Around the Block

Northwest Dane Senior Services and the Village of Mazomanie
Joe Block

Mazomanie’s decision to underfund Northwest Dane Senior Services (NWDSS) began and ended with a mistake. In the time in between there was frustrating silence.

At the September 7 monthly meeting of the Village of Black Earth, Paulette Glunn, Executive Director of NWDSS, mistakenly said the Town of Mazomanie had committed only $500 in 2019 toward the annual ask for services. The day after that week’s issue arrived in the mail, I received several phone calls from understandably upset town residents. (Full disclosure: I am also a resident of the Town of Mazomanie.)

The Town of Mazomanie had actually contributed not just the full ask, but $50 more in 2019, for a total of $5500. It was the Village of Mazomanie that contributed $500, despite NWDSS asking for $8300. Aside from the Town of Black Earth, which has never contributed to NWDSS, each municipality served by NWDSS had contributed either the full amount requested or close to it--except the Village of Mazomanie.

In 2016 the Village of Mazomanie cut its contribution to $3000; in 2017 it was reduced to $500. In the initial budget for 2020, the village reduced its contribution to zero. NWDSS asked for $9960.

I did not know that this had been a simmering issue for years. So I reached out to Glunn.

My October 3 article detailed the consequences of the village’s continued lack of funding for NWDSS. Glunn was passionate in our interview, and the thing she said that most stood out to me was the question she posed to the village: “Tell me where they want these people to go.”

The details are yet to be determined, but the elderly residents of the Village of Mazomanie will see a reduction in services going forward. Since the reduction in funding in 2016, NWDSS’s services to the village have increasingly been provided free of charge. That was unsustainable, according to Glunn, as much of NWDSS’s funding comes through municipal contributions.

Glunn was not alone in her concern over Mazomanie’s funding. “I’m getting a little, you know, pushback,” Glunn said, from other municipalities that contributed. “We’re strongly hearing from the [other] municipalities that do support [NWDSS], their frustration with, in particular, the Town of Black Earth and the Village of Mazomanie.” 

The Town of Black Earth has never contributed since the inception of NWDSS in 1975. While that’s troublesome, it’s a separate issue, and the Village of Mazomanie takes up a larger portion of NWDSS’ services. NWDSS asks the village for three times as much funding as the Town of Black Earth. In addition, nearly 12 percent of Mazomanie residents are over the age of 65. 

NWDSS gives back to the village residents, too. Vicki Beres, the NWDSS case manager, said that in 2019 she saved village residents $4650 in Medicare Part D drug plans. And that--NWDSS providing tangible services to the village--was a part of the funding issue.

Village Administrator Peter Huebner, who was on the Finance Committee at the time, told me “we wanted to make sure the money was going back to the taxpayers.” He added that he was speaking in the context of the village examining all the services they provide, for example, the pool and splashpad.

Village President Gary Harrop said at a board meeting that he did not remember why funding was cut in 2016.


At the October 31 meeting of the village board, Harrop announced the village would be sponsoring a fundraiser for NWDSS with a goal of $10,000 by December 31. A camera crew from a local Madison news station was at the meeting, as the funding issue had attracted attention. Harrop provided me with a written copy of what he said at the meeting. It read:

“We’ve heard a lot from folks associated with NWDSS in the past few weeks, and I’d venture to say there isn’t anyone sitting on this board who doesn’t recognize the importance of NWDSS and the services it provides to that group of elders who may not have family resources to fall back on and are dependent on outside services. We understand the importance of NWDSS.”

The remainder of the trustees, except Natalie Beil, remained silent on the topic.

Beil voted against the measure. She said Harrop’s language at the meeting--where he had said the village at that point had a projected surplus of $50.45 for 2020--was a “scare tactic.”

That the village only had a $50.45 surplus is an odd observation. Village budgets must be balanced according to state statues.

Harrop repeatedly cited flood expenses as the reason for the cut to NWDSS funding. Beil pushed back, noting surrounding communities suffered flood expenses as well. She said the flood was a “one time thing--hopefully,” and it didn’t explain the historical reduction in funding.

