Sales tax going up, will property taxes go down?

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

SHEBOYGAN – County taxpayers will be paying a half-percent more in sales tax next year, but they will also likely be paying less in property taxes to the county.

County Administrator Adam Payne made his first presentation to the County Board Tuesday on the upcoming 2017 county budget.

“The bottom line is, in the midst of the process, we believe we will be positioned to present (a budget with) a reduction in the property tax levy of approximately 1 percent and a reduction in the property tax rate of approximately 2 percent,” Payne told the supervisors in his monthly report.

He attributed a great deal of that to a $639,597 reduction in debt service payments. That, according to Payne, is thanks to closed projects, a February refinancing bond issue that reduced payments and projected sales tax revenue which will be applied to direct property tax relief.

The projected levy and rate also takes advantage of the value of net new construction in the county over the year, which would have allowed up to a 1.35 percent increase in the levy under state revenue cap rules.

The board’s Finance Committee is in the process of meeting with department heads and board liaison committees to review budget requests.

After that process is completed, a final proposed 2017 budget will be prepared for presentation to the full board for final action in October.

The figures Payne presented showed a proposed final tax levy for 2017 of $47.9 million, down from $48.4 million in 2016. That would result in a tax rate of $5.66 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, a reduction of 11 cents in the rate from the 2016 rate of $5.77.

That would mean the owner of a $100,000 home would pay $11 less on the county portion of their 2017 tax bill, if those numbers become final.

Payne noted that the county had started with a projected gap of $762,125 between revenues and expenditures.

The administrator’s report followed the annual financial report from Bryan Grunewald of Schenck & Associates, the county’s auditors.

Grunewald characterized the county’s financial position as “strong” and added that the county enjoyed “a very strong year” financially in 2016.

County Planning and Conservation Director Aaron Brault updated the board on the county’s non-motorized transportation pilot program.

The county received a $25 million, four-year grant from the federal government in 2006 to develop facilities for non-motorized transportation.

The program is nearly complete, Brault told the board, with only one trail project left on the south side of the city of Sheboygan.

He noted that the program selected 36 projects to fund out of 70 applications. Of those, 27 were infrastructure projects and nine were non-infrastructural in nature.

“These weren’t projects that the county said, ‘Hey, you should build this in your community.’ These were projects each community applied for,” after developing their own plans and proposals, Brault asserted.

The grant funded projects in the villages of Adell, Cedar Grove, Howards Grove, Kohler, Oostburg and Random Lake, the towns of Sheboygan and Sherman, and all three of the county’s cities – Plymouth, Sheboygan and Sheboygan Falls.

The program also paid for marked bicycle lanes on a number of county roads, Brault added.

He said the largest project was the Shoreland 400 trail through the city of Sheboygan on an abandoned railroad right-of-way. That trail is seeing between 300 and 400 users daily, according to Brault, who added that that count is probably low.

Work is currently underway on a trail along Taylor Drive in the city of Sheboygan, Brault said.

Of the $25 million in grant funds spent by the county, 73 percent went to vendors and business in Sheboygan County and surrounding areas, and another 23 percent in the state of Wisconsin, Brault said.

The only money spent outside of the country, he noted wryly, was $4,500 for special screws needed for one project which could only be purchased from Taiwan.

During its regular meeting, the board approved the merger of the Eastern Shores Library System with the Mid-Wisconsin Library System.

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