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Thursday, November 30, 2006

What kind of county board do taxpayers want?

The initial Walworth County budget that included a hike of nearly 11 percent started a chain reaction of controversy that has divided the Walworth County Board.

One offshoot of the surprise and dissatisfaction that many residents had over the budget was renewed calls, led by a group named Citizens for Responsible Government, to reduce the number of Walworth County Board supervisors.

In this day and age, supervisors should have seen the firestorm coming with their budget plan. Yes, the board has made important commitments to Lakeland School and other services that residents say they want, yet residents want to be reassured that this is being accomplished in a fiscally prudent way.

That being said, the question that residents need answered is how many problems will a smaller board actually solve?

Remember, the county board went through a lengthy downsizing process in 2002 to get us to the point that we're at.

We've heard from many of those in politics. (Read previous other posts in this blog).

The one group we haven't heard much from is the residents, votes and taxpayers. We'd like to hear from you.

Add your comments on the issue here.

~Dan Plutchak, editor

33 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every one of the "facts" the County Board has in their "letter" are negatives for keeping a 25 member board. 1. Consolidating and cutting staff has resulted in roadways not being mowed or repaired. They are an embarrassment to Walworth County. 2. Downsizing the number of residents in the County Home, but building a big new one to accommodate them because the "old" one wasn't maintained properly resulted in higher costs to those residents and fewer county residents being able to stay in the county run home. 3. Moving the special ed services back to the schools may have lowered county taxes but will result in higher school taxes. So unless they succeeded in pulling the wool over some eyes, most people can see that is a wash as far as taxes go. And, finally, as far as updating the county infrastructure goes, it appears to most that I've talked to that because they've cut the staff to the point that the county buildings are not maintained or properly cleaned, that once they get a little wear or dirty, we tear them down and build new ones. Let's cut the board and get some reasonable people elected. And, let's move Mr. Bretl back to Milwaukee County!

11:22 AM  
Blogger Jacob Skibba said...

I believe there are a lot of misconceptions regarding the relationship between county board size and the results that the board creates with its legislation. To derail the current board for choices it has made without considering the other options or looking at the long-term results of other options is ridiculous. People often think of a legislative body as the spenders of the government. What is often misunderstood is how legislative bodies spend money.
According to a study done by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance in 2003 (http://www.wistax.org/news_releases/2003/0310taxpayer.html) there is in Wisconsin an $8 to $10 decrease in taxes per resident for every 1-person increase to county board size. In Walworth County there are approximately 100,000 residents. That would equate to approximately $1,000,000 saved per additional county board member for the whole county. I am not prepared to state that if we were to drop 14 spots from the county board that I think a budget increase of $14 million (an increase of 28% by the way) would be adopted. On the other hand hard results from a statewide study of county board size is hard to argue with. Additionally, in Walworth County between 2000 and 2005 the total county tax levy went up 36% from $35,975,425 to $49,201,252 while population went from 93,759 to 99,844 only a 6.5% increase. On the other hand, during that time the county board decreased in size by 29% from 35 to 25 members. I think the lesson to be learned here is that the voters not always but usually get the government representation they deserve. Any county board can increase taxes and any county board can decrease taxes. It is not a question of how many but who is on the board. My hypothesis on why larger boards average less spending is: It is harder to get a larger group of people to all agree on how to spend tax money. If the county board is decreased from 25 to 11 the number of people needed to form a majority will go from 13 to 6, a decrease of 54%. Maybe 6 is the number that really counts.

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the facts as presented by the County Board showing the cuts they've made are not points to recommend keeping them status quo. Each "cut" has cost us money. They cut workers, and increase administrators, or give fancy new titles and raises to those who sit at meetings deciding who they can cut next. They should publish the salaries of all county employees like they did a while ago to show the taxpayers where the money really goes.

2:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the first time in Wisconsin, the citizens of Walworth County can decide the size of the governing body they feel comfortable with. Until 2006 only the county board could determine the size of the board. The number of supervisors does not determine their successes. Each supervisor can easily represent 8000 population.
Be the policy makers and allow the staff to carry out the policies. Direct oversite of the departments is not the duty of the elected supervisor.
I believe 11 dedicated Supervisors can very easily govern Walworth County. They will be more visable and more accountable to the citizens of this county.

10:16 PM  
Anonymous Andy said...

I think the fact of the matter is that when you have a large group of people making decisions, accountability decreases tremendously. Reducing the county board size will make these elected officials more accountable when they attempt to raise YOUR taxes four times the inflation rate. It only makes sense. Let's elect fiscally sound and responsible individuals to these positions. Thank you.

