County Board approves 2011 budget, appoints new county clerk, highway commissioner

The Lincoln County Board of Supervisors approved a $54.8 million budget for 2011 Tuesday morning which includes a tax levy of $13,335,577, which is a 4.29 percent increase over the current year’s levy.

The budget was approved by a 12-8 vote with two members absent after almost two-and-a-half hours of debate and attempts to trim the budget at “the 11th hour and 59th minute” by the full board. The meeting started at 8 a.m. and was adjourned just before 11 a.m. and was held in the clinic room of the Health and Human Service Building due to court being held in the board room.

The total county tax levy is augmented by $404,001.59 in state tax for forestry purposes, and is broken down as shown on the chart on page 2.

In contrast, the supervisors needed just 30 minutes to interview the two finalists seeking to be appointed to serve out the remainder of the late Robert Kunkel’s term as County Clerk before voting to appoint Sheila Pudelko over County EMS Supervisor Brian Sladek by a vote of 15-6. A total of 28 people applied for the position and the Administrative and Legislative committee narrowed the field down to four candidates it interviewed before forwarding Pudelko and Sladek’s names to the full board.

Pudelko brings over 30 years of government experience at the various levels of government, and stated that her primary goal was to “best serve the people of Lincoln County.”

Sladek, who has worked in county government for 27 years, summed up the task either would have faced in replacing Kunkel.

“A lot of us lost a good friend when Bob Kunkel died,” he said. “But all of us lost a great county clerk.”

He added that Kunkel left some big shoes to be filled in the position.

Pudelko will be sworn in at a date to be determined later this week and would start serving as soon as possible after wrapping up duties with her present employer. The supervisors then voted to name Jerry Jagmin Highway Commissioner over two other candidates. The Highway Commission received seven applications for the job and interviewed three finalists, whose names were presented to the entire board but not made public at the meeting.

Jagmin has been serving as the interim highway commissioner since mid-September when Randy Scholz was appointed administrative coordinator. He is an 18-year veteran of the highway department, most recently serving as the patrol superintendent.
The board then turned their attention to the budget, which had not generated any comments from the supervisors at the October meeting when it was first introduced. Before getting to the regular meeting, the board convened a budget hearing but then reconvened into regular session after no supervisors or members of the public offered comments.
Ron Mittelsteadt started the discussion of the budget when it came up again on the agenda asking that it be amended to reflect a flat 2.9 percent increase. He referenced the outcome of last Tuesday’s mid-term election as a message from the people that the county board needed to heed.
“We have not and will not look at cutting this budget,” Mittelsteadt said. “The voters have spoken and they said they would not let us spend as we want.”
He cited the high unemployment rate in Lincoln County and said the increase in the tax levy was something they could not afford. In addition, he said inflation was setting in and “our dollars will be worth a lot less.”
Board Chairman Bob Lussow said the supervisors had a chance “to kick the cat” last month and passed it up. Corporation counsel Nancy Bergstrom said that passing a budget under Mittelsteadt’s amendment, without citing specific reductions in the various department budgets, was probably illegal.
“You will have a budget that does not meet the statute,” she said.
Ray Bloomer cited the sheriff’s department staffing at the new jail as a source of unnecessary expense in that department. When the jail expansion was being considered, the board had opted for four staff positions to man it when three would have been enough.
“They have got to tighten their budget over there, folks,” Bloomer said.
Supervisor Mike Loka then made an amendment that would reduce the budget of Pine Crest Nursing Home by $250,000.
Finance Director Dan Leydet said that in order to do that, Pine Crest would have to trim an equal amount of expenditures from its budget in order to make it balance. Supervisor Dick Simon said he, too, would like to see the specifics of what Pine Crest services the nursing home would have to reduce in order to absorb the cut.
Pine Crest Administrator Tim Meehean said the cuts would have to be made in personnel, which makes up the bulk of the budget.
“You’re looking at laying off five CNAs to get that kind of reduction,” Meehean said.
Bill Zeitz said that “throwing some CNAs under the bus” was not the way to make the cuts, but look at trimming salaries of those in the administration who have larger salaries.
The amendment to trim Pine Crest’s budget failed on a 9-12 vote.
Mittelsteadt then offered to set the levy increase at three percent with the rest being made up from the county’s reserve funds. That failed on an 8-12 vote. A motion from Bloomer to reduce the number of one-axle trucks the highway department would lease from three to two at a savings of $155,000 also failed, on a 7-13 vote.
Just before the final vote on the budget resolution, Bloomer chastised the rest of the board for not doing anything to reduce the budget.
“This body is not willing to do anything for the taxpayers,” Bloomer said. “It looks like the status quo. This body is not willing to roll up its sleeves and do the hard work.”
Supervisors Berndt, Eisenman, Giese, Krueger, Lee, Lussow, Meyer, Rusch Saal, Simon, Weaver and Lee voted aye on the resolution. Alber, Bailey, Bloomer, Fox, Loka, Mittelsteadt, Rankin and Zeitz voted nay. Dan Caylor and Ramona Pampuch had left before the vote.

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