The Lafayette County Finance Committee made some big changes on Tuesday, Sept. 25, including giving raises to the nurses at the county’s health department and cutting from the land conservation department.
Wayne Wilson, chairman of the finance committee, said they increased the levy by $35,000 for the nurses at the county health department. The health department requested $69,000, or a raise of approximately $3-5 an hour per person. The compromise on the raises is now included in that department’s budget for 2013, although the request will need to be approved by the health department committee, human resources committee and county board before it takes effect.
“They know they’re getting paid less than the other nurses [at the hospital and manor],” Wilson said. “They want equity in the system. They just feel underpaid compared to nursing staff at the hospital and manor.”
The nurses at each of the county-run facilities—health department, Lafayette Manor and Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County—each have different job descriptions because the function of each facility is different.
Wilson said $50,000, or one full-time position, was cut from the land conservation department. He said the motion was made by Ted Wiegel and seconded by Ron Niemann; David Hammer voted against.
“This is only the preliminary budget,” Wilson said. “They [land conservation department] can try to allocate the funds back into their budget before the county board takes action on the budget in November.”
County conservationist Lisa Trumble said her department had 7 ½ staff in 1996 when they moved to the new office; 16 years later the department has four staff and is facing more cuts. Her department helps farmers in Lafayette County meet state requirements for land and water conservation practices.
“We try to steer farmers in the direction they need to go,” Trumble said. “All farmers, whether they take government money or not, are supposed to conserve the land.”
Trumble said the scope of the county is changing and she has seen her department’s work transition more to stream bank repair, erosion control and working with schools and municipalities to help with land conservation.
“We work with both sides for the public interest,” Trumble said. “One group thinks the rules aren’t strong enough and some want us to back off. We work with a lot of people who want to work with us, but also follow up with the people who have violations. It keeps the DNR heavy regulations at bay.”
There are approximately 500 farmers using the Farmland Credit program, 500 using the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and 1,400 producers in Lafayette County, which could include renters. At the land conservation department, they feel that whether the farmer is a landowner or a renter, everybody needs to follow the land conservation rules and guidelines.
“We’re all pretty passionate about what we do,” Trumble said. “We aren’t loose with our department’s money, yet we see cuts every year while other departments increase their budgets.”
The finance committee also added $5,000 to the Seniors United for Nutrition (SUN) program. This is the first year that the SUN program has asked for tax levy from Lafayette County. On Sept. 18 the finance committee approved allocating $18,360 of the $25,110 request.