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have several questions that need to be answered about this issue. Just who believes that fewer supervisors will mean more accountability? Won't special interest groups will be able to affect 6 people easier then 13? Why is the number 11? Why not 5? Would it be reasonable to think that if the board is reduced that those living in cities will have the advantage of being elected over those living in rural communities? Where does that leave the rural citizens, without representation? Will the people with day time jobs be excluded from running for office due to the extra work load placed on fewer people? Where is the cost savings with a smaller board? Does anyone believe that 11 people are going to work for the same pay as 25? Has anyone thought that CRG is attempting to downsize the board so they can affect the outcome of the new Lakeland School. It's time to start looking out side the box and get the entire picture. Get the facts, all the facts before makeing a decision.

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have spent many hours sitting through county board meetings. I can assure you that they heavily debate every dollar spent. Walworth County offers services to their most vulnerable of citizens that other counties do not. These include the nursing home and Lakeland School. The members of CRG should count themselves thankful that they apparently do not require either service. If they ever do, they better hope that these individuals are in place to preserve them.

7:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The previous author must have been at different meetings than I. Often there is not one question on spending. We have a Nursing home for 125 persons. That is a small number out of 90,000+ population. Education belongs to the Educators and they would probably do a better job than the county. That is their expertise. These issues have nothing to do with the size of the board.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the previous writter. The county went to 125 beds because the state cut their funding and the county (tax payers) would have had to pick up the extra cost. Not good for taxpayers. Take a walk through your local school and then take a walk through Lakeland school and see if you have the same attitude about education for these kids. The Board is on top of taking care of things.

8:34 AM  
Anonymous Bret Strong CRG chairman said...

you want facts ? lets give them facts. .courthouse built after a non-binding referendum was held .We the taxpayers said NO!. build a new nursing home at the same time funds are being cut by state and federal level only to have our taxes raised to make up the shortfall.when the county commissioned a study it had said the wages and benifits were the highest in the state and even if the county downsized the home it still would have to be delt with. Not one supervisor stepped forward to adress this issue.The home could now be sold to private investors and guess what , the services would still be the same as if the county ran it .Oh, by the way the director of the nursing home over ran their budget buy $ 1 million this year and she still has her job. No supervisor has stepped up to the plate on this one either.In 06" the board made a committment to build a new Lakeland school. Thats fine, but to build a new school for 270 kids at the total cost of appr.35 million (this figure is the TOTAL cost with the interest . this cost has never been stated by ANY supervisor yet.)But the real kicker is the fact that IT IS A NON MANDATED SERVICE!!!!!!!!!!. the board says it is cheaper to run as a consolidated service .If that is the case why is it not being done in every one of the school districts state wide.
Also ,the board has not presented facts to show it is the case.If the kids were placed back into the districts the costs would be under the revenue caps thus allowing some sort of spending restrint to be enjoyed by the taxpayer. Right now it is an open checkbook with no spending limits placed upon them .They say that in order to comply with the american disabilities act millions would have to be spent if it were to go back to the districts. I question that statement as well because any public building MUST be disabled equiped so that would mean that our schools in this county must already be somewhat compliant . Now granted , their would have to be some special equipment purchesed but it isnt going to cost multi millions of dollars either.I ask what happens when we have 30,40,50 kids move into the county that needs the same services.How can we ever pay for that increase.Based on info and belief a child moved into our county to enjoy the use of the special school.2 teachers had to be hired for that student to the sum of $130,000.00.Multiply that by the figures above and you will see this is not reality.This last statement was brought up in a county board meeting only to fall on deaf ears.This is not about teaching the children at Lakeland it is about spending outrages amounts of money when their is a cheaper yet just as effective plan out their for appr.$6 million. This is a complete renovation/remodel and an addition which would not put the taxpayers in this county up to their eyeballs in debt and the possibility that in a few short years in operation we would end up with a white elephant staring back at us and a huge debt to pay to boot.The board saw the plan and said screw the taxpayers, WE want the granddaddy of all schools. Two final points on the school.The board of supervisors had the oppertunity to put this to referendum and they shot it down in a vote. so much for representation.Two, the county is now embroiled in a lawsuit with a disabilities group in Madison. Even with the suit going and the possibility that they would lose, they have gone and spent appr.$750,000.00 on plans and bidding process.What happens if they lose the lawsuit ? Maybe we file a class action lawsuit to recoup OUR money from these individuals? sounds good . This year the county was hit with a 35% increase in health insurance that was passed on to the
taxpayer .While people are losing their insurance left and right ,we peasents are picking up the tab. Was it to much to ask that maybe the employees pick it up .It seems only right as it is THEIR insurance not ours . now we can talk about representation.How many supervisors does it take to run Walworth Co..that question is answerd differently depending if you are a supervisor earning $550.00 a month or the citizen who is paying for a board that is unresponsive to the public and out of control . there are a lot of arguements for and against large Co. boards . the best arguement I can make for downsizing is that , at a minimum, it will eliminate 14 of these big spenders.For a board that feels that a 9.8% increase is responcible ,removing 14 of them is a good start.Before you argue against a smaller board ,I would ask that you attend some Co. meetings and see your elected officials at work.On Oct.10th, only 20 of the 25 members even botherd to show up.Is this representation?. I think not.You have a responcibility to your constituants to be there.during the budget process only 9 supervisors botherd to show up in the 3 meetings held. this already shows that we can get by with 11 members.will there be too much work for the remaining members.Before answering that question I would ask what is the present board accomplishing.Expanding every non-mandated program without cutting other costs is no accomplishment.In may of 06' the board voted to set the budget target at 10% .It was clear that some board members were not comfortable with this because these members sat on the finance commitee and could not endorse their own proposed budget.I can only conclude that they were comfortable with that decision,didnt know how to lower it or more likly ,would rather pass it on to the taxpayers and take the heat rather than dissapoint the special interests behind this budget.But dont take my word for it ,call your supervisor and ask them why we have one of the highest Co. taxes in the state.Should we feel sorry for the remaining members who would be burdend by a smaller board?.Being a board member is just about the best part time job one could land. For the majority of the board that attends 2 committee meetings and the County board meeting a month ,6 hours of meetings a month equates to $83.33 per hour. Iguess that is a higher wage than most taxpayers who are being asked to pick up the tab and a 9.5% tax increase to boot. I for one will not lose any sleep if their work load doubles and their wage drops to say $40.00 per hour.I have already heard that there could be more consolidation of the commitees so that could work out for reducing the workload.
A smaller board will reduce expences,promote compitition and make supervisors more visible to the taxpayers.Right now they have created a structural deficit and taxpayers will be saddled with above average tax increases for years to come.With the tax increases that will be needed to sustain this county with all the borrowing going on will the home building continue ,will business locate here and will school districts be able to get referendums pass if we are seeing high increases elseware?. Probably not. The taxpayers can only take so much.As time goes by I and other members of our organization will be posting more information for the taxpayers to digest and they will come to the decision that we are on the right track with this county board. Their arrogance is overwelming and behavior is just plain pathetic. We have compiled alot of info over the last 5 years and it is time to share it with the public. And by the way , contrary to what the supervisors say , everything we bring out can be proven by public record . We are here for the sole purpose of truthfully protecting the taxpayers in this county . I would also direct you to our website www crgnetwork.com to get a feel for what our organization is about .We grow every day because the politions give us the ability to do so with their behavior. Have a great day!!!!!!!

