County looks to close $2.2m budget gap

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

SHEBOYGAN – The county is facing a $2.2 million budget gap for 2014 but county officials are confident the gap will be bridged.

County Administrator Adam Payne reported to the County Board Tuesday on the start of the annual budget-writing process.

“The goal the County Board established is to strive to succeed with our existing financial resources,” Payne said. “We are not looking to see our property tax levy increase more than 1 percent, a modest increase associated with new construction (in the county).”

Primarily due to projected wage and operating expense increases of around 2 percent, Payne and Finance Director Terry Hanson projected a budget shortfall of $2,208,893 at the start of the 2014 budget preparation process.

However, they identified a number of cost savings in a memo to the Board that could mean as much as $2,265,237 in savings for the county, which would more than cover the budget gap.

The biggest part of that would be a change in the health insurance network for county employees which could save the county $1 million next year.

“Though ultimately additional revenue will be needed to offset limited state revenues and maintain essential services, we are optimistic the county can balance the 2014 budget,” the two county officials wrote in their memo.

They added that, “If the full savings anticipated from the health insurance changes do not develop, the health insurance reserves are sufficient to cover any shortage in 2014.”

In other business, the board approved the sale of the 3.7-acre county-owned Jung Pit in the town of Rhine. The former Highway Department gravel pit is being sold to neighboring property owner Jacob Muehlbauer for $26,250.

“We’ve been attempting to sell this parcel for quite some time,” Supervisor Mark Winkel told the board. “There have been previous offers, but none near the fair market value.”

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