From: Ken Fritz

Winona

Margaret Schild’s recollection of the “facts” in her 8/31/22 letter to the editor are a combination ofinaccuracies and assertions without merit. I’m surprised Margret would bring up this old issue given that the facts don’t paint her in a very favorable light, but I do appreciate her giving me the opportunity to set the record straight.

When your job is to ensure that taxpayer funds are being spent where the County Board has budgeted them, you often find yourself at odds with program managers and the groups they serve. Margaret was not happy when the county took back the Parents Support Outreach Program (PSOP) from the school district. When I started working for the county in late 2015, I uncovered several concerns in Community Service programs. One issue that came to my attention in early 2016, during the 2017 budget development, was the PSOP program. The program was well intended and designed to help parents with at-risk children. It was funded by a grant of between $50,000 and $60,000. Unfortunately, the cost had ballooned to a 2017 budget request of $266,000, with the difference coming directly from the property tax levy. So when Margaret says the program was cost-effective, that is not true. The program was significantly over the grant budget for several years and was growing more costly each year. Staff estimated, at the time, that the county was paying the school district the equivalent of $55 an hour to provide the service. Hardly cost-effective. For 2017, Margaret was asked to manage the program within the grant funding, and when she declined, the county took the program in-house to save it. It is still being managed by the Health and Human Services department within the guidelines of the grant and the related budget.

Further, Margaret insinuates that the issues with the program were under my watch. To the contrary, I am the one who called the program’s budgetary performance into question, which led to the other revelations and uncovered the program’s mismanagement by the district and the county. In conjunction with the runaway cost of the program, the director of Community Services expressed concerns about the program’s operation. She indicated the program was serving some clients that were ineligible, for instance, clients being seen by Child Protective Services, and clients being in the program much longer than the grant guidelines indicated. All things that could jeopardize the grant. My job was to address these issues, which I did, by bringing the program under direct county management. The county saved hundreds of thousands of dollars through my actions, and is still saving. The program is running within grant guidelines and serving only eligible families.

If elected county commissioner, I plan on continuing to protect the taxpayers from wasteful spending while continuously striving to provide quality services. If you want a representative that will challenge the bureaucracy to be better, vote for me on November 8th.