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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County Budget Allows For 3.8 Cent Cut in Tax Rate

Issue Date: October 24, 2019

Anyone wanting to speak for or against the proposed Marinette County budget for 2020 can express their opinions at a 10 a.m. Annual Budget Hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 29, during the regular monthly County Board meeting slated to start at 9 a.m.

County Administrator John LeFebvre informed the Administrative Committee at its meeting on Thursday, Oct. 18 that as he had previously suggested, the proposed budget was changed to provide $6.5 million to pay for the long postponed renovation of the old jail and law enforcement center adjacent to the courthouse - otherwise known as the Ella Court Building. That amount allows for a reduced version of the "Green Roof" planned for the building. Workers are currently are busy replacing replacing the old roof, which had to be done before winter to prevent further water damage to the building's interior. Old Jail cells were removed earlier this year.

The Agenda also provides for a discussion by County Board on whether they prefer to have economic development and tourism promotion handled internally or externally - as a county department operated by a county employee or employees, or by a hired firm or firms. No action is expected on this issue, since a study on the subject is being re-done through a contract with Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission. That study is expected to include data on the county and provide various options for economic development and tourism promotion.

The budget hearing will start with a summary of the proposed budget by LeFebvre. The tentative budget had been approved for publication by County Board at its September meeting and the detailed 265-page budget can be seen on the county web site under the Administration heading.

As proposed the budget calls for an operating tax rate of $4.154 per $1,000 of equalized value to support a budget of $16,279,312, plus a 25 cent per $1,000 tax to pay off the debt service, and three cents per $1,000 for rural areas assessed for county bridge aids. The total rate is a 3.8 cent per $1,000 reduction in the overall property tax rate levied by the county.

In his budget message to the board last month LeFebvre had noted that State Law limits a county's levy increase to net new construction growth in equalized value otherwise known as "new growth" and some other factors. The County's net new construction growth equates to 1.284% and this net new growth combined with a TID Closeout results in a 1.417% increase in the County's allowable tax levy for 2020. This allows a $227,407 operating levy increase in 2020 which is $15,698 less than the operating levy increase allowed in 2019, and sets the operating levy at the legal maximum - $16,279,312.

Marinette County's 2019 equalized valuation increased 2.3% to $3,919,032,900, not including Tax Incremental Districts. This increase is a combination of new construction and increases in existing property valuation within the county. Wisconsin's total statewide 2019 equalized valuation, not including Tax Incremental Districts increased 5.8%.

The County's unassigned fund balance as of January 1, 2019 was $9,686,310.70, an increase of $513,657.74 over the fund balance on January 1, 2018. This does not include the $11,708,907.50 balance in the property tax levy reduction fund or $2,000,000 in the service level stabilization fund, which are both committed to the County's general fund balance. All projected investment revenue from general fund dollars in 2020 will be used to fund County services in the 2020 budget, LeFebvre's message stated.

The county policy calls for keeping the total general fund unassigned balance at no less than 17 percent of the total county operating expenditures, and the current balance is at 38%. LeFebvre recommended using a portion of this unassigned fund balance to cover the costs associated with the renovation of the Old LEC Building and said this would still leave more than the required 17 percent fund balance.

The budget also calls for paying off a portion of the county's outstanding debt in excess of required payment amounts.

Other items on the agenda for the County Board Meeting include introduction of Aimee Elkins, who was recently hired by UWEX as the 4-H Program Coordinator for Marinette and Oconto counties, a position that has been vacant or many months.

Sheriff Jerry Sauve will present a Life Saver Award to Deputy Patrick Callahan.


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