Mazomanie is not alone in needing to reduce expenses. A local municipality cut nearly $125,000 in order to balance their budget. Another did not know until minutes before approving the final budget if they would cover expenses. The local school district, chronically underfunded due to the state’s limits on taxing, recently asked residents for nearly $2 million a year for the next five years. The residents of Mazomanie and Black Earth overwhelming approved this.

NWDSS’s ask of $9960 is just under one percent of the village’s tax revenue. It is $1500 more than what the village spends on salaries for the board. In their final cuts, the Finance Committee eliminated funding for planters--they would have cost $4000. $5000 was cut for the marketing study grant for Gateway to the Driftless, because the Gateway turned down the money. Weed control was reduced by $200.

None of this money went towards NWDSS.

To date, village residents have contributed $3150 to the fundraiser since the end of October. With six weeks down and less than three weeks remaining, they are nearly $7000 short of the goal.

Beil has been the lone voice on the village board opposing the cut to NWDSS. She is also a member of the three-person finance committee, along with Harrop and trustee Troy Ruland. That committee determines the final budget that trustees approve.

At the October 11 finance committee meeting, the proposed 2020 budget had cut NWDSS’s funding to zero. Beil said, “Once this falls off the budget it’s going to be tooth and nails to get it back on the budget.”

“Historically we’ve given them $500. Why can’t we give it to them next year?”

She continued, “I think $500 is a good faith donation from the village, saying ‘Hey, we do support this.’”

Harrop said, “I’m not averse to leaving that issue on the table.”

“It makes common sense, but it also makes conscience sense to leave this on the budget,” said Beil. 

Harrop ended the meeting by saying, “My instruction--my preference--is that nothing further be changed on these [budget categories] so we don’t have to go back.” The $500 for NWDSS remained.

At the November 21 Finance Committee meeting, the final numbers came in from the state, and the village had an extra $7300 to allocate in the budget.

Huebner said the Public Works budget was fine after the cuts. Director Mark Geisler was “not looking for anything to be added back.”

Nothing was added from the $7300 to NWDSS, and the $500 remained. $2000 was committed to bleacher repairs, and the remainder of the $7300 was put in the contingency fund, which totaled $26,000 at that point.

“With the unknowns I would like to see [the] contingency [fund] increased, “ said Harrop. “We can take [funds] out if we need to.”

Beil spoke about the Senior Survey conducted two years ago. She said residents repeatedly asked for the services provided by NWDSS.

Harrop replied, “We’ve taken care of NWDSS in terms of the fundraiser. I’m just not comfortable with more than the [$500] placeholder.”

“What if we meet in the middle and say $1000?” asked Beil.

Harrop’s reply was “no.”


I opened this column by saying the issue of NWDSS funding by the Village of Mazomanie began and ended with a mistake, and in the time between there was frustrating silence.

At a recent meeting, in discussing public comments at Mazomanie village board meetings, trustee Jeri Springstead stressed the importance of listening to residents during meetings.

“We have to hear from constituents,” said Harrop.

Several Mazomanie residents did speak about the lack of NWDSS funding. Although not in great numbers, they stressed the importance of providing funds, both at board meetings and finance committee meetings. They implored the board to contribute more.

Once resident thanked the board for the fundraiser. One.

When the board finally approved the budget at the November 26 meeting, not one trustee said a word about the $500 contribution. No one attempted to explain the continued underfunding. In nearly two months of meetings, aside from Harrop, only two trustees said anything about the issue. And they said at most a few sentences. Beil, who fought so hard for NWDSS’ funding, was absent. Her vote against the budget wouldn’t have mattered; six voted for the budget.

That is the frustrating silence. Seven Mazomanie residents serve on the board. Only Beil spoke at length throughout the budget process about NWDSS. The rest said next to nothing to the residents they serve.

What began with a mistake by Glunn--simply saying town instead of village--ended with a mistake on the part of the Village of Mazomanie’s trustees.

Willing to spend $4000 on planters, they refused to spend it on people.

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