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it makes absolute sense to downsize the board. How does anything get decided with 25 members? 11 is a practical number, and a good size for discussing issues with efficiency, yet enough to represent the diverse opinions of this county. I definitely think our county board needs to be revitalized and we need more progressive youthful thinking on the board. Personally, I would like to see our county laws regarding medicinal marijuana be reformed, and would also like to know how all the current members feel about the issue. This would certainly be a huge deciding factor on how I vote in the upcoming elections, and I also personally know a great number of Walworth County’s voting citizens who would also like to know. This taboo topic may as well be discussed at this time since so much attention is being drawn to the county board. With 58% of the states in this nation in the process of writing legislation, passing legislation or having already done so regarding medicinal marijuana or complete decriminalization; it seems we are a little behind the times here in Wisconsin. Furthermore, why not give the farmers of this county a lucrative product to grow for once, so they don’t have to keep selling their land off to developers. Downsizing is the time for reform. Let’s change the way we think and operate in this county.

7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Brett that was a real eye opener. Too bad most of your facts are wrong or fabracated. You may want to spend more time attending meetings and getting the right information. Talking about spending taxpayers money needlessly, how about your group. Do you think that the time spent filing the paper work for your group was free to the taxpayers? Do you think that the time spent by the County Clerk to check the names you gathered was free? Do you think adding this issue to the April elections is free? Do you think that redistricting the entire county two years before it, by law, is required to done again, this will be free? If this issue is voted down, can the taxpayers sue your group to recoup their loss of tax money? Maybe you should give your group the traveling trophy for wasted tax dollers.

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Bret Strong CRG walworth chairman said...

I can only say two things about the ANONYMOUS writer that decided to trash me .One, why did you do this anonymously.Sounds like an irritated supervisor to me.Two, if my facts are not correct,why dont you state the facts for us.(that cant happen because mine are based on public record and if the public were to go look they would find that I am correct.So Mr. or Mrs. anonymous bring on the correct facts.I welcome it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Strong is correct in one sense: special education is not a county mandated service. However, it is a state mandated service that every taxpayer will pay for one way or another. If he seriously thinks that sending all of this programming back to the districts will save him money, he should refer to yesterday's article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel featuring individuals from Western Racine County. Racine County recently took back all of their special education services, resulting in between 80 and 90% property tax increases for some residents. In addition, remodeling Lakeland is no small task. Has he ever been inside it? Is he aware that every inch of the building is used, every closet is an office, and the library is in a hallway? And that before the old nursing home was torn down numerous items which could be reused were recycled at Lakeland? Take a tour and then tell these kids that what they have is good enough.

