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Sauk County committee doesn’t support cuts to local groups

November 7, 2018 GMT

A committee gave a thumbs-down Monday to proposed budget amendments that would strip several local organizations of Sauk County government support next year.

The cuts — proposed by Supervisor Tim McCumber of Merrimac — still could be considered when the Sauk County Board meets Nov. 13 to adopt the county’s proposed 2019 spending plan.

However, after hearing from representatives of the groups who packed a Baraboo meeting room Monday, the board’s Finance Committee declined to put its stamp of approval on McCumber’s amendments.

“When I see the kids walk in the door and be excited to be here, it just — as you can see — it means a lot to me,” Haley Bonilla told Finance Committee members as she choked up. “It just means a lot to the families too, that they have a safe place to go.”

Bonilla is the Reedsburg site coordinator for the Boys & Girls Club of West-Central Wisconsin, one of the organizations targeted by the proposed cuts. She and other club representatives said the county’s $25,000 contribution supports programs that keep local youth safe and out of trouble.

Among the 16 amendments he proposed, McCumber also suggested eliminating $4,000 for the Sauk County Institute of Leadership, $20,000 for the Wormfarm Institute, $25,000 for a young professionals program, $125,000 for the Mid-Continent Railway Museum, and $54,000 for the Sauk County Humane Society.

“I want folks in this room to understand that I don’t hate kids,” McCumber said Monday after representatives of the Boys & Girls Club and other groups spoke.

He said although he supports the programs included on his list of cuts, the county’s contributions aren’t necessary or mandated by state law.

For example, McCumber said, the Boys & Girls Club operates in only two communities within the county; Baraboo and Reedsburg. Meanwhile, the Sauk Prairie School District funds its own after-school programs without county assistance.

McCumber questioned whether annual participants in the Sauk County Institute of Leadership program could raise $4,000 themselves as part of their coursework.

He said his preference would be to maintain funding for the organizations through other budget adjustments. His main intention, McCumber said, was to reduce the amount of spending from county reserve funds.

The committee considered seven other amendments — six of which were proposed by Supervisor Wally Czuprynko of Lake Delton — but ultimately only voted in support of two budget changes.

One, submitted by Czuprynko, would eliminate $1.25 million for expansion of a parking lot attached to the county’s downtown Baraboo office building.

County staff told the panel the proposed expansion hadn’t been thoroughly vetted or planned. They also said the county is working with Baraboo business groups and city officials to resolve downtown parking congestion.

Supervisor Chuck Spencer of Baraboo told the committee he recently spoke with a half-dozen downtown business owners about the parking lot expansion and “not a single one said this was a good idea.”

A parking study concluded that the county should first explore alternate solutions before moving forward with the lot expansion. Baraboo business leaders and city officials have challenged the report.

The other amendment the panel supported — put forth by Finance Committee member Bill Wenzel of Prairie du Sac — would remove $10,000 from an economic development fund and instead contribute it to the Bar Buddies safe ride program.

The recommendations made by the committee Monday do not automatically change the proposed budget. Amendments must be proposed and approved during the board’s annual budget meeting next week.

The proposed $96 million budget would require $31.2 million from local property taxes, a 0.6 percent increase from the prior year. That’s the maximum increase allowed under state-imposed limits.

Because of an increase in property values, the rate at which the county would have to tax property owners to generate that amount would decrease by 3.2 percent. The county’s tax rate would be $4.53 per $1,000 of equalized assessed value.

At that rate, the owner of a $181,500 home — the average residential property value within the county — would pay $822 in property taxes to the county.