The lowest tax rate in 10 years is proposed for the 2022 Kewaunee County budget
KEWAUNEE – Property owners could see their lowest county tax rate in 10 years if the proposed 2022 county budget passes with few, if any, changes.
The proposal would raise the budget by 1.6%, from just over $24 million for 2021 to just shy of $24.4 million next year. The tax levy — the amount funded by property taxes — would rise by 1.49%, from $12,687,299 to $12,876,389.
However, the tax rate would drop by 2.69%, from $7.06 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $6.88. That means the owner of a property valued at $150,000 would pay $27 less on their county tax in 2022 than they did this year.
County Administrator Scott Feldt, who presented the budget proposal to the county board at its Sept. 21 meeting, said the rate would be the lowest for taxpayers since 2011. The decrease in the tax rate even with a rise in the levy can happen because equalized property values in the county increased by 4.24%, from $1.796 billion to $1.876 billion.
Health insurance and dental premiums for county employees expected to increase
The county board will finalize the budget at its Nov. 9 meeting. Since it was presented, the board's Finance Committee has met twice to discuss it and consider possible changes suggested by the board's other committees. Also, a public hearing on the budget was held Oct. 19. The Finance Committee will meet again at 5 p.m. Nov. 9 to discuss its final recommendations, an hour before the full board meeting begins.
The proposed budget notes that health insurance premiums for county employees receiving benefits are expected to increase by about 12%, dental insurance premiums by 5% and the cost of living by 1.9%.
It includes Feldt's recommendation to transition four employee positions from contract work to full-time staff. He said because of consistent turnover in these positions, the county is spending more to recruit and onboard workers for these positions than the cost of benefits would be for them. Changing these positions also is expected to slow the turnover rate, Feldt noted.
Feldt is also asking to include $15,000 for grant writing services, noting that recent years have seen a significant increase in the amount of money available to local governments through federal and state grants.
"With billions of dollars in grant money kinda squirreling about, now is the opportune time to try and capture those dollars," Feldt said.
New jail, public safety facility study in county budget proposal
One of the significant items in the proposal is a request for about $190,000 that would allow the county to finish its study for a new jail and public safety facility. The study began in 2016 and has moved through its first two phases but Phase 3, determining exactly how to replace the 53-year-old building, has been delayed as new board members from the 2020 election have revisited the study.
"It's the oldest and smallest county jail in the state," Feldt said. "From my standpoint, it's something the county needs to do. It's not a want; it's a need … I think we understand that, because of the age of the jail and how jails operate, a new jail is required."
Feldt said the committee considering the jail study has recommended several potential cost savings in the recommended plan for a new facility, but he added that it's vital to complete the study and make decisions because of recently rising construction and materials costs as well as inflation.
"My concern is that if we don't start moving forward soon, all that good work (finding reductions in the cost) is going to be for naught," he said.
Other notable items include:
- A $50,000 allocation for the University of Wisconsin-Extension to help it relocate its department and staff from the county administration building in Kewaunee to a more centralized space in Luxemburg;
- About $25,000 for training for each of the county's 25 department heads;
- $25,000 to create maintenance plans for each of the county's four office and maintenance buildings.
Kewaunee County expects to receive another $1.98 million for COVID relief
The county did receive more than $1.98 million from the federal government in May as part of the American Rescue Plan Act for COVID-19 relief and expects to receive another $1.98 million next May.
Those dollars are in the budget but are in a separate fund, not yet earmarked to be spent on anything. Feldt said the funds come with a formula for local governments to determine how they can be spent that's dependent on calculating how much revenue the locality lost because of the pandemic. He also said the county has until the end of 2024 to identify projects on which it would like to spend those funds and until the end of 2026 to spend them.
"We want to have a very deliberate discussion on how best to use those funds," Feldt said.
About Kewaunee County's 2022 budget
The Kewaunee County Board will adopt the county's 2022 budget at its meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 9 in the County Administration Building, 810 Lincoln St., Kewaunee. The board's Finance Committee meets at 5 that evening to consider and forward final recommendations on the budget. The Kewaunee County Board will adopt the county's 2022 budget at its meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 9 in the County Administration Building, 810 Lincoln St., Kewaunee. The board's Finance Committee meets at 5 p.m. that evening to consider and forward final recommendations on the budget. To download a copy of the proposed budget, visit kewauneeco.org, click on "Departments" at the top of the homepage, then click "Finance," then "Annual Budget" on the left side, then "Forms and Documents."
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: The lowest tax rate in 10 years is proposed for the 2022 Kewaunee County budget