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess petitioners are busy now as bloggers; their comments are easy to identify! As voters, we need to ask ourselves WHY the CRG wants to downsize. Hmm, do you suppose they want to run for the board themselves? What is their platform? It will only take 6 of them to control the board and they already said they want to cut staff, have no Lakeland school, sell the nursing home and cut staff and their benefits. You'll see law suits right and left; you'll see stressed employees. We need to be vigilant. Ask questions.

9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is getting a bit off the subject, but. . I know that most of you think that special ed students are slow learners, dyslexic, or have some other little problem that has them attending Lakeland School. But to think that they can just go into the public school system with a few extra aides is very wrong. I personally know some severely handicapped kids - severe down syndrome, brittle diabetes needing constant monitoring, behavioral problems which means they need strong control measures, physical handicaps needing more than just the ADA doors, etc.. These kids need to be in a separate school. To mainstream them would be detrimental due to the "normal" kids tauntings and their inability to conform. It would detract from classtimes and cause problems on busses and in hallways. And not all teachers are equipped mentally or have the compassion to care -- a large percentage are in it for the pay, (yes, it's not as bad as they'd like you to think) the time off, the terrific benefits, and the 5 hours a day they actually are with students. These kids really do need their own school, but it should be functional, not a show palace. We are about at the end of our ropes with those types of buildings in Walworth County.

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Jim C. Simons said...

I will quickly address a number of previous postings. Recently, I have been attending County Board meetings and I do not see or hear a lot of serious discussion over spending issues or any issue for that matter. What I hear is Supervisiors asking how a committee voted and then voting the same way. Talk about special interests swaying votes, get placed on an important committee and you only have to influence a couple of people.

During the budget votes, all that had to be said is "service will suffer" and the manager got everything they wanted. I am a business owner and I believe the County's budget process is broken, and the taxpayer got the broken end of the shaft.

Currently in Walworth county there are two lightening rods, Ann Lohrmann and the Lakeland School, but neither would be a problem if the currnet County Supervisors would pay attention.

Ann believes the County board should be smaller. The board had knowledge that many citizens felt the same way, but the Board refused to even discuss the issue, their minutes record their refusal. Now there is a certified petition that takes the discussion out of the hands of the supervisors and puts it in the hands of the people.

The County residents are split over Lakeland School which is currently being sued to stop its operation, but unlike any other school bond issues this board refused to allow an advisory vote. 25 supervisors made a decision that normally would be the prerogative of the taxpayers. Maybe we should be asking how each supervisor's vote affected his or her children or the children of relatives or the employment of family members.

A smaller board does not mean that the rural residents would receive less representation. Approximately 52% of the County residents live in cities or villages, the rest live in towns. As long as the redistricting is done fairly without prejudice the towns will probably be better represented than they are now. Currently only two supervisors represent only towns. 5 represent cities and villages and the rest a mixture of cities, villages and town residents.

In April the citizens of Walworth County will be able to tell this board they can keep their jobs or some of them will lose their jobs. I believe this is a good thing because people are engaged in their government. After the election this will be a better county not because one side lost and another won, but because we came together and made a decision.

9:52 PM  
Anonymous Patricia said...

I have attended two County Board meetings and have spoken at both. I am personally appalled at the behaviour and lack of consideration the majority of supervisors have for their constituents opinions. Their lack of concern for their consitiuents opinions is my primary reason for believing a smaller board would be appropriate.

I also find the fact that over half of them cannot be bothered to attend budget explanation meetings to be unacceptable. If they cannot be bothered to attend the meetings so that they are informed about what they must vote on, then why should they remain in office?

I attended the December County Board meeting. I watched as each agenda item was brought before the board. There was no discussion of the items. Simply a confirmation to take the action recommended by the committee. I was shocked. This was my County government at work? Where was the discussion? Then I found out that some of the committees had met just that day. So some Supervisors were conceivably voting on issues on which they did not know what, if any, discussion was held. If all the Supervisors are going to do is rubberstamp what the committees recommend, why do we need 25 Supervisors?

Regardless of which side of the Lakeland school issue you are on, the actions of this board is FISCALLY IRRESPONSIBLE. They are spending money for programs for which they do not have enough money. And rather than ask the taxpayers whether or not we are willing to have an increase in our taxes to pay for these programs, they are making the decision for us.

I do not appreciate this board refusing to allow me to have my voice. I have a right to vote on this kind of increase. How dare they make a decision of this magnitude and not ask the citizens first! That is not the way this country works.

This is why I am for reducing the size of the County Board.

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to answer Jim and Patricia. It is obivious that the two of you do not understand the workings of government. Why would there be committees if everyone on the board attended each meeting. The Federal Governments have committees that recommend to the general assembly who vote on the committees recommendations. That is how a smooth system works. I am sure that the townboards work the same way is some way. I keep reading about Supervisors missing budget meetings. Have you thought that $500.00 a month is not a liveable wage and that there are Supervisors who actually have a job that pays the bills, and have to be at a job when the meetings are taking place. I am sure that minutes of the meetings are available along with phone calls about certain issues. Also, are the two of you related?

