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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County Budget Approved; Employees Get 1% Raise

The public was notably missing from Marinette County Board’s Public Hearing Tuesday, Nov. 13 on their proposed 2013 budget. The levy of $14,891,970 is up very slightly from last year’s $14,738,407. The tax rate also is up very slightly, from 4.14 mills last year to 4.19 mills. The county tax would have been $414 on a $100,000 property last year, and under the 2012 levy rate will be $419. County taxes account for approximately one quarter of the total property tax bill.

The board approved a one percent across the board wage and salary increase for all county employees except Sheriff’s Department sworn deputies, who continue to have contracts negotiated by their union, the Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA), and elected officials, whose salaries by law must be set before they can circulate nomination papers for new terms. The motion included a provision referring to perameters being set by Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission or the courts, since there are still lawsuits that could change the state’s negotiating rules. The existing highway department union contract sunsets on Dec. 31, after which they too will be subject to the county’s 1 percent raise.

Personnel Committee Chair Connie Seefeldt reminded the board there were no raises at all last year for county employees, and that this year they will be paying more toward fringe benefits.

County Administrator Ellen Sorensen said the 1 percent raise equals $400 a year more for an employee earning $40,000 a year, but raises in the amounts they contribute toward health and dental insurance, retirement, FICA and other benefits is more than the raise, “which only mitigates their drop in take-home pay. She said they would need to give 2.3 percent annual increases “to keep people whole.” She added they could not absorb that amount of raise in the budget, “one percent is what we thought we could do.”

Law Enforcement Committee recommendations to award the jail food service contract to Aramark for 2013 through 2016, and approve an as-needed agreement with Wisconsin Lock and Load Prisoner Transports for in-state conveyance and extradition services for the Sheriff’s Department were both approved after some questions were answered.

Sheriff Jerry Sauve said the meal contract with CVM had expired and Aramark was low among four or five bidders. He and jail staff sat down with Aramark and found they met all their requirements. Meals will cost a bit less under the new contract, but actual price depends on the number of prisoners being fed.

Supervisor Ken Keller, Chair of the Law Enforcement Committee, said he had been present when bids were opened.

Sorensen said Brown County had Aramark for years and they were well satisfied. She had toured their facility and found it very satisfactory.

Supervisor Alice Baumgarten asked Sheriff Sauve if he had tasted the Aramark food, and he replied,”Not yet.”

In regard to the prisoner transport contract, Sauve explained it is not exclusive, but having the contract allows him to use the service “when it best serves us.” He said it can help prevent overtime for deputies and delay in prisoner transports. Keller commended Sauve for seeking the agreement, describing it as a service that is long overdue and will save the county money in the long run.

On the resolution asking for a continued state trooper assigned to the county, Sauve said the current trooper is retiring and the state at this time does not plan to replace him. He said his requests may be falling on deaf ears, but he has received strong support from other law enforcement agencies in municipalities throughout the county. He will be at the state sheriff’s conference later this year, which happens to be held on the State Patrol Training Academy campus, and plans to reiterate his request there.

In a no choice situation the county approved a routine maintenance agreement with the state in which the Highway Department will receive $1,575,100 from the Wisconsin DOT for highway maintenance. This is a three percent cut from prior years, but County Board Chair Vilas Schroeder commented, “It is something we have no control over, so we’ll have to make do.” Highway Committee Chair Russ Bousley said they may need to do a bit less brush cutting and mowing to keep costs down.

Parking in the annex lot near the east entrance to the courthouse is now limited to two hours. Seefeldt asked why the limit, saying she often finds no cars parked there. Supervisor Mike Behnke, who chairs the Buildings and Property Committee, said they are trying to keep parking spaces open for people who want to get into the Courthouse to do their business and leave again, rather than for those who will be parking all day. Even the judges no longer park there. Supervisor Nick Lakari asked how the parking limit will be enforced. Behnke expressed hope people will just be honest enough for now to follow the rule, but said they have an agreement with the Marinette City Police Chief that when requested officers will come across the street to issue tickets for over-long parking in the courthouse lot. Fines will be levied and paid to the city Municipal Court as determined by city ordinance.

Supervisor Gilbert Engel asked what will happen to people waiting more than two hours for court appearances, and Behnke said if that is the case they can void their tickets.

Baumgarten asked if they do not have enough parking. Sorensen said they do have a lot of parking, but there are times when all the lots around the courthouse are packed. Baumgarten noted employees of other businesses in the area often park in one or another of the county lots. Keller agreed that has been a problem for years, and said he feels that will need to be addressed in the future.

