dollars above that amount to provide a wage increase to employees.  Based on that discussion, I have capped the sales tax used for capital projects, highway improvements and economic development at $8,000,000.  I anticipate the sales tax revenue to be $8,450,000 providing for a $450,000 contingency for up to a 1% salary increase.  It will be the board’s decision as to whether that would be a one-time increase or whether it will be incorporated into the base wage. 

Employee health premiums

We were fortunate again this year to be able to negotiate a 1% increase in the premiums for employee medical care, that is the sixth year in a row that premiums have averaged no more than 1%.  In order to receive only a 1% increase, employee and family deductibles as well as out-of-pocket maximums have been increased by $125 per individual and $250 per family for 2108.  That 1% premium increase represents $100,000 on the levy.

Harbor Haven Health & Rehabilitation

The remodeling project on the second floor at Harbor Haven Health & Rehabilitation was completed in April 2017.  Since that time, there has been an increase in the number of Medicare and private pay individuals utilizing the facility.  As a result, there is a slight levy decrease in that budget and if this trend continues, the levy should continue to go down in succeeding years.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Telephone System

Implementation of the VoiP telephone system continues.  While we had hoped for the new system to be on line by this time, we are experiencing delays with our phone line service vendor.  The IS department is hoping that full implementation may still be accomplished before Christmas.  All equipment has already been delivered for the new system.

Technology upgrades

We continue to modernize the county’s technology which as we all are witnessing, has a short life span.  In addition to upgrades in our telephone system, we are also addressing needs in our other communication infrastructure, as well as software technology.  This proposed budget includes $180,000 in the 2018 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to complete adding the new equipment to the Ripon Industrial Park Water Tower to enhance the radio communications in the Ripon area. 

The sound system in the five court rooms has become obsolete and is no longer serving the needs of the modern court system.  In addition, there is a need for new video capabilities within the court rooms. 

We have contracted with a firm that has committed to a cost per court room of just under $80,000.  $100,000 was budgeted in 2017 and I have included $60,000 more in the capital improvement plan to upgrade a second court room in 2018.  I am also proposing that we continue to upgrade our audio and video technology in each of the five court rooms.  We will need to budget additional dollars in future years to continue with the remaining three court rooms.

I am also proposing $75,000 to complete the CMHC software replacement that supports the Department of Social Services and the Department of Community Programs for client tracking, case management, appointment calendar and medical records.  This $75,000 should be adequate to finish that software upgrade.  Implementation of the portion of the software system already installed has been ongoing and will continue until complete.

Communications/Emergency Management Reorganization

After Bobbi Hicken accepted the position of Director of Communications/Emergency Management in February, she chose not to fill her former position as Assistant Director of Communications/Emergency Management until she had time to evaluate the department staffing and find the best way to serve the citizens of this county.  Erin Gerred, a former Director of Communications/Emergency Management, worked with Bobbi Hicken to develop the plan that is included in the 2018 proposed budget.  The Assistant Director of Communications/Emergency Management position will be left unfilled and the three lead dispatch positions will be reclassified to Dispatch Supervisors.  In addition to their supervisory responsibilities, they will continue to dispatch, but on a much reduced schedule.  I am recommending the creation of two new dispatch positions effective January 1, 2018 to provide more coverage and to back fill the times when the dispatch supervisors will not be able to work the dispatch consoles.  The Assistant Emergency Management Coordinator position will be eliminated and the Emergency Management Assistant would be reclassified.  With a reduction in overtime and the savings of two unfilled positions, the combined net levy for the Communications/Emergency Management department will be approximately the same.  I ask that the board support this reorganization as I believe that it is better utilization of staff and at the same time elevates the service level for this department.

Highway Department projects

The largest project that the Highway Department will undertake in 2018 is the rehabilitation of Highway AW west of Waupun up to the Dodge/Green Lake county line.  It is estimated to cost $2,525,000.  In addition, some preliminary work is being done on several future projects including Highway VV, Highway G through the village of St. Cloud and the portions of Highway V between Highway VV and Rienzi Road where it intersects with Highway 45.

Also included is additional funding for the design of an overpass of the railroad tracks on Highway N (Kinker Road) in the town of Friendship.  The plan at this time is to construct that overpass in 2020.  The project is eligible for partial state funding and it is our hope that we will receive more than half of the funding for the construction from the state of Wisconsin.

