Kewaunee County Board mulls future sales tax
The Kewaunee County Board Tuesday night struggled to finalize its proposed $20 million budget for 2016 in lieu of declining revenues caused by the closing of Dominion’s Kewaunee Power Station and said that it may have to implement a county sales tax in future years to make up for lost revenues from the plant.
“In 2016, we are going to have to make some big decisions,” said County Supervisor Bruce Heidmann. “We can’t keep kicking the can down the road.”
Kewaunee County is one of only 10 among Wisconsin’s 72 counties that does not currently exercise its power under state statutes to levy a 0.5 percent county sales tax.
For the proposed 2016 budget, County Administrator Scott Feldt requested that all departments cut their budgets by 5 percent.
But some departments said that they could not function properly with the proposed cuts. Rebecca Deterville, clerk of circuit courts, said that the $10,000 cut from the circuit court budget may not leave the court with enough money to fund jury trials after January 2016. But Feldt said that a contingency fund of $100,000 had been allocated in 2016 to address emergency funding for county departments.
Heidmann questioned a proposed transfer of approximately $615,000 from the road and bridge fund to meet the operating expense of the Highway Department and asked if requirements for state funding were being met under the proposed highway budget.
The County Board agreed to put back into the proposed budget approximately $90,000 for the costs of a radio dispatcher/jailer after Sheriff Matt Joski expressed concern about how it could affect public safety and scheduling.
The board also discussed the creation of a new tourism coordinator/public information officer in the Promotions and Recreation Department, as well as $10,000 to fund ‘welcome” signs for the county and $10,000 to create a website to improve tourism. County Supervisor Bob Garfinkel asked if the tourism position could be funded as a part-time position to cut costs.
Resident Jodi Parins asked the board to delay hiring the tourism director until second quarter and allocate those funds to address the water pollution issues currently being studied by the Department of Natural Resources work groups. She said no county funds had been allocated to fund any of the proposed solutions the groups were developing.
The final proposed budget will allocate only approximately $250,000 to return to the general fund instead of the original $500,000 proposed last month, Feldt noted. He said that it was important to allocate funds from Dominion and the recently approved state utility aid bill to the general fund to improve the county’s financial rating.
Finance Committee Chairman Lee Luft said that in 2016 the board would have to look closely at new revenue sources to continue to fund county operations and suggested that the board get public input to help address the budget issues.
Several county supervisors said a county sales tax may have to be implemented because of further reductions in state utility aid projected for 2017 and beyond.
In other action the county board unanimously approved:
–A $50,000 loan through the county’s revolving loan program for JV Kids LLC, a new day care facility in Casco.
–a resolution to provide approximately $3,300 to the Town of Carlton for bridge repair.
–An amendment to the county payment for library services.
The county board is expected to vote at its Nov. 10 meeting on the final 2016 budget.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Kewaunee County Board mulls future sales tax