Can you give a brief report on this fiscal year’s county budget?
Though it wasn’t easy in these difficult economic times for county government, the board was successful in minimizing the reduction to community programs—the nonprofits in our community that provide essential safety-net services. While a 20 percent cut was proposed (on top of a significant cut the previous year), the board was able to decrease the cut to 10 percent so that these vital programs, which provide assistance to the needy and vulnerable in our community, will be there for those who need them.
I also successfully fought to restore a Senior Social Worker position in the county’s Child Welfare Services Division. This division, like many others, has been cut to the bone. I believe it is critical that we have enough social workers to protect all of the children in our community who have been, or are, at risk of being abused or neglected.
During the budget process, every effort was made to minimize impacts to the public to the extent possible, but the cumulative effect of these budget cuts is unavoidable. We at the county are doing our best to stretch our limited resources to the max so that our community has the services we need whether it be public safety, a safety net for those in need, paved roads, or parks.
Overall the 2010-2011 county budget represented the third year of reduced spending and services. Declines in tax revenue and state funding has resulted in reductions in personnel and programs in nearly every area of government. The county faced a $17 million deficit, which required sacrifice on the part of all county employees, county contractors and the residents of the county. In order to help close the budget gap, county workers agreed to a second year of furloughs. Most county workers will have a 5.7 percent furlough while management employees will have 7.5 percent furloughs, saving the county more than $12 million.
Were there any bright spots in the budget?
Despite the county’s bleak budget situation I am proud to say that through some hard work and a public-private partnership, the county was able to reinstate an important, successful program: the Serial Inebriates Program (SIP).
With SIP in effect, individuals who have been arrested for public drunkenness five or more times in the last six months must choose to go into treatment or to spend 30 days in jail. SIP went into effect on July 6, and within the first week, 21 people entered the program. Before SIP was in place, these “frequent fliers” were just booked in jail and released with virtually no consequences while using up valuable police time and often clogging our hospital’s emergency room. Now that we have reinstated the Serial Inebriate Program, sending our community’s chronic public inebriates off our streets and into treatment or jail, our law enforcement officers will have more time to focus on the more pressing, serious crimes in our community, and, hopefully, by using this opportunity for treatment, these offenders will improve their lives.
What are some projects happening in the 3rd District this summer?
Last year the county was awarded a $520,000 Community Development Block Grant for the Davenport Water Supply Pipeline Upgrade Project. This project is urgently needed to replace the maze of notoriously leaky pipes in Davenport. Construction will get under way in early August and should be completed by October.
In other Davenport news, I successfully fought to cut in half the proposed increase in water fees for Davenport residents. When Cemex stopped operating on the North Coast, they also stopped paying half the costs of running the community’s water system. This meant that the community faced increased water rates in order to make up the difference. I knew this was a terrible time to increase fees, so, in cooperation with county staff and Davenport residents, I found a way to keep the fee increase as low as possible, and, as a result, households will pay $400 per year less than had been proposed, which will provide some needed relief.