County Board increases spending at eleventh hour

Supervisors OK budget that calls for maximum levy allowed by state to address growing list of deferred projects
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press staff

Ozaukee County supervisors voted Wednesday to increase the tax levy by $265,000, the maximum allowed by the state based on the value of net new construction, to help clear some deferred projects from the county’s budgetary to-do list.

That will increase the county tax rate by about 23 cents per $1,000 of equalized valuation to $1.97.

“What is the best way to reduce that list for our taxpayers?” said Supr. Patrick Marchese of Mequon, who introduced the budget amendment.

The budget had not been finalized by the County Board by press time Wednesday.  As proposed, the budget will expand hours for the shared-ride taxi, assume Grafton police dispatch duties, upgrade the county radio system, increase wages and benefits for county employees by 2%, allow for an 8% increase in health care premiums and allocate reserve funds to replace the flat roof on the Ozaukee County Justice Center and to repair the War Memorial there. 

It also sets aside $551,000 to complete deferred projects in the 2019 budget using debt service reserve funds instead of paying for them from the tax levy. 

Supervisors suggested the increased levy funds from new construction could be added to that total to complete more projects.

Those include: $365,000 to upgrade the phone system; $300,000 for a parks storage and employee building; $185,000 for a restroom at Covered Bridge Park in the Town of Cedarburg; $175,000 for a restroom at Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve in the Town of Grafton and $150,000 to resurface the Interurban Trail.

With the amendment, the levy will be $21.2 million, up from $20.54 million in 2018.

Marchese’s amendment passed 18 to 8.

State law limits counties and municipalities from increasing their tax levy beyond the value of net new construction.

Citing a “use-it-or-lose-it” provision in state law, several supervisors argued in favor of using the taxable value of new construction because not doing so would prevent the county from factoring this year’s growth into next year’s levy.

“You’re digging a hole one budget shovelful at a time” by not taxing the full value of new construction, Supr. Don Dohrwardt of Fredonia said.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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