JUNEAU – After a prolonged debate and consideration of 16 amendments, the Dodge County Board approved its 2020 budget.
In the end the budget was approved 22 to 5, with total expenses of just more than $133 million and revenue of $98.4 million. The local tax levy is just under $34.6 million.
The budget is a solid one, according to Dodge County Administrator Jim Mielke.
“We’ve tried to focus on our programs and services, county infrastructure and investing in employees,” said Mielke. “The total tax levy is an increase of $564,000, which is the maximum allowable increase for Dodge County in 2020. That becomes our base levy for future years, so as there’s increase in the new construction value that’s built on a larger number. That’s the ways the system works – if you don’t take the whole levy increase then in future years the different counties are penalized.”
The local tax levy for Dodge County in 2019 was just over $34 million.
The proposed mill rate – calculated per thousand dollars of assessed property value – is $5.14, which is a decrease of almost 26 cents (down 4.7 percent from $5.40) from last year.
According to Mielke, the owner of a $175,000 home (the county average) will see a decrease of $44.61 for county purposes.
Supervisor Dave Guckenberger proposed seven amendments, two of which were approved.
An amendment that received strong support from the board (21 to 7) was to reinstate a grant of $33,124 to the Dodge County fire Fire Chief’s Association. That grant allows the purchase of a boat to assist with water rescues. The new boat will be stored and maintained in Waupun for rescues in the northern part of the county. A grant for the same amount was approved last year for the southern part of the county, and is stored and maintained in Watertown.
County Administrator Jim Mielke indicated he removed the grant on the board’s behalf, in an attempt to trim the budget to an acceptable level. He was praised for his efforts, although the board voted 26 to 7 to reinstate it. Funding is to be garnered through the half-percent sales tax levied on all purchases made in the county.
Another Guckenberger amendment removed $74,327 for two patrol sergeants’ wages. The positions were recommended by the recent Matrix Study of the Dodge County Sheriff’s Department’s operations.
The board had earlier rejected new-hire proposals due to their late submission – violating a board prohibition of creating new positions after Sept. 1. On Tuesday, concerns were raised that having the funds in place will lead to hiring by default.
The vote to remove those funds was 15 to 14. With the removal of that line item, the two positions may or may not be requested in 2020.
The board also approved an increase in per diem payments for county board and committee members (from $50 per meeting to $60, including citizen appointees).
Executive Committee Chair Dennis Schmidt responded to several questions and statements about the need for a raise.
“First of all the per diem hasn’t been raised since 2013,” he said. “When I first started here, the meetings I attended were 45 minutes long. Now some of them are averaging two hours.. I often spend more in prep time than I do for the meetings. I’ve also sat in meeting that have lasted five hours. If we want to recruit people to serve on the board and on committees I don’t think this is out of line. Community service isn’t everything.”
Tuesday’s meeting lasted nearly 4 hours.
He added, “I don’t think $60 is enough, but I think this will fly.”
The raise takes effect after the next spring election.
“This is the only compensation you get,” said Jeff Schmidt. “You field phone calls. You meet folks at Fleet Farm or Kwik Trip or wherever the heck you’re at. It consumes a lot of your time. The meeting times in a lot of cases are going crazy. We have to face the fact that young folks are largely unrepresented in Dodge County — and that might be some of our problem. How do you get young people to get involved when we’re grossly under-compensated? Somehow we need to get this straightened out.”
The tally was 21 to 6 in favor of the raise with one abstention.
One of the board members absent Tuesday was Eugene Wurtz, who resigned his post stating that he is now in an assisted living facility outside his district. Wurtz served more than 35 years on the board, and indicated he is still willing to serve on county committees if needed.
Two candidates have filed to become the next mayor of Beaver Dam.
As of Tuesday afternoon, two candidates have declared their candidacy to become mayor in the April 7, 2020, election. Alan Winter filed Monday and Jeff Kohman filed Tuesday. Potential candidates can begin circulating papers for nominating signatures starting Dec. 1 to be submitted by Jan. 7.
It’s still early for candidates to file. Only one person has declared candidacy for the Common Council: incumbent Mary Morgan in Ward 14. Incumbent Mayor Becky Glewen had not filed a declaration of candidacy as of Tuesday afternoon. She did not return a voicemail Tuesday.
