November 26, 2014

Juneau Adopts 2015 Budget With Cuts To Library


11/26/14 – The Juneau Common Council Tuesday night heard over one hour of public comments prior to adoption of their 2015 budget. Those in attendance spoke to a $40-thousand dollar cut to the library budget. A dozen library supporters spoke or had letters read into the record opposing the reduction, which library officials say will have a direct effect on programming and materials. Two citizens spoke in favor of the cuts; both Juneau city employees who have seen what they said were devastating budget cuts in their departments resulting in the elimination of positions and delays in purchasing vital equipment. The 2015 budget is the first time the library financial fate is at the mercy of municipality government. City Clerk Treasurer Gladys McKay says that changes in state statute under Act 10 allow municipalities – for the first time – to decrease the library fund budget and treat the library like every other city department.


Juneau has seen flat or shrinking property values in recent years and increased costs; because of state-imposed levy limits, officials struggled to eliminate a $280-thousand dollar deficit heading into the budget process. The red ink was reduced to $180-thousand with the balance coming the city’s fund balance, which is essentially a rainy day fund – a fund that now has less than $30-thousand dollars remaining. Auditors recommend a minimum of a half-million dollar fund balance.  Mayor Dan Wegener says there’s nowhere left to cut except public safety and public works personnel.


It was noted at the meeting that the library has a trust fund of around $200-thousand dollars and, while some of the funds are restricted, city officials recommended the library use its reserves as needed. Librarian Connie Schuett was unsuccessful in urging the council to restore half the proposed cut, around $20-thousand. Schuett says dipping into the trust fund may be an acceptable approach in the short term but is not sustainable in the long run.


The $9-million dollar Juneau budget includes a tax levy of $1.25-million dollars resulting in a mill rate of $8.89 cents, an increase of 21-cents from the current year’s budget. The vote was three-to-two with Kendra Hayden and Ron Drezdon voting against the budget.


No Mill Rate Yet In Mayville’s Adopted Budget


11/26/14 – The Mayville Common Council adopted the city’s 2015 budget at a special council meeting Tuesday night.  The total tax levy for the coming year is just over $2.8-million and is the exact same as that of the current year.  Mayor Bob Redeker says that despite a few challenges along the way, the process went quite smoothly this year, and he expects the public to be pleased with the end result.  One of the items that was cut at the council’s last budget meeting to help them ensure there would be zero tax raise from 2014 was the funding to the group previously tasked with renovating the city’s downtown area, Main Street Mayville.  Redeker says that there were some people who were concerned about the funding cut but says that the organization is already adapting to the change and are welcome to approach the committee again next year about once again receiving funding.  While the figure for the total tax levy was given at last night’s meeting, the mill rate was not stated.  That is due to the final assessed values for the manufacturing part of the evaluation not coming in until next week.  The mill rate is expected to be announced at the council’s next meeting on Monday, December 8.


Horicon 2015 Budget Adopted


11/26/14 – The City of Horicon’s 2015 budget was adopted at a special council meeting Tuesday night.  Mayor Steve Neitzel says that most of the city’s departments were able to keep their budgets similar to a year ago.  He noted two of the items that increased for the coming year were a two-percent across the board raise for city employees and a seven-percent increase in health insurance costs.  Despite relatively few changes in those department budgets, the total levy did increase by just over one-percent from the previous budget to just over $1,900,000, the maximum allowable amount.  The mill rate will be $8.79 per $1,000 of assessed property value, a decrease of about one-eighth of a percent from the current year.  The city’s budget for the coming year will be one of a deficit of over $264,000.  Neitzel says that the deficit will be offset by dipping into the reserve fund as the council felt that it could not operate on just year-to-year expenditures.  The mayor says that part of the money will also go toward creating an economic developer position that he expects to be filled in the new year.  He says that having in someone in this position will help Horicon grow, and the person in the position will also be writing requests for grant funding.  Neitzel also noted that property values dropped a collective $68,000 from the last assessment.


Neitzel On Golf Course Sale


11/26/14 – Mayor Steve Neitzel discussed the process behind the recent sale of the City of Horicon’s golf course.  The course was sold last week after the council entertained the two sealed proposals that had been submitted.  Neitzel says that one of the factors that helped to sway the council in favor of the Merkel family was their background in running courses as they currently operate Golf Camelot courses in West Bend and Lomira.  He says that the family was not only willing to pay $420,000 for the course but also commit to $500,000 worth of projects to upgrade the grounds throughout the next five years.  The mayor says that stipulations in the agreement include the course staying eighteen holes for at least five years and the city having first right of refusal if the Merkel’s seek to sell.  Neitzel says that there was also a difference in the value of the offers, but the council was not as concerned about that as ensuring that the course was in good hands so it remains an attraction for tourists.


Dodge County Board Corrects 2015 Budget Error


11/26/14 – The Dodge County Board met in special session Tuesday night to address an error made in the 2015 budget, which was adopted earlier this month. The document was in violation of Wisconsin Act 20, which limits the increase in levy capacity to the increase in value of net new construction and/or value generated through the closure of a municipal TIF District.  As a result of this error, an overstatement of available levy capacity for 2015 was made pertaining to the use of allowed adjustments.  Department of Revenue regulations do provide for allowable adjustments to the levy capacity formula. The fix approved last night uses unused tax levy dollars from last year along with debt service.  As a result, Dodge County will allocate nearly $234-thousand of unused prior levy dollars and over $82-thousand dollars of debt service allowance.  The 2015 budget, tax levy, and mill rate will not change. Last night’s vote passed 26-to-six.