8:39 AM  
Anonymous Jim C. Simons said...

Dear 10:39 PM Anonymous
I understand the workings of government all to well. Working on the local level is a passion not a vocation. If you expect to get rich or live off of politics at the local level you are sadly misinformed. If you looking for a living wage in Wisconsin, you should not run for elected office.

Committees are to make recommendations, not decide the final outcome. When committee recommendations made 15 to 30 minutes or even a few hours before the County Board meets there is insufficient time for information to be deciminated in a legal manner or for other supervisors to carefully study the information. Wisconsin has an interesting law referring to open meetings that prohibits discussing information to be voted on outside of regularly scheduled meetings, including phone calls, emails and other unauthorized communications between supervisors.

Furthermore if a supervisor's "day job" interfers with their ability to attend meetings and be an effective supervisor then I suspect they are poorly representing their constituents.

I suspect you are a supervisor, are you? And if so, or even if not, why are you afraid to post your comments with your name? And should Patricia and I be related, do you think that prohibits one of us from expressing our opinion? Every citizen in this country, which last time I checked included Walworth County, has a right to their own opinion regardless of their relationship to one another. Unfortunately Paticia is right when she indicated that this board does not care what the citizens of Walworth County think. They have shown their lack of caring on many ocassions. If you care to stop hiding behind anonymous and answer my questions I will be happy to answer yours.

10:59 PM  
Anonymous Patricia - A Walworth County Taxpayer said...

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Patricia and I am a citizen of Walworth County. I do not work for, nor am I a member of a town, village, county, state, or federal government. I fail to understand what my relationship, if any, to Jim, or any other poster on this blog, has to do with anything. These are MY opinions. I formed them. I am responsible for them. I will defend them to whomever asks me to defend them. However, I will ask that person to identify themself.

To whoever asked whether I am related to Jim. Who cares? And why does it matter?

I find it interesting that my point was either ignored or missed. In order to vote on something, I expect my elected representative (be that Federal, State, or County), to be informed about the topic. In order to be informed, I would expect them to read minutes, get any questions they may have answered, and if they are in disagreement with the Committee's recommendation, to voice their objection.

If a Committee is meeting on the same day as a County Board meeting, the minutes will not be available. Phone calls, while quicker than minutes, are not necessarily as accurate. I am very upset that Supervisors are casting votes before they have the opportunity to read the minutes of a Committee's meetings and to get answers to any questions they may have. And the very idea that the discussion from Committee meetings is being disseminated through "Phone Calls" is appalling. It is all to easy to convey inaccurate information this way.

Finally, I would like to address the comment made by the "Anonymous" poster regarding the wage a Supervisor makes. (I would be happy to respond to you by name if you would provide it.) First, nobody forces someone to run for public office. This is something one wants to do. If you are in it for the money, may I respectfully submit, you made a mistake.

Second, if a Supervisor does not have the time to do the job they were elected to do, why did they run for office? Is that really an acceptable excuse for not doing the job one was elected to do? And if a Supervisor cannot make time in their schedule for something as important as a Budget Meeting, than do they make time for any meetings?

If there are too many Committee meetings for the Board members to attend, so that they may be informed about the votes they cast, then perhaps we need less Committees. This is quite possible if there are less Supervisors. If there are only 11 Supervisors, the need for Committees is reduced. The discussions for various issues can return to the County Board meetings where it belongs.

Reducing the County Board by 14 Supervisors will save the County Taxpayer $7000/month. Over the course of one year, the reduction of the County Board will save the County Taxpayer $84,000/year. See, it's not hard to find savings in the County Budget. That's just taking the $500/month figure "Anonymous" mentioned in their post. That's not including any milage expenses paid to the Supervisors for attending Committee meetings.

This County Board knows how to spend money. They say yes to whomever asks for money. They need to learn how to save money. In MY opinion, reducing the County Board is the first step in reducing the amount of money spent.

In MY opinion, the County Board Supervisors are only interested in spending MY money. Well this Taxpayer has had enough.

11:50 PM  
Anonymous Dawn said...

An interesting discussion. Be nicer if the anonymous bloggers would have the self-respect to use their name and would not claim to be the only ones who had the correct answer. Politician need to learn to work together to find compromise and actually do something positive instead of pointing fingers. Mr. Anonymous who asks questions about possible relationships seems to forget that even if people are related they each have a right to express their opinion particularly if they also have a right to vote and the privilege of paying taxes. There are valid points to both sides of the question but there is not doubt our taxes have gone up a lot. Maybe we should remember that our forefathers fought for the right to succeed or fail and that if we do not take care of ourselves and our families, we do not have the right to expect the rest of society to take care of us.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Rene said...

I am not a big fan of our county government. My reasons have little to do with paying high taxes. They have to do with how this tax money is spent.

I am a huge fan of the nursing home. I am a huge fan of Lakeland school. Both of these services are services I don't mind paying taxes for. They improve the quality of life in this county and reflect well on our Christian charity and sense of community.

