County gets healthy grade on annual fiscal report

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

SHEBOYGAN – The county got good grades in its latest fiscal audit.

Bryan Grunewald of Schenck presented the annual financial audit to the County Board at their Aug. 21 meeting.

“You continue to be in great shape financially,” Grunewald summarized for the board.

“The county is maintaining strong fund balance reserves to provide financial stability for tax levy supported operations,” Grunewald reported.

He noted that the county’s outstanding debt on borrowing, “remains at a low level compared to statutory limits and the amount of property tax resources needed for repayment.”

Grunewald emphasized that he was not advocating that the county increase its borrowing, but pointed out that the county’s current debt on borrowing is far below the limit set under state law.

“You’ve done a good job of managing your debt,” Grunewald told the board.

He also noted that financial health of three of the county’s largest budget areas – the Highway Department, Rocky Knoll Health Care Facility, and the employee benefits and insurance fund – are stronger than they have been in a number of years.

Grunewald observed that the county’s strong financial status was recognized by the Government Finance Officers Association when it awarded the county a certificate of achievement for excellence in financial reporting.

“How many businesses, public or private, would be proud to receive an audit like that,” County Administrator Adam Payne commented. He praised board members and county employees for their efforts in maintaining the county’s strong fiscal position.

Payne, in his report to the board, then moved on to the ongoing process of preparing the county’s 2018 budget.

He said the county is on target for a 2 percent increase in the total property tax levy, which includes the state-mandated maximum increase of 1.62 percent in the levy for operations along with adjustments in debt service and other levies.

With a 4.2 percent increase in total equalized property values in the county, the property tax rate to support the budget would drop by 2.62 percent, from $5.45 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $5.31, Payne went on.

Reporting on sales tax revenues through the first half of the year, Payne said the county is on pace to exceed the budgeted sales tax revenue for 2018.

Through the end of July, the county had taken in $5.2 million from the one-half percent county sales tax. The county projected $9 million in sales tax revenue for the year in the 2018 budget, but Payne said the final total is projected to be more than $9.6 million.

“The sales tax revenue is better than expected,” he allowed.

Payne said the county will continue to be conservative in its estimates for budget purposes, including $9.3 million for sales tax revenue in the proposed 2019 county budget.

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