Kewaunee County budget passes with drop in tax rate, increased levy
KEWAUNEE – The Kewaunee County budget adopted for 2021 by the County Board is little changed from the one proposed by Administrator Scott Feldt in September, featuring an increase in the tax levy from this year to next but a decrease in the tax rate.
The budget, which was finalized and approved at the Nov. 10 board meeting, calls for a 2.64% increase ($326,319) in the levy, from $12,360,443 to $12,686,762. Total expenditures increased by 6.2%, a little more than $1.4 million, to $24,071,278, largely because of a 3% increase in health insurance premiums for county employees — although dental insurance premiums did not change — and a 1.65% cost of living pay increase.
However, the tax rate will drop from $7.08 per $1,000 of equalized property value in 2020 to $7.06 per $1,000 next year because equalized values, determined by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, increased in the county by 2.86%, from $1.745 billion to $1.795 billion — not including TIF districts.
Those numbers are the same as Feldt's original budget proposal, but a few amendments changed how the money will be spent next year and who will pay for some items.
Perhaps the most noteworthy change, and the biggest, was removing a planned 1% to 1.5% step increase in pay for county employees, totaling about $47,000, although the cost of living increase remained in place.
The board also removed $12,500 from the Administration Department's professional development fund, leaving it with about $12,000, and decided to leave a position in Human Services as a contracted position instead of making it a county job as first proposed, saving about $17,000.
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Another significant change came in funding for the troubled Kewaunee County Economic Development Corp. The public-private organization, whose mission is "to retain, expand, develop and attract businesses that strengthen the economy of Kewaunee County," parted ways with Executive Director Richard Baker at the end of September after fewer than two years on the job.
There was previous discussion by the county Finance Committee about whether the organization should be funded by the tax levy to the tune of $40,000 a year, noting that it was supposed to become self-supporting but hasn't achieved that since its formation, or whether the organization should close or undergo changes.
In the end, the board removed the $40,000 from the levy to keep the corporation going next year but instead will channel that amount to the organization from the county's Economic Development Fund, which has been funded by Dominion Resources after it closed and decommissioned its Kewaunee Power Station nuclear plant.
The changes would have reduced the levy by $69,833, with some of the amounts mentioned coming from the county's general fund, not the levy. But Feldt, answering a question from supervisor Milt Swagel, said reducing it that much could affect the flexibility of future budgets by limiting potential tax rates down the road. Swagel moved to add the $69,833 to the county's debt retirement fund, and the motion passed.
The vote on the final budget was 16-4 in favor, with supervisors Tim Kinnard, Joanne Lazansky, Charles Wagner and Swagel voting no.
Feldt said he was pleased with the result, noting that it's the third year in a row the tax rate has dropped.
"The thing I liked is that we passed a budget that allows us to pay employees, pay for equipment and maintenance, and do so in a fiscally prudent manner," he said.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Kewaunee County budget passes with drop in tax rate, increased levy