Waupaca County may see a net gain in its budget under Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposals.
County Finance Director Heidi Dombrowski said that while state-shared revenues will decrease by $460,000 and transportation aids will be cut by $169,000, the county will realize approximately $1.05 million in savings from Walker’s plan to require public employees to pay a higher portion of their retirement and health insurance costs.
“The governor is saying that the budget repair bill will take care of these two decreases,” she said.
Dombrowski stressed, however, that there is still uncertainty because the state budget must first be passed by the Wisconsin Legislature and signed by the governor. Question also remain regarding details in Walker’s 1,345-page budget plan.
“We still don’t know what’s deep in the bill,” Dombrowski said. “To really crunch those numbers right now is virtually impossible.”
As an example of how difficult it is for the county to begin planning its own 2012 budget based on state proposals, Dombrowski pointed to Walker’s plan to eliminate mandatory recycling programs.
Walker has proposed diverting revenues from a landfill fee that has supported public recycling programs to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., a public-private entity that will replace the state’s Commerce Department.
“Just because the state ends a mandate and cuts funding doesn’t mean the county can immediately stop providing a service. You can’t just end a program like that. You have to phase it out,” Dombrowski said.
She said the county’s recycling program is a joint effort of not just the county, but relies on the participation of cities and towns. How the other municipalities respond to the state ending the recycling mandate and funding will have a role in how the county budgets for the program.
Dombrowski also noted that the Legislature may restore the mandate and the grant dollars to the state budget.
Another area of budget uncertainty involves federal-state medical assistance programs that help low-income families.
Walker has proposed cutting $500 million in Medicaid over the next two years. He plans to reduce Medicaid benefits, tighten eligibility requirements and increase the Medicaid recipients’ co-payments and premiums.
“We haven’t heard anything yet as to how that will affect our programs,” Dombrowski said.
The proposed budget would also limit increases in municipal and county property taxes to the prior year’s net new construction.
“If everything passes as is, the county won’t be able to raise the tax levy at all,” Dombrowski said, noting that the county’s costs to fuel its highway trucks and squad cars, for example, will continue to rise.
Dombrowski said department managers are still reviewing the proposed budget and trying to anticipate how it will impact services at the county level.
“The state budget is so far from being adopted that it’s hard to project what the changes will be,” Dombrowski said.