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County Executive Falk Responds to Challenge of $8.6 Million in Cuts in State Revenues Due to State’s Budget Crisis

July 29, 2003
Sharyn Wisniewski (608) 267-8823
County Executive

Falk maintains targeted freeze on hiring and spending to year end; Takes additional steps to further hold the line on spending. Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk today said that, due to the loss of $8.6 million in state funds caused by the state’s budget crisis, the county faces a grim task in building a 2004 county budget. “Despite this grim news, we’re going to face it head on--preserving our priorities and controlling spending,” said Falk. This year, Dane County must deal with another $1 million in cuts, and in 2004 the cuts total over $7.6 million. Counties are particularly hard hit by the state budget because counties provide human services, such as W-2, services for children at risk, child care, mental health, nursing homes, services for persons with disabilities, the elderly, and families in crisis. Human services make up about half of the county’s nearly $400 million budget. “While the $1.6 million shared revenue cut to our county is significant, it pales in comparison to the $5.5 million in state cuts to our human services,” said Falk. Many programs, for instance services to developmentally disabled children, are mandated by the state, but provide insufficient dollars to deliver the services. Therefore, the county must pick up the costs on the county tax levy. “The good news is that our department heads, managers and staff are working hard to control costs,” said Falk. “Almost all are finding additional efficiencies and coping with frozen positions.” Additional good news, Falk said, is that the cost-saving measures she implemented in March, when the state budget was introduced, have been effective. Targeted freezes on hiring and other spending efforts to increase some human service revenues were projected to save $1.7 million by year-end. Falk now expects those cost-saving measures to save over $2 million. She credits county employees with helping out by a number volunteering to take unpaid leave. In light of the severe state budget cuts, and the probability of lagging sales taxes, Falk said the targeted hiring and spending freezes will be maintained and, in addition, she announced two other steps: · All future hiring, at least through the end of 2003, be done on an internal basis if at all possible. This approach, she said, preserves the number of vacancies, which maintains salary savings, gives more flexibility for preserving employment opportunities for staff if a lay-off is required, and provides opportunity for advancement for county employees. · A request that the Dane County Board re-open the early retirement option from August 21 through October 31, giving a 25 percent increase in the sick leave conversion benefit as an enticement to retire early. In addition, Falk said it is essential that county department heads submit proposed 2004 budgets that include the budget reductions that she set in her requirements given to them in May. These reductions range from 2 percent to 13 percent of their prior year’s budget. Falk delivers her executive budget to the County Board on October 1. “The services we offer to citizens, in public safety and human services, in particular, are absolutely critical. Yet, property taxes are high and, in this day and age, regressive,” said Falk. “In my view, my job is to maintain vital services and control taxes. That is what I intend to do.” # # # There are 3 attachments: Memo to County Board Supervisors & Department Heads; 2003 Impacts from State Budget; and Savings Initiatives Status Report
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