Columbus Pavilion Upgrade Planned


11/26/14 – Plans are being made to upgrade the historic Fireman’s Park pavilion in Columbus. The Recreation Department, DPW and non-profit organizations are seeking funds to bring the pavilion into

ADA-compliance by adding elevators to the public-and-private events building. A steady calendar of pavilion bookings and recent rental rate increases are helping bring in funds for the ADA upgrades.

Plans are also underway to raise money for pavilion renovation through the public sale of Christmas tree ornaments at the Senior Center. The Senior Center is open from 8am to 4:30pm.


Beaver Dam Man Pleads To Drug Dealing, Theft Charges


11/26/14 – A Beaver Dam man pled to drug dealing and theft charges Tuesday in Columbia County court. Alexander Prieve of Beaver Dam entered a “no contest” plea to felony Delivery of a Controlled Substance and misdemeanor Theft as a Party to a Crime and Disorderly Conduct. Prieve sold Oxycodone to a confidential informant in July 2013.  He and his girlfriend also stole and pawned over four thousand dollars’ worth of property from his girlfriend’s mother between August and December of last year. A pre-sentencing investigation as ordered and a hearing will be scheduled at a later date.


Kramer Sentenced To Five Months


11/26/14 – Former state Assembly Majority Leader Bill Kramer was sentenced Tuesday to five months in jail for pushing and groping a female congressional staffer in 2011.  The Waukesha Republican gets work release privileges, and his term is four months’ shorter than what prosecutors recommended when Kramer struck a plea deal last month.  That was when he pleaded no contest in Waukesha County to two reduced charges of fourth-degree sexual assault.  They’re misdemeanors, allowing Kramer to leave the Assembly at the end of his current term in early January, instead of being forced out now due to a felony conviction.  The 49-year-old Kramer was charged in March, after reports that he groped one woman and sexually harassed another on a Republican fund-raising trip to Washington in February.  Assembly Republicans stripped Kramer of his majority leader’s post.  On Tuesday, Kramer told Reserve Judge Neal Nettesheim that alcohol was his problem — and he has not had a drink since February 28th. The victim in the case told the judge she feared Kramer would rape her.  He told the woman that he violated their friendship, and he apologized.  His jail time is part of a three-year probation term which was part of the plea deal.  Kramer will not have to register as a sex offender — but he will be required to get assessments and treatment.


Dassey Seeking New Trial


11/26/14 – A man found guilty of helping his uncle commit one of Wisconsin’s most notorious murders is now asking a federal court to let him go free. Brendan Dassey was 16 when he was accused of helping Steven Avery rape, shoot, and burn 25-year-old Teresa Halbach at the Avery family’s auto salvage yard on Halloween of 2005. Halbach was there to take photos of vehicles for Auto Trader magazine. Dassey’s lawyers from Northwestern University contend that he had an ineffective attorney during his trial — and he was forced to make an involuntary confession. Both Dassey and Avery were given life prison sentences. Northwestern Legal Clinic attorney Laura Nieder said her team is asking that Dassey be freed, or at least be given a new trial. A state appeals court said no to a new trial in mid-2013. The State Supreme Court refused to consider the case. The federal lawsuit contends that Dassey’s constitutional rights were violated. The state Justice Department is challenging the defense request. It’s not commenting on the case for now. The Halbach killing drew national attention because Avery had been freed from prison after serving 18 years for a rape he didn’t commit. He was among the first in the nation to be convicted with D-N-A evidence, after he was freed with the help of D-N-A.


Federal Grand Jury Mulling Oshkosh Ricin Indictment


11/26/14 – A federal grand jury will decide whether a U-W Oshkosh student will be tried for possessing ricin.  Magistrate Judge James Sickel has found probable cause that 21-year-old Kyle Smith knowingly possessed the deadly toxin.  Soon, a grand jury will review the evidence and decide whether Smith should be indicted.  He was arrested on Halloween, after Oshkosh Police got a tip.  Media reports said the F-B-I found white powder in Smith’s house — and a Homeland Security lab in Madison found that the substance tested positive for ricin.  Smith’s lawyer has said the chemical is actually a different type of substance that’s legal in some states and not others — and Smith had no intent to hurt anyone with it.


Montello Couple Identified In Fatal Pardeeville Wreck


11/26/14 – A rural Montello couple has been identified as the two people killed in a two vehicle accident Monday in Columbia County. The wreck happened around 2:30pm on Highway 22 near Pardeeville. The driver, 81-year-old Eldon Himsel and his passenger, 82-year-old Beverly Himsel, were northbound when he lost control and went into the southbound lanes. Their vehicle was struck by a pick-up; the driver and lone occupant of the truck was not injured. The couple was pronounced dead at the scene.


Ribbon Cutting On New Horicon Bridge


11/26/14 – The ribbon will be cut this morning on the new Lake Street Bridge in Horicon. The 60-year-old structure was closed to traffic in March of last year due to stability concerns. The public is invited to the bridge between the Rock River Tap and John Deer for the 8am ceremony. The state and federal government is picking-up 80-percent of the bridge-replacement cost, roughly $1.4 million dollars. The city is paying the remaining 20-percent.


Waste Collection Delayed Due To Holiday


11/26/14 – After today, waste collection in Beaver Dam will be delayed by one day for the rest of the week because of the Thanksgiving holiday.  DPW officials say Advanced Disposal will suspend garbage pick-ups for Thursday.  Residents who normally receive pick-up Thursday will instead have garbage collection Friday, while Friday’s route will be collected on Saturday.  After today, the Public Works Garage will also be closed until Monday.