The state budget seemed just as much a concern as the county budget at a May 21 Sauk County focus group meeting at the Ruth Culver Public Library in Prairie du Sac.
About 15 people attended, in addition to several area county board supervisors who did not speak at the meeting.
Among the county board supervisors attending the meeting were Joan Fordham, Bill Hambrecht, Donna Stehling and Bill Wenzel.
“The current Legislature has done more harm to this state in the last five years,” Prairie du Sac resident Mark Frey said. “Cutting funding to public schools and the elderly is at best immoral.”
Bill Waser of Reedsburg encouraged the county board to pass resolutions that send messages to the state Legislature.
“If you can pass a resolution voicing the opinion of the county, it holds more weight than (towns and villages) passing it,” Bill Waser said.
“Just recently we’ve had two times where the supervisors have been asked to support something that eventually goes to the state and some have hesitated because that’s state business,” Wessie Dietz said. “That’s absolutely wrong.”
In the last month, the county board has passed resolutions targeting state budget proposals criticizing Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed cuts to the University of Wisconsin System and to programs that serve the elderly and disabled.
Others who spoke at the forum were critical of the amounts allocated to the sheriff’s and human services departments, which make up almost 80 percent of Sauk County’s annual budget.
“The (Sheriff’s Department) is so huge, it’s sucking so much revenue we have that everything else is suffering,” Eric Allen said. “The budget of that department is basically run by the department. It makes no sense to have the largest part of the budget not being reviewed by an outside (agency).”
County board supervisor Tom Kreigl, a long-time critic of the sheriff’s department, distributed hand-outs that compared spending in the Sauk County jail to spending in the county’s school districts.
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Kriegl’s documents indicated the annual cost of a student in the public school system is about $12,000, while the cost per inmate is about $53,000.
Kriegl also has publicly proposed ending the county’s inmate work release program, and instead placing those inmates on electronic monitoring.
Kriegl said he derived the figures from data obtained from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance and Sauk County budget documents.
Dan Holzman of Baraboo said there were opportunities for the sheriff’s department to cut expenses.
“The sheriff’s department has a good opportunity to revamp and reorganize to cut the spending and get more efficiency with law enforcement and justice reform,” Holzman said. “I love the (Community Activated Recovery Enhancement) program and the nurse family program. These are innovative, positive steps that will help us down the line.”
County board chairman Marty Krueger was not at the forum, but has attended other forums.
He said there are some new programs in the planning stages in the county’s judicial and law enforcement areas.
Krueger said the county is applying for a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant that, in part, will help fund more counselors and treatment professionals, and is implementing a drug court in which offenders with drug or alcohol related crimes can be sentenced to substance abuse counseling instead of jail.
Another proposed program is an operating after license revocation diversion program.
Krueger said the Sauk County jail held a job fair recently for its Huber work release inmates.
“Our Criminal Justice Coordinating Council is working in a logical and planned way towards alternatives to the way we spend money in the justice system,” Krueger said. “We’re doing everything we can to try and implement new ideas and explore alternatives to throwing people in jail.”