Lafayette County budgets were revamped at a finance committee meeting on Sept. 18.
In the budget process, the county’s director of finance, Sandy Deininger, reported that there were $7.1 million in requests for 2013 department budgets. The county’s finance department asked departments to create a budget with no increase. The 2012 budget process had $6.7 million in requests, leaving the finance committee to find approximately $424,000 to cut.
Many changes were made early in the budget process, but at the Sept. 18 finance committee meeting $139,000 still needed to be identified for cuts or additional revenue. The committee met with several departments to get clarification on their budgets.
The committee had the option of tapping into the sales tax carryover to balance the budget, although they opted to leave at least $200,000 in that account for future needs.
Sherry Kudronowicz, administrator of Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County, reported to the finance committee that the hospital will be designating its profit to include 1.5 percent of the gross revenue to be allocated to the county. For 2013 that adds up to $313,009, which is more than the committee anticipated.
In an effort to share services and save money, the planning and zoning and land conservation departments will merge.
The county’s finance committee wanted to investigate merging the two departments to eliminate staff and reduce expenses. The land conservation department currently has four employees and the planning and zoning committee consists of the zoning administrator, Troy Maggied.
Maggied said both departments serve approximately 700 square acres in Lafayette County, a primarily agricultural area. A reduction of two staff from the land conservation department would mean several programs would not be implemented in the county, reducing state revenue for the county.
“We’re barely meeting our requirements with four people,” Lisa Trumble, county conservationist, said. “Reducing our staff will severely cripple our department.”
Trumble said the state mandates that the county provide several programs and services, which several hundred landowners in Lafayette County participate in.
“If we can’t support our conservation efforts in this county when we’re so strongly agricultural, I think it’s wrong to take a look at cutting staff in that respect,” Leon Wolfe, county board supervisor, said.
The combination of departments provides savings from several areas, including sharing staff, sharing equipment and having one committee. Potentially, several thousand dollars could be saved in each department by merging.
The plan is for the planning and zoning department to move to the land conservation building where they share services with state and federal programs.
“The active farmer that is spending the buck around here isn’t using your facility,” county board chairman Jack Sauer said. “Most of the farmers around here that are true farmers are not in the state programs.”
Trumble said her department doesn’t just serve farmers. Other landowners in the county are assisted with services such as well abandonment and waterway projects.
“We would like a chance on combining forces,” Maggied said.
The departments will each maintain a department head. The transition will be reviewed after one year.
The finance committee added to the child support department to potentially increase revenue.
With 780 cases assigned to one person, the short-handed child support department was authorized by the committee to pursue adding a fulltime employee to help meet state mandates. The position will be funded 60 percent by the state. The county’s portion of the additional position will be $9,700 for half a year. The additional help could also mean more income for Lafayette County.
“We have no choice but to meet the needs of the county and the state,” Wayne Wilson, chairman of the finance committee, said.
The committee voted to hire the new employee as soon as possible. The position will need to be approved by other committees before the hiring process begins.
The Lafayette Manor budget presented to the finance committee did not include any referendum money.
“I think this is the first time since I’ve come on the board that the manor has not requested a levy,” Wilson said.
Brenda Glendenning, accounting manager for the manor, estimates an average census of 63 residents. Currently there are 60 beds filled.
David Hammer of the finance committee said it still bothers him that the fines are included in the budget. Kudronowicz said she didn’t feel comfortable removing them from the budget because “I’m afraid they’re a reality, it’s sad but true.”
The Seniors United for Nutrition (SUN) program, which provides meals to seniors in Iowa and Lafayette counties, requested tax levy money from both counties to keep the program operational in 2013. Cecile McManus, director of the SUN program, requested $25,110 from Lafayette County and $8,890 from Iowa County. The difference was determined by the in-kind contributions from Iowa County supplying McManus’ office and storage of food.
The committee determined their own formula for figuring their contribution for the meal program to continue in Lafayette County and suggested $18,360 of tax levy.
“I do know that there are a number of shut-ins, especially in Argyle, and I would hate to see the program not be funded,” Wilson said.
Finance and personnel departments
Deininger said an employee in the finance department planned to retire or work only part-time. Deininger recommended hiring a full-time employee to work on data entry so she could reduce her hours and focus on other tasks.
Deininger also added two computers and a printer for the department. The total increase of the 2013 budget was $20,440 for the finance department and $16,000 for the personnel department.