Eau Claire County Courthouse

A new Eau Claire County budget task force will comprise nine county supervisors.

The Administration Committee formed the task force during its meeting Thursday. After a little more than an hour of discussion, the committee agreed on the composition of the new task force. The voting members will be the chairs of the county’s nine standing committees and will focus on the role of the Finance and Budget Committee in developing the county’s annual budget.

Nick Smiar, the County Board chair and Administration Committee chair, will chair the new task force. Smiar hopes to have the first meeting as soon as possible so the task force can begin working on a recommendation, but it is not known how long the process will take from start to finish.

Regarding the mission statement of the new task force, Smiar accepted Supervisor Jerry Wilkie’s proposal, which was: “By ordinance, define the role, authority and responsibilities of the Finance and Budget Committee with emphasis on the budget process.”

The Administration Committee briefly discussed the possibility of having people outside of the county board as task force members before deciding to appoint nine supervisors. Five of the nine voting members are on the Administration Committee.

The respective chairs of the standing committees are: Smiar, Administration Committee; Stella Pagonis, Finance and Budget Committee; Ray Henning, Highway Committee; Mark Beckfield, Human Resources Committee; Colleen Bates, Department of Human Services Board; Wilkie, Judiciary & Law Enforcement Committee; Kevin Stelljes, Parks and Forest Committee; Gary Gibson, Planning and Development Committee; and Don Mowry, UW Extension Education Committee. The task force will also include Corporation Counsel Tim Sullivan, County Administrator Kathryn Schauf and County Finance Director Nor Kirk as non-voting members.

The move to create the task force comes a week after the County Board referred back by vote of 15-13 a resolution that would have clarified the role of the Finance and Budget Committee in developing the annual budget. Currently, there is no official role in the county code for the Finance and Budget Committee in the annual budget process other than overseeing the county treasurer, county clerk and finance department.

The new budget task force will likely not make a recommendation or conclusion until after the 2021 budget is approved this November, so the county will move forward with limited authority given to the Finance and Budget Committee on next year’s budget.

The next Administration Committee meeting is scheduled for Aug. 11.