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County budget has tax rate drop

The Pierce County Board’s Finance & Personnel Committee gave its OK to a plan that uses $97,461 from the county’s undesignated fund balance to help meet the needs of county departments in the 2021 budget.

The committee also forwarded a recommendation to the full county board that will be acted upon at its Oct. 27 meeting that calls for a total property tax levy of $16,227,712, and the tax rate to support that levy will have a slight reduction.

Total expenditures in the proposed budget are $43,135,633, down 7.04 percent from the 2020 adopted budget of $46.4 million.

The total county tax rate is projected to be down 6.29 percent, from $5.71 for the 2020 budget to $5.36 for the 2021 budget. The county’s equalized property valuation under the budget is up 6.9 percent this year to $3,754,611,200.

A copy of the proposed budget appears in the Public Notice section of this edition of The Journal.

When the budget was being put together, the proposed levy came in at $16,398,673, but the county is allowed a levy of the $16,227.712 be-

See BUDGET, Page 5 cause of State of Wisconsin limits. To get to that amount allowable, the human services budget was reduced by $29,000, $44,500 was taken out of money set aside for possible employee leave liabilities and the remaining $97,461 came from the undesignated fund balance.

Of moving the money from the undesignated fund balance, Administrative Coordinator Jason Matthys said, “Generally, I wouldn’t recommend doing this. However, our designated fund balance is healthy. And the reason it’s healthy is because we’ve had some good management practices over the course of previous years,” he said, noting a giveback of budget funds to the general fund of $375,000 in 2019.

“Last year we passed a resolution that we wanted to make sure that our fund balance would not drop below 40 Percent where it was previously 7.5. We’re still well with that, and we do not foresee there’s going to be any negative impact out of 2020 as the way things look right now,” said Matthys.

The budget has no new personnel added,” Matthys told the committee.

Committee member Mike Kaehlow asked, “Essentially we’re taking this out of reserves. We’re doing deficit spending for this year to the tune of about 5 percent of our budget. Correct?”

“That’s right,” said Matthys.

The committee also recommended 1.25 percent increases for non-represented employees who are at the top of the salary grid.

“Currently, Pierce County has bout 85 employees that are either at the top of their scale or redlined above the current scale. This number does not include those employees who are union members (41) or elected (5). Employees that are redlined are not afforded the step increase or the annual Cost of Living Adjustment until such time that the wage grid catches up to their redlined wage regardless of a favorable review,” Matthys wrote in a memo to the committee. “The current, proposed budget accounts for a COLA of 1.25 percent as well as step increases that are applicable to those non-represented, designated employees.”

Matthy said employee insurance is being budgeted at the same level, and employees also can take advantage of a health savings account and high deductible plan.

The committee also gave its OK to cancelling about $2,000 in uncashed checks from 2017.

The checks are all relatively small amounts, ranging from $1 up to a check for $287.50 that was written to Preferred Senior Living of Ellsworth that wasn’t cashed. Bankrupt and out-of-business Shopko Stores Operating Co, LLC didn’t cash a check for $84.34.

Treasurer Kathy Fuchs said checks can be reissued for a time by contacting the finance department. She said a lot of the uncashed checks are from the Pierce County Fair.