Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle is recommending that the responsibilities of the Wisconsin Land Information Board (WLIB) and the Wisconsin Land Council (WLC) be transferred to the State’s Department of Administration (DOA). The governor’s recommendation appears in his fiscal year 2006/2007 budget document that was delivered to the Legislature in early February this year.
The adoption of the governor’s proposal into state statute is some months off, however. Within the next month or so the legislature will begin budget deliberations with additional changes sure to take place. The state’s current fiscal year ends June 30; ideally the new two-year budget should be in place and signed by the governor by July 1st, but this rarely occurs. With both houses of the legislature being of a differing political party than the governor, delays in the budget passage are most certain to occur.
For the purpose of budget deliberations, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance has introduced the Governor’s budget proposals as Assembly Bill 100.
Budget proposes end of WLIB, continuation of WLIP
Regarding the Land Information Program (WLIP), the proposed budget contains the following provisions:
- Sunset the Land Information Board effective July 1, 2005. All existing duties and responsibilities of the WLIB will be assigned to the DOA. These duties include providing advice and technical assistance, preparing guidelines, reviewing and approving county grant projects, reviewing and approving county land records modernization plans, and collecting the state’s $2-share of the $7 collected for each real estate document filed at a county Register-of-Deeds office.
- Provides at least $269,000 in each of the budget’s two years for local grants. Excess revenue, if any, which is above the total $2.6 million WLIP appropriation, may be directed to additional local grants. The $269,000 figure is based on the amount allocated to the Base Budget grant category in the 2004 fiscal year.
- Continues to provide $2 million annually for comprehensive planning grants to local governments. This is the same as the annual amount in the last two-year budget.
- Reduces positions associated with the work of the WLIB and the Wisconsin Land Council from the current three to two.
- Ends funding for the digital soils mapping project done under the leadership of the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service. The mapping done under this project is nearly complete. The WLIB’s annual funding commitment to this work, begun six years ago, has been completed as originally specified in 1999.
- Budgets $332,000 in FY ‘06, and $271,000 in FY ‘07 for administration of the land program and comprehensive planning operations within the DOA.
The Governor’s budget proposals, for the most part, mirror recommendations made by the WLIB and Land Council last September. In a statutorily required report, which went to the Legislature and Governor, recommendations were made to continue all the components of the Wisconsin Land Information Program and the provisions for local comprehensive planning grants. The report also recommended abolishing the WLIB and the Land Council, and assigning all duties for administering the grants and programs to the DOA. The Governor carried out that recommendation, at the same time leaving all of the WLIP’s funding mechanisms in place.
State Geographic Information Officer position not in Budget
Another key provision of the September 2004 Legislative Report from the Board and Council was the recommendation to establish a Geographic Information Officer (GIO) position within the DOA. Although funding for this position is not specifically included in the Governor’s budget, Matt Miszewski (State of Wisconsin Chief Information Officer) has made assurances that a GIO position will be established soon, created out of a vacant position from within the agency, and funded using existing resources.
So, it looks as if the face of the WLIP will be changing later this year. The WLIB was established 15 years ago, and has set the Program’s policies over this period of growth and maturity. Obviously, through this time span many changes have occurred in Board membership, WLIP priorities, and the associated technologies. In spite of expected and unexpected changes and challenges, the WLIB’s duties have remained the same.
Also during this time, the land information community’s regard for the Board remained high. Each year as part of the WLIP’s annual survey, county Land Information Officers are asked to rate their perception of the WLIB’s performance. Over the last five year’s the average evaluation score has remained constant, located between “good” and “very good”. With the prospect of DOA assuming the WLIB’s duties and responsibilities, how this change will sort out is obviously unknown. The new GIO, when hired, will certainly play a significant role, as will the Wisconsin land Information Association. However things develop, the land information community will expect committed leaders that assure the continued success of the WLIP.