That judicial center is another story. I believe that in planning for growth in the crime rate, we can conclude that we are also planning for a growth in population overall. In that case I fail to see the planning and logic behind cutting back on services such as Lakeland School and a nursing home. Demographically we will have more old people than ever in the next 20 to 30 years as the first wave of the baby boom ages. In short I fail to see any sort of long range planning or logic behind many of the decisions that have made over the last 20 years or so. That's the problem. Fiscal responsiblity is not just cutting taxes and services, it comes from sound planning and smart administration.

In the end these services will still be a needed and the taxpayer will still be paying for them, as they will then be mandated by the state or federal government. And even if they weren't, what kind of community would we be living in? Some of the most desirable places to live come with high taxes on very expensive property. People flock to these areas because- if you want a nice community you have to pay for it. That's just the way it is.

People that cannot afford to pay property taxes now are one step away from needing the services that these tax dollars now provide. And if you can afford to pay your taxes you are way too fortunate to be complaining.

As for supervisors and anyone that runs for any local office in this county, these are not seasoned politicians, they are regular people doing a civic duty which is part of the responsibility we all have to maintain this form of government. We all like to yap about fighting and dying for freedoms but when it comes to actually stepping up to the plate and participating in this democracy most of us take a step back and just complain about how things are. No one is clamoring for these seats as most of the supervisors run unopposed. They wo0n't be if it's cut down to 11 either. Now that's sad.

Personally I don't see that 11 or 15 or 25 board members will make much of a difference without elected leadership. Rather than beat up these supervisors about salaries-Take a look at the salary and benefit package of our county administrator. Does it seem staggeringly high compared to the average salary of the walworth county taxpayer? I would wager to say that plenty of people would be running for that job with that salary and those benefits. And not only would they run-they'd have to be accountable for their decisions. It would be very hard to hide behind the supervisors if this was an elected position.

One more thing-As a taxpayer I really resent the CRG, Ann Lohrmann or anyone else I did not vote for say they are speaking for me or protecting my rights. Taxpayers are a diverse group. It would be more appropriate to say they are speaking for the CRG and for Ann Lohrmann. In a democracy we run it up the flagpole and see who salutes it and no one group or individual represents every voter. If I need a watchdog I'll find my own.

11:37 PM  
Anonymous Patricia said...

I would like to respond to Rene. I understand and respect your opinion with regards to the Nursing Home and the School. If I understood your comment correctly, you are pleased that we are providing these services. I don't want to comment one way or the other about whether or not the County should be doing these services. That is not the main focus of my problem with the County Board. My problem is that the County Board has decided that we are going to do these services without asking the taxpayers if they are willing to pay for these services.

As you said in your final paragraph, we live in a democracy. We are suppose to be allowed to voice our opinions through our votes. But the County Board has by-passed the taxpayer with regards to some very expensive decisions. Because of the County Boards actions, we will never know if the majority of Walworth County taxpayers agree with providing these services or not.

There are those who aren't going to like me making this comment, but it is how I feel. The County Board is walking a dangerous line. They are very close to "Taxation without Representation". They aren't crossing it yet, since these are elected officials. However, in refusing to allow the Taxpayer to vote on an expenditure of this magnitude, they are coming very close.

I also agree with your statement about Fiscal Responsibility. It absolutely IS about more than cutting and spending. It is about planning; for both short-term and long-term goals. The County Board does not look at the cause and effect of their actions in both the short-term and long-term. The County Board is ultimately responsible, since they are supposed to be overseeing the administrators. That is part of their job.

I have been unable to attend the last couple of County Board meetings due to my job. What I have been hearing has not changed my opinion of this County Board. If anything, their actions have increased my desire to see a reduction in the number of Supervisors.

I respect your right to be upset with the CRG. Personally, I am glad they are there. If they hadn't been, I might not have become aware of some of the actions of our County Board. Regardless of how one feels about the CRG, the County Board, Lakeland School, or any other of these issues, I sincerely hope that the taxpayers of Walworth County let their voices be heard.

11:49 PM  
Anonymous Rene said...

Having a popular vote for every issue leads to a situation that our founding fathers called “tyranny of the masses”. I would wager to guess that if we sent out a survey asking taxpayers what county services, salaries, workers or benefits they would cut if they could, we would come up with no clear majority on anything. Individual taxpayers-or voters are far less qualified to make these decisions that the representatives they elect. If your representative is not on top of a situation and is not studying the information they are given before a discussion or vote, that’s the person that should not be on the board. My representative always voted differently than I would have wanted her to-but she certainly did study the information she had to vote on before making a decision and I respect that-even if it is not the outcome I would have liked.

