Kewaunee Co. board passes budget, after finding funds for Extension, Register of Deeds staff
KEWAUNEE – It took a bit of juggling, but the Kewaunee County Board passed its 2020 budget Tuesday night under the same tax rate and levy as originally proposed by Administrator Scott Feldt in September.
The budget sets the tax rate to $7.08 per $1,000 of property value, a decrease of 2.34% from $7.25 in 2019. Thanks to an increase of 4.74% in the county's equalized value, the tax levy increases by 2.24% — from $12,090,120 in 2019 to $12,360,443. Total expenditures for the county will decrease by $209,054, or 0.92%, from $23,783,968 this year to $22,574,914 next year.
The points of contention at Tuesday's budget meeting were the removal of two county positions in the original proposal: a full-time program assistant from the local University of Wisconsin-Extension office, and an 8-hours-per-week position in the Register of Deeds office.
The UW-Extension position carried a salary and benefits package of $78,011, while the position with the Register of Deeds, a temporary one in 2019 that the office requested to become permanent, was at $8,747.
Members of the county's Executive Committee voted to recommend putting both positions back into the budget at their Oct. 9 meeting, but the Finance Committee, which has the authority to provide funds for the positions, did not second motions by Supervisor Tom Romdenne to re-insert those positions at its Oct. 11 meeting.
During board discussion Tuesday, Supervisor Charles Wagner said he took issue with those decisions by the Finance Committee.
"I find it very disturbing when a committee of five chooses to override the decision of the (nine-member) Executive Committee," Wagner said.
Romdenne made motions to amend the budget by re-including the deleted positions while keeping the original budget numbers intact.
"I think there are three things this board is charged with," Romdenne said before introducing his first motion. "First is setting policy that benefits everyone in the county .. second is to have the people who can provide those benefits … third is providing the funds for those people to provide those benefits."
After Romdenne moved to include the UW-Extension position, Feldt said that was kept in the last couple budgets because of the county hosting the state's Farm Technology Days in 2017. He noted other counties in the region have one administrative staffer instead of two as Kewaunee County has, and he indicated the county will face staff and salary issues in coming years, especially for a proposed new public safety facility.
"When we first put together the budget, we were looking at staff needs both currently as well as into the future," Feldt said. "We know there will be staffing pressures in coming years, large staffing pressures. If it's staff reductions … The public is going to go back and look at this meeting and decide if this board was willing to make those difficult decisions."
"To use the viewpoint that we must trim employee numbers today in order to make room for new jail employees in a few years is downright foolish and irresponsible," Wagner said in response.
Supervisor Mary Ellen Dobbins said the Extension position offers a valuable service to provide education to adults in the county.
"(After K-12 school and college) there aren't many opportunities to continue your education. The Extension does that," Dobbins said. "They need that administrative staff to meet all those goals to keep the community educated."
The motion passed on an 11-8 vote, with Chairman Robert Weidner and Supervisors Daniel Olson, Charles Schmitt, Douglas Doell, Thomas Cretney, Joe Lukes, Lee Luft and John Mastalir voting against.
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After Romdenne's next motion, to include the Register's position for $8,000, Feldt said its duties could be performed by other existing county staffers. With no subsequent discussion by supervisors, the motion passed, 10-9, with Weidner, Olson, Schmitt, Doell, Cretney, Luft, Mastalir, Kim Kroll and Virginia Haske voting no.
Romdenne then proposed taking $40,000 of funding via the levy from the Kewaunee County Economic Development Corp. budget and using that to help pay for the two positions, then replacing the difference with a $40,000 transfer from the county's Economic Development Fund to the KCEDC. It passed, 18-1, with Vice Chairman Gerald Paape voting against.
With just more than $46,000 needed to make ends meet, Supervisor Linda Teske moved to transfer $8,000 from the Land Information Office to the general fund and Romdenne made two more motions, to move $20,000 for renovation of the Land Information building — he noted a committee voted to do a study first — and $18,011 from a budgeted $25,000 for professional development until a study could be done to see if the training works. The first two passed unanimously, while the third passed on a 16-3 vote with Olson, Luft and Mastalir against.
The budget then passed with an 18-1 vote, Olson voting "no."
In closing comments, Romdenne thanked the board for its work on the final budget.
"I think, in the long run, everyone will be satisfied with what happened this year," he said.
After the meeting, Feldt said he was happy with the final result.
"I'm absolutely OK with it, pleased with it," Feldt said. "Overall, the levy's the same, the rate is the same (as first proposed), and we're able to provide the county with these services while investing in the future."
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Kewaunee Co. board passes budget, after finding funds for Extension, Register of Deeds staff