MARINETTE - Marinette County will not discontinue its annual appropriation to Elderly Services in 2014.

The Executive Committee of the County Board of Supervisors made that official Thursday with unanimous approval of a motion by Supervisor Mike Behnke that was seconded by Supervisor Ken Casper.

The motion calls for the committee to remove Elderly Services from the "list of possible reductions in the multi-year Reduced Cost of Operation by 2014 by 10 percent" proposal as presented to the committee on May 7.

At the committee meeting on May 7, one of the many ideas from County Administrator Ellen Sorensen on how to reduce the county's $1.7 million structural deficit was to eliminate the county's yearly $171,236 appropriation to Elderly Services.

The proposal triggered a firestorm of written and verbal protests by agency officials and several others at that meeting and the committee's June 6 meeting and in between them.

"At the last Executive Committee meeting when we had so many people testify that this was not the right thing to do, I think the message was clear," Supervisor Ted Sauve said Thursday. "I think the people involved in the services that Elderly Services provides will be very happy about this vote."

Supervisor Vilas Schroeder, chairman of the county board, noted it was "pretty much" said previously that the cut was not going to be made, but that the committee's vote makes it official.

Including in the packet for Thursday's meeting was a letter from Supervisor Paul Gustafson, chairman of the Elderly Services Governing Board.

"We respectively request the Executive Committee remove Elderly Services from the list of possible reductions in the multi-year 'Reduced Costs of Operation for 2014 by 10 percent' proposal that was presented to the committee on May 7," Gustafson said.
According to its minutes of that meeting, the Committee on Aging voted to make that request after a presentation by County Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison.

Sauve asked Sorensen about a statement she issued after the Executive Committee's June 6 meeting.

After that meeting she said "the intention all along has been to fund Elderly Services at the 2013 rate for 2014."

In the same statement she added "At least this what the administration budget will reflect when presented to the county board. That doesn't change the fact that we need to work with our partners to find operations deficiencies. The May 7 presentation began what will hopefully be many productive conversations. Marinette County will have to look at a multi-year plan to reduce the structural deficit."

"This is the first time we have met since then," Sauve said. "Therefore we're reiterating your (Ellen's) thoughts."

Also on June 6, Schroeder told the Executive Committee that "I think at this point I can pretty much assure the budget for Elderly Services will remain the same for 2014. Right now all we can look at is 2014. That is the only year I'm going to speak on."

Sorensen said Thursday the committee's vote on Elderly Services funding wasn't really necessary.

"We are already in the budget (process) so this is a moot point," she explained. "I would recommend that you vote in favor of this (resolution) because we're already so far into the budget this isn't even a consideration.

"That document (on possible cuts) was developed to begin a discussion. We already have this in the budget, they've been held to the levy that they got this year as have other organizations such as MCABI (Marinette County Association for Business and Industry) and tourism. Everyone's been held to that."

Elderly Services Director Pam Mueller Johnson, who earlier protested including her agency in the list of possible cuts, made no comment at Thursday's meeting but had a big smile on her face as she was departing.

Supervisor Ken Keller questioned why Elderly Services was removed from the list of options for possible cuts and not other departments and agencies.

"My comment is that if you are going to exclude that one, they maybe we should exclude law enforcement, too," he said. "We shouldn't just exclude here and there.

"Everybody should be included in the possibility of proposed cuts. That's the way it should be as far as I am concerned."