The reason we don’t know what the majority of Walworth taxpayers want is that we do not have an elected county executive. Having one elected representative with veto powers would be a much better indicator of what the taxpayer wants than what we do now-regardless of the number of supervisors. In my view we do have too much representation, and we need to narrow it down to one individual who is the lightning rod for what the voters want, as in the recent presidential election. I agree that we could do with less supervisors but I believe that the problems we have in county government stem from the fact that it does not have leadership that needs to be accountable to the county as a whole. Ann Lohrmann certainly doesn’t fit that bill. Dave Bretl’s an employee and his hands are tied. I agree that change is needed; however reducing the amount of supervisors does not change the fact that there is no elected leadership of those supervisors.

As for being heard-we can speak at board meetings, we can write to or call supervisors, which is what taxpayers that support Lakeland school and the Nursing home did. This issue has been going on for years- if as a taxpayer you missed it then you get what you get. There are a lot of people out there that worked to get these things passed, without threatening to take down the system.

My objection to the Walworth County Branch of the CRG has to do with the tactics they employ to achieve their goals. Who are they anyway? Who voted for them? How many people belong to the group? What is Brett Strong's agenda? You know he has one- it’s human nature to have one. You don’t need Brett Strong’s slant on the county board to find out what the actions of the County Board are-You just have to read the paper, and the minutes and decide for yourself. They are all online and anyone can access these from any local library.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Jim C. Simons said...

Each of the following points was taken from a talking points sheet written by several of the County Supervisors as reasons why they should not be down sized. The counter point is why I believe they should be downsized.

Point 1
Your district would have less representation. Cities villages and towns could be grouped together and be represented by only 1 singular vote to serve diverse needs and growth.

Counter point
I do not see how we could be more poorly represented then we are now. Currently the diverse needs of different groups are slammed together and are dependent on the good will of 18 of the supervisors to represent them in a fair and equitable manner. Of 25 supervisors only 2 represent towns, 5 represent cities or villages and 18 represent mixed groups of rural and urban populations. 52% of the people in Walworth County live in urban areas and 48% live in rural areas. This is an opportunity to correct the poor representation of our current board to fairly represent the diverse population of our County. Further more whom are these supervisors representing beyond their own needs and desires. When was the last time you were asked what you think or a supervisors asked for your opinion. Ask yourself if the recent votes of the County Board by your supervisor represent your interests.

Point 2
The County budget is $147,000,000. Downsizing would allow just 6 votes (a majority of 11) to decide most issues. Isn’t that a lot of money in the hands of six people?

Counter point
It’s a lot of money in the hands of 25 people. 11 supervisors are no less responsible than 25, and based on the actions of this board how could 11 be any less responsible? Almost any new group of 11 could spend our money in a better fashion. I believe that a smaller board will bring the very best people forward and cause contested elections where discussion would happen and benefit the public. There is no conclusive evidence that larger or smaller boards work better. We have a large board and it is not working. I believe a smaller board would work better. If you look at the number of people who attended the budget sessions 11 interested people are running the County now. This is our chance to make a change. Join the many voters who have expressed their desire to have a change.

Point 3
Special interest groups could very easily gain control of the Board.

Counter point
Special interest groups already have control of the Board. Most decisions are made in committees where you only have to garner 3 or 4 votes to gain control. Little debate is done during monthly board meetings. Currently if you want to control votes you simply have to control a committee. With a new group of Supervisors we can change how business is done in our County.

Point 4
Supervisors would most likely have to become full time salaried employee with benefit packages (currently supervisors receive $500/ month and no paid benefits). Those full time salary and benefit packages would far out weigh what is currently being paid.

Counter point
There is absolutely no evidence that supervisors would have to be full time. There are many town, city and village officials who are part time and do as much or more than our County Supervisors. Yes, each supervisor is paid $500/ month. The Chairperson is paid $1,000. That adds to $156,000 in salaries, but the budget for the Board is $326,931. A difference of $160,931! One must assume each supervisor is paid an average of $6837.24/year (more then their annual salary) for expenses, such as driving to committee meetings and travel when they attend meetings outside the county. While most business people are paid when they travel, most are not paid to do local travel that is a part of their job, such as travel to committee meetings. Besides if each supervisor is attending 3 committee meetings and 1 monthly board meeting and each meeting averages 2 hours that is a total of 8 hours, or $62.50/ hour. How many of us make that much per hour? And for those supervisors who fail to show up for their committee meetings a 2 hour County Board meeting pays $250/hour.

Point 5

Ask yourself who would have time to serve full-time on the County Board if it were downsized? Walworth County is currently served by a wonderfully diverse group of citizens: farmers, blue collar workers, business owners, retirees. This is who Walworth County is!

Counter point
First, I doubt that reducing the board would require full time supervisors. Since elected official must live in their district Walworth County will continue to “be served by a wonderfully diverse group of citizens: farmers, blue collar workers, business owners, retirees” because that is the group from which we will choose. We currently hire a professional full time administrator and many full time managers. In addition we have elected full time people. What we need is a dedicated group of supervisors to determine policy and provide oversight to the very good people hired or elected to work full time. The Supervisors simply need to set policy and provide oversight to our current professional staff. That is not necessarily a full time job.

