Staff to get cost-of-living raise
By Robert Cloud
Waupaca County property owners can expect to see the county portion of their tax bill rise by more than 2 percent.
At the 2016 budget’s first reading Tuesday, Oct. 27, Finance Director Heidi Dombrowski said the county plans to increase its total tax levy from $24.58 million in 2015 to $25.21 million in 2016.
The property tax rate will rise by 2.36 percent, from $6.62 per $1,000 of equalized value to $6.78.
Waupaca County proposes levying $2.77 million for its Transportation Services Fund in 2016, which is $522,000 more than was levied in 2015. Of that increase, $500,000 will be set aside for future highway construction.
Supervisor DuWayne Federwitz said the county is trying to get ahead of the problems the state is having with its transportation budget.
Gov. Scott Walker initially proposed borrowing $1.3 billion for state highway projects, but the Legislature cut the borrowing to $500 million.
Last month, the Department of Transportation announced it would delay five major highway projects due to inadequate funding.
Federwitz also noted the county is looking at setting aside some of the money it spends on highway construction instead of borrowing.
The 2016 budget also includes a 1.25 percent cost-of-living raise for county employees.
Supervisor Joe McClone questioned giving the same percentage raise to all employees.
McClone said higher paid staff will receive larger raises than lower paid staff.
“I’m just against the gap expanding,” McClone said. “I think milk and gas cost just as much for everyone.”
Supervisor Fred Zaug said the Consumer Price Index indicated there was no inflation, due to the drop in gas prices. As a consequence, Social Security benefits were not being increased in 2016, Zaug said.
“In regards to Social Security, they’re not getting any increase, plus they’re looking at a $50 per month Medicare increase, plus we’re going to increase their property taxes,” Supervisor Mary Kay Poehlman said. “I think people on the outside are looking at this as, ‘How am I going to afford the ongoing cost?’”
The 2016 proposed levy also includes $9.04 million for public safety, a $236,000 increase over 2015.
Sheriff Brad Hardel said most of the levy increase is due to lost revenues since the county is no longer housing state prisoners.
In 2015, Waupaca County had a short-term contract with the state to house regional probation holds.
That contract was worth slightly more than $130,000 and expired this year.
The increase also includes $28,000 for a prisoner medical contract and $102,000 for prisoner expenses.
The county’s levy for debt service payments is projected to increase from $5.77 million to $6.01 million in 2016.
The 2016 budget also anticipates a $288,000 increase in sales tax revenues in 2016.
A public hearing on the 2016 county budget will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10, at the Waupaca County Courthouse.