Parts of proposed budget, repair bill will impact area

The proposed biannual budget that Governor Scott Walker unveiled last week has more news for Lincoln County residents beyond the consolidation of juvenile corrections operations at Lincoln Hills. And not all of these impacts are viewed as good by area leaders.

Both the Merrill Area Public Schools and the City of Merrill have already started identifying the financial impact of Walker’s budget. MAPS will have to make do with a $3.3 million reduction in revenue cap and equalized aid while the City of Merrill stands to see an 8.8 percent or roughly $300,000 reduction in its shared revenue over the next two years.

Lincoln County Administrative Coordinator Randy Scholz said he didn’t want to attempt to guess the impact of the proposed budget until more concrete numbers come out of Madison.

The city is already looking at how certain aspects of either the budget or the budget repair bill will impact such services as recycling and Merrill-Go-Round (see story, page 4). The MAPS Board of Education will have to wrestle with some tough decisions in preparing their budget with an anticipated $3.7 million in cuts to be made (see story, page 5).

The uncertainty of the political climate in Madison right now, and the potential of having the budget battle stretch past the June deadline to have the measure finished, is only compounding the problem for area governments.

“It would be great if they passed it on time,” Scholz said.

While Scholz and Merrill Mayor Bill Bialecki both said that provisions of the budget repair bill and the proposed budget will help the city and county financially in the future, MAPS Finance Director Louise Fischer said the cuts in education aid would seriously impact the Merrill schools.

“There is a big misconception among legislators that the cuts in the budget are offset by the tax repair bill. They are not,” Fischer said.

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