New Highway Garage

The County Board is being asked for approval to move forward with the new Highway garage.  The current capital improvement plan calls for design to begin in 2018 and construction to begin in 2019, with completion in 2020.  The decision has been made to make a recommendation to the county board to approve proceeding with the beginning of the design yet in 2017 and move forward with actual construction beginning in the fall of 2018 with completion by the end of 2019.  In addition to a new highway garage, the county board must make a decision on whether to house Sheriff impound vehicles at that site, as well as Parks Department maintenance, Senior Services vehicles, and other facilities that will be needed in the future.  There is sufficient funding in the 2017 budget to begin the design work and an additional $750,000 is included in the 2018 proposed budget for design and engineering as well as $4,000,000 to begin the construction on what is estimated to be at least a $22,000,000 complex

Lake De Neveu drainage plan

In the 2016 and 2017 budgets, we included $45,000 to fund a cooperative effort with the state to hire an engineering firm to develop a new storm water drainage plan for the Highway 45 area that feeds into Lake De Neveu and causes flooding.  Over the years, there have been alterations to the drainage system east of Highway 45.  What the engineer has been charged with is to identify possible alternatives for diverting some of the storm water away from the one large Highway 45 culvert through other drainage ways to the De Neveu Creek west of Lake De Neveu.  The study report is now being evaluated by county staff with DNR and DOT staff.  Included in the proposed 2018 budget is an additional $10,000 to fund the design of the improvements.  We are still working on an agreement with the state on whether they will financially participate in the improvements.  In the interim, we need to move forward for the residents in the Lake De Neveu area.

DCP staff adjustments

I am recommending one new COTA (Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant) position for the Department of Community Programs in this proposed budget.  The COTA was mandated as a result of a state audit.  There is expected to be adequate new revenue generated to fund the position.  Also, there was a significant change in responsibility of two other staff positions and we are asking to reclassify the Outreach Worker/Community Placement Coordinator position to Behavioral Health Case Management Coordinator and the Staff Psychiatric Social Worker to a Community Service Manager.  Those two positions will assist the Deputy Program Director in providing a higher level of service to the clients of the Department of Community Programs. 


There is a need for more social worker positions in the Department of Social Services.  With all of the other demands of this budget, I could not support that request in spite of the fact that caseloads have increased significantly.  One of the primary reasons for the increase is the opioid/heroin drug abuse issue.  Parents who would not otherwise neglect or abuse their children are doing so under the influence of these drugs.  That is creating a demand for services to protect the children and hopefully help the parents with their drug issues.  It is clear that this problem will not go away in the near future and at some point we need to address the staff shortage that the drug problem is creating in Fond du Lac County.  Patricia Lancour and her staff are working on options to address the growing needs of children and families, including mental health services.  DSS and DCP are also working together in this effort.

Government Center Security

This year there has been a very significant effort on the part of individuals involved in the court system to have the county and the city fund an entrance check point to the Government Center that would include potentially two armed officers to screen individuals as they enter the City/County Government Center.  It is estimated that the cost would be approximately $250,000 with approximately 2/3 being paid by the county and the remaining 1/3 by the city, or about $165,000 for the county.  When the request first came in this summer, I made the statement that I could not see my way clear with all the other needs in the county to fund those positions in the 2018 budget.  As stated above, our allowable levy increase for the 2018 budget is $547,089.  This security request would consume 30% of that allowable levy increase.  As I stated, medical insurance is increasing approximately $100,000 leaving less than $300,000 for all other increases in operating costs.  We have already reduced some levies to provide increases needed for other departments.  We have maximized the use of sales tax dollars to fund capital projects.  We have also reallocated dollars in some areas in order to put this budget together; however, it certainly was my hope that we could have added at least one social worker, but I did not find the dollars to do that.  I personally gave services to children a higher priority than building security as we also have potential harm to children and families and I am concerned that the issue is not being adequately addressed due to staffing shortages.  While I fully understand the need for more building security, given more opportunity to raise dollars, I would have included funding in the budget for a security check point in this building, but I could not financially see a way to do it without cutting other services that are also deemed to be necessary for our residents.

I need to point out that we have spent over $1,000,000 on physical security in the City/County Government Center as well as $140,000 in the Department of Social Services.  We continue to look for ways to make our offices physically more secure.  We are able to fund these projects because there is not a levy control on debt nor on sales tax.  By managing both, we are able to do these ongoing projects.  With that in mind, I have provided $20,000 allocated from sales tax for the equipment necessary to establish a secure check point or two in the City/County Government Center. 

