Friday, February 20, 2015

Impact of Walker cuts on Wisconsin waters, per the DNR

Yesterday I put up WI DNR water chief Russ Rasmussen's cheery Feb. 8th emailed "Hello" greeting, and then his closing loyalty warning to staff.

Here's the rest of the email, verbatim, with his account of water division budget cuts and their 'rationale,' as he sees it, on state water conservation programs and the DNR staffers who manage them. 

I suspect some of you will be seeing these cuts, and grasping their broad impact, for the first time. 

Many key programs your local government or community-based group relies upon to keep water accessible and clean, along with their nearby forest and wetlands, will be lessened, even eliminated.

Remember that in Wisconsin, water is commonly-owned resource under the State Constitution, Article IX, and the DNR, in its own words, is the public's principal trust agent insuring access to and enjoyment of water. 
Last week the Governor announced his budget proposal for fiscal years 2015-17.  As you have read in last Wednesday’s special addition of The Resource and in the media, it contains a number of items the affect the Department, its various divisions and our internal and external partners. While The Resource article outlined provisions that affect the Department, I wanted to share with you some greater specifics regarding the proposals that impact the Water Division.

First however, know that the budget process is very long and the Governor’s introduction of his proposal is only a preliminary step. Much further discussion and debate will occur in the next few months leading up to a final budget bill that will be effective on July 1.   Also, our department budget colleagues have been working very hard to interpret and analyze the Governor’s proposed budget bill, which is almost 2,000 pages in length.  What I am sharing with you now represents the best information that we have so far, and more detail, revisions and updates will be shared in the future as they become available.

So here is a breakdown of Water Division-related budget items:

Environmental Fund – The Environmental Fund is a segregated fund that supports many state, department and water programs and is divided into two accounts: Environmental Management, and Nonpoint.  Both have structural deficits meaning that authorized expenditures exceed revenues.  The Governor’s budget proposes to address these fiscal challenges by:

                Environmental Management Account
·         Increasing sanitary permit fee revenues by $800,000
·         A one-time $4.0 million reduction to municipal recycling grants in FY2016
·         Reductions to a number of programs in the UW System and Corrections ($9.8 million)
·         Require a $2.0 million lapse in both FY 16 and FY 17 from annual operations appropriations (applies to DNR, DATCP and DHS collectively).  This is expected to require the Water Division to lapse $540,000 each year.
·         Transfer the private on-site wastewater treatment system program from the Department of Safety and Professional Services to the DNR – specifically the Bureau of Water Quality.  This will transfer 9.0 FTE positions and $790,100 annually and be effective as of January 1, 2016.
Nonpoint Account

·         Transfer $1.0 million from the Agrichemical Cleanup Fund each year
·         Reduce urban nonpoint planning grants by $813,000 and nonpoint source contract funding by $770,000 annually
·         Eliminate the GPR nonpoint competitive grant 
·         Require an annual lapse from DATCP and DNR operations appropriations of $461,200. This will require the Water Division to lapse an estimated $145,000 each year.

Position Reductions – Reduce positions in the department by a net 66 FTEs. Position reductions are always of concern, but we will be using any flexibility we have to minimize impacts to staff and programs. To provide this flexibility, the department will be limiting our hiring to only the most critical positions necessary to achieve our business functions until the final budget is known. Currently our best information is that the Water Division is impacted by about 10 FTE positions.

General Fund Lapse – The department has been required to lapse about $3.0 in General Purpose Revenue (GPR) for the last several fiscal years and the Governor’s proposal maintains this requirement at the current level. However, proposed reductions to other sources of GPR in the department reduce the appropriations from which the lapse can be taken, thus raising the lapse requirement from the remaining sources. The Water Division’s GPR lapse requirement would be increased by an estimated $585,000.

Stewardship Bonding – Much has already been reviewed in the media regarding this proposal to suspend the use of Stewardship bonding for land acquisition until the debt payments are reduced to a certain level. However, an exception is made in the Governor’s budget to allow continued use of this bonding for the Kettle Moraine Hatchery project, which can still proceed under his proposal.

Environmental Bonding – Bonding authorization was increased for nonpoint projects ($7.0 million), dam repair ($4.0 million), contaminated sediments ($5.0 million) and municipal floodplain and urban nonpoint source projects ($5.0 million). These are the same amounts as in the past several budgets.  It should be noted that the Governor’s proposal provides greater flexibility in the use of contaminated sediments bonding – allowing it to be used for any waters in the state, rather than being restricted to the Great Lakes.

Capacity Grants – Reductions were made in a number of grants made to our outside partners including the River Revitalization Foundation, River Alliance of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Lakes.  Under the Walleye Initiative, dollars for providing increased capacity to private fish hatcheries that was intended to be offered just one-time, was eliminated.

Surface Water Data Viewer Enhancements – One-time funding of $70,000 is provided to enhance the surface water data viewer to provide the ability to view wetland delineations and navigable water determinations.

Ballast Water Program – The provision that would have sunset the fees that support the ballast water program is eliminated.


Anonymous said...

People like Rasmussen, and all the state, UW, school, city, county, village and town leaders are sheep. Just get Scottie's directives and dutifully cut the budget and services. Where is the public official who will stand up and scram, no, we are NOT doing this, our governor is a power mad moron and this garbage needs to end now?

Anonymous said...

So if all education and communication positions in the DNR are cut, all inquiries about the state parks, forests and our lakes and rivers will be referred to Madison. Also, don't plan on attending any state park campfire or other naturalist programs after June 30.

And without research to justify their existence or people to communicate their significance, these public lands can soon be auctioned off to the highest bidder to offset future budget imbalances.

Call me Anonymous: we know what happens...