County board asks state for more funding, better oversight of child protective services

The St. Croix County Board passed a resolution at its Dec. 4 meeting asking the state to increase funding and improve its oversight of Wisconsin's Child Protective Services system.

The resolution states that funds currently provided by the state's Department of Children and Families for child abuse and neglect services is "insufficient." It argues that counties have consistently allocated an increasing amount of money to these services from annual tax levies, while the DCF has lagged behind.

Both the Wisconsin Counties Association and the Wisconsin County Human Service Association have made increased funding for the Children and Family Aids allocation their top human services budget priority for the 2019-21 state budget.

The amount of money currently allocated to counties in the Children and Family Aid category is based on 1982 census numbers, according to the resolution.

District attorney presents annual report

District Attorney Michael Nieskes reported to the board that, in 2018, 101 participants entered its Diversion Program and 91 successfully completed the program. The county's Diversion Program seeks to promote positive change in offenders and help them avoid a criminal record if they meet certain expectations.

The program generated $9,923 in revenue from program fees this year, according to Nieskes' report.

Nieskes noted additional strain on the county's Community Health Improvement Plan caseload and felony caseload going forward, which he attributed to "anticipated population growth" and "the continuing meth crisis." He also cited long-term staff retention as a concern, especially for assistant district attorneys, as they are employed by the state and have not seen sufficient wage increases.

Nieskes said his office has the goal of going paperless in 2019, though the report notes concerns about the strength of the office's WiFi connection and the amount of time it takes to convert paper files into electronic files.

Child Support Department presents annual report

In the 2018 fiscal year, the county's Child Support Department collected 78 percent of total arrears, or late payments, which was down nearly 3 percent from 2017, department administrator Lisa Plunkett said.

Also in fiscal year 2018, the department collected nearly $7.9 million in current child support, which exceeded 2017 by $23,828. Total child support collection in 2018 neared $9.4 million, according to the report.

Reporting on department achievements, Plunkett said it had successfully implemented WiKIDS, software used to create child support documents. Additionally, it has continued a program to help unemployed and underemployed parents who owe child support find jobs.

One of the department's goals for 2019 is to begin participation in the GovPayNet program, which allows participants to pay child support using a credit or debit card.

Medical examiner presents annual report

In 2018, the county Medical Examiner's Office began utilizing a new work space, made its viewing room more comfortable and "trauma responsive," and brought in a national death investigation trainer to help train staff.

Among the department's concerns are an increased workload and "financial obligations of the increasing unexpected death of an aging rural population."

The department's main goal for 2019 is staff wellness "because of the repeated secondary exposure to trauma" that comes with the job. To help achieve this, it has added two new investigators to help with the workload, and employees will be encouraged to participate in team walks and runs.

Other items

• The board appointed Natasha Ward as the citizen member of the county's Health and Human Services Board. Ward's term lasts until April 2020.

• The board appointed realtor Don Timmerman to the county's Land Information Advisory Council, replacing Sandy Gehrke.

• The County Library Plan of Services was passed for 2019-2022. The plan's full text can be found on the county's website (www.sccwi.gov).