There have been suggestions as to where to find dollars to accomplish the goal of having a staffed security check point and I wish to address two of those options that cannot work and others that can work but are going to be difficult decisions.  The first is using Jail revenue.  As you can see from Attachment A, during the ten-years from 2007 through 2016, the state and other counties have paid $12,655,127 in revenue for housing of prisoners in our Jail.  There is an additional $1,075,000 added for 2017 and we are projecting $1,175,000 for 2018, but as the attachment shows, all of that revenue is being applied to the cost of operating the Jail which over that ten-year period was $64,101,075.  Other revenues were $7,578,414.  Counting all revenues, the remaining tax levy for the citizens of Fond du Lac County to pay was $44,801,989 over the ten-year period.  In the 2017 and 2018 budgets, all revenue from housing out-of-county prisoners is helping to offset the cost of operating the jail.  There are no excess or surplus funds held anywhere that can be used for building security.  We certainly do appreciate the Sheriff’s efforts continuing to bring in Jail revenue and to look at other opportunities to enhance those revenues. 

The second option suggested was not purchasing squad cars or other capital items, but any item that is in the capital improvement plan, if not purchased, will not free up dollars for operational or staff costs; therefore, that is not an option.

The choices therefore on funding building security would be 1) do nothing until 2019; 2) cutting another area of the operating budget; 3) taking funds out of the general fund; 4) apply sales tax (that is my recommendation).

If the county board is determined to fund a security check point either for all or part of 2018, I will work with the board to assist you in choosing one of those difficult options.  The city Manager and I have already been discussing development of an implementation plan and will formalize a plan if both political bodies decide to fund staff for Government Center security.

Sales Tax Revenue and Allocations

The budgeted 2018 sales tax revenue is $8,365,006.  We have seen sales tax revenue increases averaging over 3% per year and we anticipate that trend will continue as the economy continues to grow.  Sales tax dollars have been allocated for 2018 as follows:

            $2,688,483 debt service on the Mercury Marine and Alliance Laundry Systems loans.

            $3,000,000 for Highway projects.

$993,778 for economic development including $500,000 more for the Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corporation Revolving Loan Fund.

            $1,232,745 for other capital projects within the county.

            $450,000 for contingency-salary/fringe increase

Additionally, $571,590 of unapplied sales tax revenue through 2017 is projected to be carried over to 2018.


The 2018 proposed levy is $43,726,873 as compared to $42,719,849 or an increase of $1,007,024 including debt service payments.  Equalized value, reduced by TID (Tax Incremental District) increased 2.80% to $7,199,815,200.  The tax rate of $6.07 compared to $6.10 for 2017.  Also, to meet this budget I am proposing that we apply $1,725,000 from the unassigned general fund reserve that resulted from surpluses in the 2016 budget.  That compares to $2,000,000 for the 2017 budget.  Our undesignated reserve is projected to remain flat as compared to year-end last year.  The county has had the long-time practice of applying the previous year’s surplus to the subsequent year budgets and to maintain a stable unassigned undesignated general fund to protect our cash flow and our bond rating. 

This proposed budget includes other areas of service to the people of this county that are too numerous to mention.  The state of Wisconsin requires counties to provide a whole host of services from the Courts to the Jail to Human Services to Highway Maintenance and other areas.  Most of the funding from the state has either slightly decreased or has held steady over the past number of years, making it more challenging for the counties to continue to provide the services that one, the state requires, and two, that the citizens of our county expect.  Through the hard work of our department heads and the elected officials, we continue to provide the services that the citizens expect as we continue to search for ways to reduce costs and enhance revenue wherever possible.  Because of the dedicated department heads, elected officials and employees that we have in 

Fond du Lac County, we have traditionally provided a very high level of service at a good value to the citizens of the County.  It is my goal and their goal that we continue that tradition. 

I wish to thank Erin Gerred, Director of Administration, Karen Kuehl, Director of Finance, Tammy Pinno, Assistant Finance Director, Stacie Basler, Fiscal Services Director,
Mary Jo Myers, Highway Accounting Manager and their staffs, and all the department heads and elected officials for their assistance in compiling the 2018 budget. 

Respectfully submitted,

Allen J. Buechel

County Executive