Jeff Kohman is the chair of the city’s police and fire commission and previously served on the Common Council, including as council president. He also runs the Apocalypse Arms dealership in Beaver Dam. He said he thinks the city is moving in the right direction, but now needs emphasis placed in other areas.
Kohman said he would want to pay as much attention to infrastructure that needs to be repaired as to downtown revitalization. He said he isn’t going into the election with any kind of agenda and that the residents of Beaver Dam should communicate what they think is needed.
Alan Winter is a U.S. Army veteran who has been involved with American Legion chapters for decades. He is also the former owner of the Sears Hometown store in Beaver Dam, been involved with local golf clubs, the VFW, youth baseball teams and other local organizations.He said his priorities would be road repair projects, investigating affordable housing for the elderly, upgrading the city’s taxi service and looking at how to make a second fire station a reality. He said he would want to avoid spending on projects that he sees as “frivolous.”
If more than two people make the ballot for the mayoral election, there will be a primary election in February. Candidates need to submit between 200 and 400 valid signatures to make the ballot.
Glewen was elected to her first three-year term as mayor in 2017, defeating incumbent Tom Kennedy 63% to 36%.
Beaver Dam Unified School District was listed as meeting expectations on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction report card for state school districts.
Other area school districts to meet expectations were Columbus, Cambria Friesland, Dodgeland, Mayville and Waupun. Fall River, Horicon and Randolph were listed as exceeding expectations.
“We feel that our gains have come from making adjustments to our curriculum and instructional practices at all grade levels,” Horicon Superintendent Rich Appel said. “The hard work and dedication from our staff makes all the difference as they have truly embraced analyzing student data and monitoring our students individually to make instructional adjustments to meet the needs for improvement. We also provide time for targeted practice for all students in grades K-8.
According to a press release from the Department of Instruction, 87 percent of rated schools in the state met or exceeded expectations as did 96 percent of the state’s 421 public school districts for the 2018-19 school year.
“We are pleased with the results that we are seeing and are continuing to align our curriculum and refine instructional practices to meet the needs of all learners,” Appel said. “We are currently undergoing revisions of our schedules at the middle school and high school levels that will better allow us to implement more interventions and enrichment for our students at every level as well as provide for more collaboration time for staff. Sound daily instructional practices are foundational for continually improving student performance on these exams as well as preparing students for college and careers.”
Scores on the state report card are calculated in four priority areas: student achievement; school growth; closing gaps between student groups; and measures of students being on-track for post-secondary readiness, which includes graduation and attendance rates, third-grade English language arts achievement, and eighth-grade mathematics achievement. Report cards provide a snapshot of performance across the four priority areas and can be used to target improvement efforts, according to the DPI press release.
Beaver Dam Unified School District as a whole received a grade of meets expectations, with Lincoln Elementary significantly exceeding expectation. Schools exceeding expectations were Prairie View Elementary, South Beaver Dam Elementary and Wilson Elementary. Beaver Dam High School and Washington Elementary were listed as meeting expectations while Jefferson Elementary and Beaver Dam Middle School were listed as meeting few expectations.
“The District and School Report Cards are designed as measuring sticks, so to speak,” Beaver Dam Unified School District director of teaching and learning Sandra David said. “They help us better understand how we are doing relative to the Wisconsin benchmarks. As we look at our overall score, our district is meeting the state expectations. When we look a little deeper, we have additional areas to celebrate. We must capitalize on these areas. Keeping in mind that education is more than the scores on a report card; students learn at home, in the classroom, the auditorium, and on athletic fields; with that said, we recognize there are areas that need our focus.”
There has been movement in the district to improve the performance of all the students in the district.
Ready Math started this fall as a new K-8th grade mathematics program in Beaver Dam schools, David said.
“We also started iReady Assessments K-8th in both math and (English Language Arts). iReady is an online benchmarking assessment system to help us identify individual students’ needs as well as identify instructional weaknesses three times a year. This allows us to intervene and adjust in real time.”
“Currently, we are examining the alignment between the Wisconsin State Academic Standards and our English Language Arts performance and instruction,” Davis said. “We are taking a hard look at the materials, resources, and classroom instruction k-12th. The alignment between what is taught must be tightly aligned with the state standards and state assessments.”
To find out more about individual district or school grades on the report cards, visit https://dpi.wi.gov/accountability/report-cards.