Board OKs final county budget

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

SHEBOYGAN – The 2017 county budget won approval from the County Board at their Nov. 1 meeting, but not without a few final questions – and one no vote.

Supervisor Fay Uraynar cast the lone no vote on the $145,913,995 spending package. While spending is up 13.5 percent in the budget, the property tax levy drops by 1.03 percent and the tax rate drops 2.02 percent, from $5.77 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2016 to $5.65 for 2017.

“We’re pushing into 2017 with the highest tax rate – with the addition of the sales tax – we’ve ever had in our county,” Uraynar said, referring to the one-half percent county sales tax that goes into effect Jan. 1.

That, she said, is due largely to financing the proposed $25 million transportation complex to be built starting next year.

Uraynar also objected to a resolution allowing the county to exceed its self-imposed borrowing limits over the next two years, in part for that project.

“I’m not sure if we have a long-term plan for our debt financing. That’s something I’m hoping we can take a look at,” Uraynar commented.

“No one has talked more about our debt than I have and I share some of (those) concerns, but this is part of the plan,” Supervisor Greg Weggeman, chair of the Finance Committee, responded.

He agreed the extra borrowing will last two years “to finance that project,” but he said the county’s debt picture will improve after that.

Uraynar also questioned how the budget is handling the projected revenue from the county sales tax, which has been earmarked entirely for highway and transportation projects.

She claimed that the Transportation Department budget shows only $6 million in sales tax revenue but that the county would actually get more in sales tax revenue – using figures of $8-10 million and later $12 million in her comments.

County Administrator Adam Payne responded that those numbers are “simply not true.”

The county is anticipating $9.5 million in revenue from the sales tax in 2017, based on estimates by the University of Wisconsin-Extension, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance and state officials.

But of that, he added, $1.5 million is earmarked for revenue-sharing with the county’s towns, villages and cities for their transportation needs.

“Since we’re going into 2017 without any experience, we went into this on a conservative basis,” Payne said of the budget projections for sales tax revenue.

“If we receive more revenue than what’s been estimated, that money is going to help us do more transportation infrastructure work,” Payne noted.

That, he explained, is why the budget listed the $6 million figure for sales tax revenue for the Transportation Department.

After the board approved the budget, County Board Chairman Thomas Wegner thanked all those involved in the process – board members and county department heads.

“This takes up hundreds and hundreds of hours for a lot of people,” Wegner said of the budget writing process. “I really believe what we have in the end is good people plus a good process equals a good result.”

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