Board approves borrowing limit hike

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

SHEBOYGAN – With one dissenting vote, the County Board Tuesday increased its annual limit for borrowing for capital projects.

The increase in the self-imposed limit, from $4 million a year to $5.5 million, came with support but also a warning from Supervisor Greg Weggeman, chairman of the Finance Committee.

“I’m in full support of the ordinance before you, but there are some challenges we’re going to be facing in the years ahead,” Weggeman stated.

“The County Board has done an excellent job controlling our debt, but it is getting harder and harder for us to do this,” Weggeman continued. “If we continue to bond at the rates we are going to bond, our debt obligation is really going to jump to record levels. We have to come up with some solutions to address this.”

Brad Viegut of Robert W. Baird, the county’s financial advisors, outlined the potential impact of the increase for the supervisors.

While it will increase the county’s total indebtedness in the short-term, Viegut explained, the county should still be able to keep its debt level and annual debt service payments at a steady level even with the increase.

Supervisor Fay Uraynar questioned why the increase in the bonding limitation was being proposed.

Supervisor George Marthenze, a member of the Finance Committee, responded that the limit had not been increased since it was first adopted in 2001.

Since that time, Viegut noted, the consumer price index has risen 31 percent.

“$4 million from 2001 isn’t $4 million today,” Marthenze pointed out.

Uraynar also questioned why the county didn’t utilize its reserve funds to offset some or all of the cost of bigticket projects like the proposed new Highway Department headquarters facility in the town of Plymouth.

“We have a healthy fund balance but we need to maintain that,” in order to keep the county’s strong bond rating and subsequent lower costs for borrowing, County Administrator Adam Payne responded.

The board approved the increase by a vote of 24-1, with Uraynar the only supervisor in opposition.

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