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More taxes aren't the answer. Spending must be cut, say local lawmakers as the Legislature and Gov. Jim Doyle's administration tackle a biennial budget deficit projected at $652 million. Since last week, Wisconsin legislative leaders and Doyle's administration have started discussions on three disparate proposals to solve the shortfall. In early March the Department of Administration announced an expected biennium shortfall due to lower than estimated tax revenues.
A sluggish economy isn't helping St. Croix County's bottom line as 2007 sales tax receipts fell behind those received for 2006. Finance Director Michelle Pietrick waited until March, after sales tax collected by merchants in December arrived, to ask the County Board's Finance Committee to transfer $189,736 from the General Fund to the sales tax account.
The St. Croix County Board voted last week to set the 2009 pay for the county clerk, register of deeds and county treasurer at $61,000. Current pay for the three elected positions is $52,665. Last week's action results in a 16 percent raise for 2009, but the annual pay for the three positions will not be increased during the rest of their new terms. Starting this year, the three positions will be elected to four rather than two-year terms.
Although the agreements haven't been approved by union membership yet, last week the St. Croix County Board approved three-year contracts that would give annual 2 percent raises to 300 workers in four employee groups. The agreements also offer additional 1 percent mid-year raises if a new insurance plan is in place by July 1, 2008. The plan, which includes a deductible, would be optional in 2009 but mandatory for all employees by 2011. The contracts are for the General Government Support Services, Health Center, Human Services and Highway Department unions.
As St. Croix County moves to consolidate services offered by its Department on Aging with a new Aging and Disability Resource Center, its Department on Aging director is resigning. "I just feel that my personal and professional values don't fit with St. Croix County as an organization," said Kjersti Duncan Monday. "It's not so much the decision (to move toward the ADRC)," said Duncan. "I've had concerns with the process." Duncan has headed the Department on Aging for three years. She has given a four-week notice but said she's not sure when her last day of work will be.
A regional builders' association has filed lawsuits against a town in Pierce County and a town in St. Croix County, claiming the municipalities' impact fees are illegal. The suits ask for refunds totaling over $600,000. The complaints allege the ordinances place an unequal burden for improvements on new development and have thus injured the business of association members and diminished the value of their properties. The St. Croix Valley Home Builders Association, 1477 S. Knowles Ave., New Richmond, filed lawsuits against the town of St.
After months of discussion and study, St. Croix County supervisors, still unable to reach a decision on the future of the county nursing home, voted Tuesday to put the issue to voters this fall. The wording of the referendum, and even the membership of the five-person committee that will draft the language, will be left to the new County Board, which will be seated in April. The motion adopted on a 22-4 vote Tuesday afternoon says the county will continue to operate the home in New Richmond for the time being and will hold a Nov. 4 advisory referendum.
About 40 local people traveled to Madison last week in hopes of fostering legislative support for projects and programs that would benefit western Wisconsin. Representatives of business, industry, education and local government from St. Croix, Pierce and Polk counties took part in the third annual United St. Croix Valley Legislative Days held March 5-6. Michael Morgan, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Administration, spoke to the group at a breakfast meeting March 6.
Helen and Wilbur Falkenthal still shudder at what could have happened on a hot August day last year when their 5-year-old autistic granddaughter wandered away from home. The little girl rode her bicycle three blocks to a New Richmond park, where searchers found her bike with the helmet hanging on the handle bar.