October 6, 2015

Dodge County Tax Levy Projected To Increase While Mill Rate Decreases


10/6/15 – With just over one month until the Dodge County board adopts the county’s 2016 budget, some of the projected numbers are starting to become clearer.  County Administrator Jim Mielke is expecting a total levy of just under $33-million dollars, which is up over $250-thousand from 2015.  One of the most expensive items that is new to this year’s budget is a security upgrade at the jail and courthouse that is expected to cost around $2.3-million.  Mielke projects the mill rate to drop by one cent per thousand dollars of assessed value to $5.67.  While all of the numbers aren’t in yet, he says property values will likely increase by a collective one percent.  Mielke will pass out copies of the budget at this month’s county board meeting on October 22, and there will be a special finance committee meeting five days later to take an in-depth look at each department’s budget.  For the first time, the county’s finance committee met with each department head over a four day span last week to discuss their individual budgets in an effort to give the committee a better idea of what’s all happening this year.  The annual hearing and final budget adoption will take place on November 10.


Beaver Dam Elected Officials Beginning Budget Process


10/6/15 – Elected officials in Beaver Dam laid out their preliminary budget plans last night. Finance Director John Sommers says the budget includes a two-percent increase in the levy while meeting both the state mandated levy limits and the expenditure restraint program. The $15.2-million dollar budget includes a tax levy of $9.7-million dollar, up around $200-thousand dollars.  A big savings would come from a proposed change in health insurance carriers which would save the city $107-thousand dollars. The committee set two dates to review the budget prior to sending it to the council for final consideration in November. The first meeting will be held at 6:30pm next Monday (10/12) and the second, if needed, would be on Monday, October 26.


Fall River Schools Adopt Preliminary Budget


10/6/15 – Preliminary Fall River School District budget estimates for the 2015/2016 school year were approved at Monday night’s annual meeting. Superintendent Mike Garrow said he does not expect any big changes when the internal audit for 2014 is complete and the final October state aid figures are received from the Department of Public Instruction.  Garrow said that three major factors impact the annual budget: student enrollment, equalized property value and state aid. District enrollment in Fall River schools is now at 489 students. District residents will see a $2.3 million dollar tax levy in the upcoming budget nearly five-percent above this year. The mill rate for December tax statements will go up from $9.35 to $9.53 per thousand dollars of evaluation.


Beaver Dam Approves Preliminary River Walk Concept Plan


10/6/15 – The Beaver Dam Operations Committee last night approved a general concept plan for a new downtown river walk. The Rotary Club is proposing the river walk that would stretch along the Beaver Dam River starting in the Tower Parking lot north of the walking bridge with green space continuing parallel to South Spring Street down to Mill Street. The concept plan approved in committee eliminates a row of parking spaces on the west side of the tower parking lot along the river both north and south of the water tower. A small shelter would also be built. Restrooms located just west of the walking bridge would also include a handicapped parking spot. Committee Chair Robert Ballweg says no city tax dollars would be needed though city crews may be utilized during construction. As proposed, the plan calls for the elimination of 44 parking spots; at least 71 would remain in the Tower Parking lot, likely more. The Rotary Club has indicated that they would be spending $50-thousand on the walk and hope to get started next year. The project is still in the early stages and the designation of park land for the river walk requires approval from the Common Council.


Fond du Lac Woman Appears on Embezzlement Charge


10/6/15 – A Fond du Lac woman who is accused of embezzling from her employer had her bond set at $1,000 in a Dodge County courtroom Monday.  Tessa Hilt is facing five felony counts of Theft in a Business Setting.  According to the criminal complaint, the 46-year-old misappropriated over $142,000 from Waas Boring and Cable Inc. in Lomira where she was the office manager.  Hilt allegedly used that money to pay expenses including electric bills, phone bills, credit cards and her mortgage.  All of this was discovered when the company was preparing its defense to a sexual harassment claim Hilt filed against them.  If she is found guilty on all counts, Hilt faces over 39 years in prison.  Her preliminary hearing is set for December 3.


Bond Set For Waupun Woman Accused Of Embezzling From Employer


10/6/15 – Bond was set at $1000 Monday for a Waupun woman accused of embezzling from a fast food restaurant she managed. Rachael Bell is charged with one felony count of Theft in a Business Setting for offenses that allegedly occurred in August at A&W Root Beer in Waupun. Prosecutors say the 34-year-old was withholding money from daily deposits totaling $6,235. Bell reportedly admitted to the thefts saying that she started to (quote) “borrow” money earlier this year to help pay for personal bills. Shortly thereafter, she started to replace the missing money from the previous day with the current day’s deposit. Eventually, she stopped going to the bank all together because she got so far behind with the deposits they no longer added up. If convicted, the charges carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison. Bell has her preliminary hearing on October 22.


Supreme Court Not Considering Rindfleisch Appeal


10/6/15 – The U-S Supreme Court says it will not consider throwing out a political misconduct conviction against former Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch. The justices Monday allowed state court rulings to stand against the Columbus woman. They rejected Rindfleisch’s argument that a search warrant to seize her personal e-mail messages was unconstitutional. Prosecutors obtained massive e-mail accounts from Rindfleisch for 2009-and-2010, in the hope of providing evidence in an embezzlement allegation against ex-Milwaukee County Walker aide Tim Russell. In the process, Rindfleisch was charged and convicted of using her tax-funded county post to try and get Brett Davis elected lieutenant governor in 2010. She and Russell were among six former aides and associates convicted when Governor Scott Walker was the Milwaukee County executive. Rindfleisch is almost finished serving a six-month jail term.


Industry Study Tallies Road Construction Delays Costs


10/6/15 – Motorists could end up paying an extra 160-million dollars to slow down five major Wisconsin highway projects so their costs can be spread out. The figure comes from a study for the Transportation Development Association. It found that inflation would bump up the costs of the projects by 80-million dollars for each year of the two-year delays. The D-O-T announced the slow-downs last week, which includes on Interstate 39-90 south of Madison, the Highway 151-Verona Road project at Madison and Highway 23 from Fond du Lac to Plymouth. Most of the projects are underway — but they’re being slowed down so they do not get finished for another two years. The D-O-T blames it on an 800-million cut in highway borrowing from what Governor Scott Walker originally sought in the new state budget. Walker says the Joint Finance Committee can help solve the problem by tapping 350-million dollars in additional bonding authority as part of the new budget.


Senate Committee Hearing On Changes To Civil Service System


10/6/15 – A Wisconsin Senate committee plans to hear at least seven hours of testimony today on proposed changes in the civil service hiring system for state employees. The Senate Labor and Government Reform Committee will open a public hearing at 8:30am, with a two-hour break at mid-day for party caucuses. Majority Republicans want to do away with hiring tests as part of the civil service changes. They also want to define behavior that can result in discipline, shorten the appeal process, and get rid of “bumping” rights in which a worker who loses a job can replace somebody less experienced in another government post. Supporters say it would bring in new workers more quickly to replace retiring baby boomers. Democrats say the measure will make it easier for Republicans to hire their friends. Governor Scott Walker says the bill maintains the spirit of the 110-year-old civil service system — to hire the best rank-and-file workers and protect them from political whims.