Supervisor Don Pazynski said they also could use more handicapped parking spaces. He said so far he has always managed to find one, but has seen others turn away because they were full.

The morning had started at 9 a.m. with the regular County Board meeting. Supervisor Ken Mattison was excused. The other 29 supervisors were on hand for what in some years has proven to be a long and arduous day. This year proved to be different.

In the 38-minute opening session the board took care of all the regular monthly county business on the day’s agenda, and then was obliged to break until the 11 a.m. scheduled start of the Budget Hearing.

When the Budget ˙earing opened there were no members of the public present to comment for or against it, but several supervisors had questions. After the hearing the board briefly continued its budget discussion and voted unanimous approval before adjourning at approximately 11:30 a.m.

The entire budget process on Tuesday lasted approximately half an hour, but culminated months of deliberation, cuts and planning by Sorensen and her administrative assistant Gina Teeple, Finance Director Pat Kass, committees and department heads.

Several supervisors complimented Sorensen and Teeple on the new budget format, and said they found it much easier to understand. After an error was pointed out by Engel, Sorensen said there were a few errors to be corrected in the 158-page document, including a misplaced decimal point that would have authorized “a whole army of librarians” had it not been discovered and corrected.

During the regular meeting the board unanimously approved a resolution asking the state to continue having Wisconsin State Patrol Resident Troopers stationed in Marinette County.

Supervisors posed a few questions before unanimously approving Sorensen’s appointment of Marinette Police Chief John Mabry and Circuit Court Judge James Morrison to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee with no term expirations.

Supervisor Engel asked why there were so many positions with no term limits on that committee. Sorensen explained that is the way County Board had initially set it up. She added that the position is advisory only, and appointments are by position. She said Judge Morrison had been named to fill a vacancy created when Judge David Miron resigned from the committee.

Keller said it was set up that way for continuity.

Behnke added that the positions on the committee are filled by the main players in the Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement system. “They are the people in the best position to see the needs, to judge what is working and what needs to be done.

Sorensen added the positions have no term limits, but from time to time the persons who fill those positions change, and then so does the person on the committee.

Engel, who represents the City of Niagara on County Board is himself a former Health and Human Services employee, had some questions and comments about a recommendation from both the Personnel and Health and Human Services committees to eliminate the existing HHSD intensive in-home therapist position in Niagara in favor of creating an additional 40-hour per week mental therapist position effective Jan. 1. He wanted to know why the position was being eliminated in Niagara and not in Marinette, and declared the in-home therapist post “was created to allow the social worker to visit the homes of people who will not or cannot come in to their office, “the most vulnerable and high risk families in the county.”

“It’s a change of philosophy,” HHSD Administrator Robin Elsner told Engel, “a change to an integrated services team rather than an intensive in-home position. He said this will give them broader services for some individuals “and a broader ability to deliver services for citizens in the northern part of the county.”

The change will be about an $8,000 increase in wages because the new position will be for a 40-hour work week while the old one was 35 hours. But the department will be able to bill for more services, which will provide offsetting income.

To another question from Engel, Elsner said the new therapist will continue to work from the Niagara office, but the new position gives flexibility to do a number of things, including work in the community.

An explanation in the budget book prepared by Sorensen shows that of the $419 tax on that theoretical $100,000 home, $165 goes for law enforcement, $41 for Central Dispatch and Emergency Management, $63 for Highways, $80 for Health and Human Services, $17 for the court systems, $2 for Twin County Airport, $20 for Land Information Systems, $5 for Veterans, $8 for Extension, $2 for Economic Development, $3 for Tourism promotion, $4 for Child Support, $5 for the Elderly Services agency, $2 for care and maintenance of UW Marinette campus buildings.

It also provides $15 for parks and other outdoor recreation, $2 for Camp Bird Youth Center, $26 for Library Services, and nothing for debt service, which is funded by the half a percent county sales tax.

Profitable operation of the Forestry Department generates over $2 million that in effect cuts $38 off taxes that would otherwise need to be levied on that $100,000 home, and all other programs, departments and administration, including county board, corporation counsel, county clerk, treasurer, finance and building and grounds departments cuts a total of $1 from the tax on a $100,000 home, mainly because unallocated state aid, interest on delinquent property taxes and interest on investments are credited to those departments, and income from Register of Deeds office cuts another $2 from the amount needed for the levy.

Highway Department revenue and expenditure allocations for 2013 balanced at $19,347,063, up approximately $1.25 million from last year’s $18,009,904.


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