Marathon Co. Leaders Keeping Close Eye On State Budget Process

Jun 12, 2019

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WAUSAU, WI (WSAU) -- Marathon County's Executive Committee held discussions Tuesday regarding their hopes for the proposed state budget and how it will impact their own upcoming budget process.

County Board Chairman Kurt Gibbs says they're currently working based on some of last year's numbers when making preliminary budget estimates. "It is still a long way from a signed document, so we are working based on assumptions," said Gibbs. "Those assumptions are the base numbers we had from last year."

Several of the county's priority items remain in limbo as the document is written, but Gibbs says there are at least two items that he considers as wins for the county. One involves an increase in the rate of public defender pay from $40 per hour to $70 per hour. "The county struggles to find public defenders to take cases that are being paid at the $40 per hour rate," said Gibbs. That raise takes effect on January 1st. Gibbs says that comes at exactly the right time because that's also the date that an increase in the court-ordered rate of $100 per hour for appointed defenders that are assigned to a case by the county because no public defender is willing to take it goes into effect. The rate for that is currently $70 per hour. "It would become even more difficult starting in 2020 when you would have a differential pay from $40 per hour to $100 per hour if its court-ordered and county responsibility," added Gibbs.

There's also hope in the current proposed budget for additional Medicaid funding for county-run nursing homes such as the Mountain View Care Center. Gibbs says that would allow those facilities to become more stable, and in Marathon County's case possibly free up more tax revenue for other areas. "We currently put in a little over $1.5 million of tax levy support to keep that nursing home operational. The hope is that the Medicaid reimbursement rate will lessen that need." Gibbs also praised the proposed addition of some 30 District Attorneys statewide. Of that number, 2.5 are allocated to Marathon County. What the County does know is there will be no straight 2% increase in the county's tax levy. Gibbs says that was immediately stripped out by the Joint Finance Committee early in the process. That means the levy limits previously imposed will likely be unchaged and the county will be limited to raising that number annually based only on net new construction.

Just like everyone else, Gibbs says he and the rest of the Supervisors are simply watching and waiting to see what happens with the document and what changes will be made once it moves from the Legislative chamber to Governor Tony Evers' desk. "The outlook is the Joint Finance Committee will be concluding their work fairly soon and sending their proposed budget document to the Governor, so stay tuned."