Point 6
The state mandates redistricting following the 2010 census. Doing it 2 years early can be redoubling the cost to county and municipalities. It will have to be done again in 2010. Why should we pay twice?

Counter point
This is a typical response from this board double counting costs. The last time redistricting was done; it was accomplished inside the county without any outside help. The labor to redistrict was done by the towns, villages and city employees and the county employees. What is this cost they are talking about. What you are hearing is a supervisor attempting to justify increased employment or an increase in pay. Supervisors should be worried about why the pension and health insurance funds are not adequately funded rather than if we will have to work a little harder to handle redistricting. Or perhaps they should worry about a redistricting plan that is fair to the voters.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OH Mr. Strong,

I see you fail to mention in your paragraph, or shall I say book, that you are on a county committee! So do you do it for free???? Or do you collect your meeting pay AND milage???

I think you and your group think if you fling enough poo, some of it will stick :)

11:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it true that the county board spent $900.00(tax payers money) in attorney fees trying to stop the referendum??
Citizens should not be concerned about 11 supervisors establishing policy. Committees are made up of 5 to 7 members and decisions are made there and usually rubber stamped at the board meetings. Very little or no debate is on the county board floor. Ask anyone who attends the monthly board meetings.
Supervisors should have spent as much time on intersport as they are spending trying to save their jobs, which could be gone next election even if there are 25 slots. Did any supervisor ask the people they represent what size board they wanted. This is the first time in history tht the citizens can be heard.
A county the size of Walworth does not need a full time board in any sense of the word. Think outside of the box. Status Quo is not the law.

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It just sound like everyone is worried about money now a days. my concern is lakeland school. Have any of you people been there? I have. All 3 of my children attend that school. You keep talking about closing the school down, but where do you plan to put these childern. you want to put my children in public school, in which they were kick out of, because they are disabled. Are guys even thinking about the children. Whats going to happen them. Maybe you should think about that before closing the school.

12:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

IF downsizing brings fiscal responsibility to the Walworth County board them I am all for it. I recently saw in the the Elkhorn Independent that Walworth County was requesting proposals for Fish Tank Cleaning. Yes, you read that correctly, FISH TANK CLEANING SERVICES. The people currently running our county preach fiscal responsibility when they are trying to get your vote, or keep their gravy positions. But when the elections are over, they spend our money cleaning fish tanks. It makes you wonder how many other fiscally irresponsible things are taking place?

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To get a feeling of the fiscal responsibility of the County Board, just take a trip to the new Board room.

I've never seen so much leather and so many plasma screens in one room in my life.

Of course thats the front of the room where the board members sit. Apparently leather is too expensive when it comes to chairs for the taxpayers who wish to attend the meetings.

I believe part of the problem with the current board is the members who feel they deserve to be pampered for the important work they are doing so well. They feel important for all the "great services" they are providing regardless of the cost to the taxpayer. Their arrogance is astounding.

During a break in the budget hearing last November, I decided to try one of those nice leather chairs. I was immediately rebuked and told that my even touching the chair had damaged it. Perhaps he was talking about the stench of the common taxpayer that no doubt would cause the chair to be unuseable.
Mike Q

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Rene said...

I agree that the chairs, the screens, the self-congratulatory remarks from board members are all annoying. The prayers for guidance before the meetings also give the meetings a strangely hypocritical aura. In spite of that, cutting the board will not change any of it. In fact, it will give more power to make goofy decisions to less people. Now that’s scary. The efficiency that we’ll gain will simply make those goofy decisions easier to pass through.

The qualities of these individuals will always be a variable no matter what size the board is. One thing that will not change is the apathy of the taxpayers. I can guarantee you that supervisors will still be running unopposed. That is not the fault of the board; it's the fault of the taxpayer. The very group that Strong's so called CRG group claims to represent.

I am not voting to cut the board size primarily because the people that are supporting this are just creepy in their ideology and methods. In my view, our county administrator -the unelected one-is the one with the most power. He has the biggest salary, his advice is either accepted, or due to the fact that he has no mandate from taxpayers, it is so wishy-washy that the board really has no guidance.

That leaves us with Ann Lohrmann as Chair. She has no clear mandate from the taxpayers either. No one does and that's where the problem lies. I would vote yes if this change began with having an elected county executive that was truly accountable to the taxpayers. Then we'd see if cutting board size is necessary. Otherwise, I am very wary of the people behind this downsizing effort and what their hidden agenda is. If there was no hidden agenda there would certainly not be so much acrimony behind this effort to cut the boards size.

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real issue here is this is the first time in history that the voters have a choice on the size of the board.
This is not about CRG or any other special interest group. This is about the voters choice. Status quo or change. Wisconsin county boards have been to large for too long. I say it is time for change. Counties in Iowa function with three member boards and do not have town boards.
I agree taxpayers need to be more involved.. Vote yes to down size

4:19 PM  

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