St. Croix County budget slightly reduces levyThe 2013 budget for St. Croix County slid under the previous property tax levy by less than one-half percent and gained the approval of the board of supervisors at its regular meeting held Monday.
By: By Jon Echterenacht, New Richmond News
The 2013 budget for St. Croix County slid under the previous property tax levy by less than one-half percent and gained the approval of the board of supervisors at its regular meeting held Monday, Nov. 5.
Administrator Pat Thompson championed a “zero increase in controllable levy” in presenting a summary of the budget.
The approved amount came in shy of $28 million, which represented .43 percent or $120.553 less than the property tax levy of the 2012 budget.
Following a public hearing, and extensive discussion and questions from the supervisors, the resolution to implement the plan passed by an 18-1 margin. District 7 Supervisor Chris Kilber was the lone dissenter and District 9 Supervisor Tom Hawksford was absent.
The new budget includes self-funded health insurance.
“Originally we were looking at an 18 percent increase,” Thompson said. “We revised the policy, worked with the labor management committee to develop a strategy to lower overall costs.”
The new budget brings the cost of health care down to less than 3 percent, he said.
“I’m a firm believer in self-funded health insurance. You have more control over costs and I recommend we stay self-funded,” Thompson said.
The new financial plan includes $400,000 for the fledgling Pay for Performance Program (P4P) for employee’s compensation. Non-union employees are already in the program and the 2013 budget is projected to include union employees in new collective bargaining agreements.
“We have taken a real fine comb through staffing levels of each and every county department,” Thompson said. “When positions become vacant we don’t automatically fill them. We go through a rigorous review.”
“I am concerned we are going to hit critical mass with a population increase and staff reduction,” said Supervisor Travis Schachtner.
He said the P4P program should be “drastically over budgeted.”
“The programs that fail are those that have under budgeted. We have a risk of disenfranchising our employees,” Schachtner said.
“I’m comfortable with the $400,000,” Thompson said.
In a public hearing following Thompson’s budget review, former supervisor Steve Hermsen of the Town of Hudson drew attention to what he called an “item of interest” in the financial plan in regard to family services.
“We have provided over $300,000 to people in the county for condoms and birth control pills,” Hermsen said. “For reproductive health we budgeted $220,000, for family preservation $47,500.”
Hermsen said when an employee was asked about the amounts put into family planning he was told, “We make money on condoms and birth control pills.”
“To go out and hand out $220,000 for birth control pills, where does it stop?” he asked.
Dan Hansen of New Richmond said, “I’m grateful for the tax money I spend. The money I spend goes to help. The money I spend goes to young mothers who don’t have a support program.”
He urged the board, “not to confuse morality with your duty and finance with idealism. This is a budget, not a platform to make a stand.”
“Help sustain a long, proud tradition of taking care of the underserved,” Hansen said.