County plans $1 million tax hike
Budget hearing set for Nov. 13
By Robert Cloud
Waupaca County property owners will see their tax rate rise 1 percent for 2019.
If the county board approves the proposed 2019 budget, the property tax rate will increase from $6.79 to $6.86 per $1,000 of equalized value.
County Finance Director Heidi Dombrowski presented the proposed budget at a county board meeting Oct. 30.
She noted the owner of a median value home worth $137,000 will pay an additional $9.31 in property taxes for 2019.
The county plans to raise its total 2019 levy to $28.24 million, up 3.74 percent over 2018.
The levy will support the county’s $70.7 million budget.
A primary cause in the 2019 levy increase is the county is shifting from borrowing money for its capital improvement projects to using reserve funds and tax levy revenues.
The county plans to spend an additional $1.3 million in levy revenues on capital outlay in 2019, but borrow no additional money as it seeks to pay down some of its debt.
The total cost for capital improvements planned for 2019 will be nearly $6.1 million and include:
• $4.3 million for 15 highway and bridge projects.
• $1 million for the sheriff’s office to remodel the jail’s second floor, replace vehicles and upgrade the evidence garage.
• $256,700 to upgrade information technology.
• $191,000 to parks and rec to replace vehicles and equipment, and for upgrades at Shaw’s Landing, Nelson Park and the fairgrounds.
• $97,000 to the clerk of courts office for a video conference room and to upgrade video audio systems and install microphone connections in the courtrooms.
• $90,000 to solid waste and management to repair the blacktop at the processing center.
• $70,000 to the county treasurer and land information office to upgrade the land survey/gps system.
• $35,000 for building maintenance.
• $25,000 for the land and water office.
Dombrowski explained how the county had been relying increasingly on debt to fund such capital improvements as highway and building maintenance, equipment and furniture purchases in the past.
In 2002, the county had $366,700 in debt payments for capital outlay.
By 2017, debt payments for capital outlay rose to $2.1 million, of which $523,000 went toward interest.
Since 2002, Waupaca County has borrowed a total of $53.2 million and paid $10 million in interest alone.
In 2019, the county is not issuing debt to pay for its capital improvement projects.
Dombrowski said if the county can reduce its interest costs, it will have more cash available to put toward the projects themselves.
Of the total 2019 proposed levy, nearly $5.1 million will go toward debt payments for both capital improvements and new construction. That amount represents a 6.84 percent decrease from the $5.46 million debt levy in 2018.
Over the next two years, the county will pay off $1.6 million in debt from 2009 and 2010.
Debt payments will drop by $630,000 after 2019 and by another $500,000 annually after 2020.
In 2014, the county board approved a $13.8 million bond to pay for the first three years of a five-year capital improvement plan. Of that amount, $12 million went to highway projects.
The county is making payments of nearly $2 million annually on the 2014 bond. It is scheduled to be paid off after 2024.
In 2019, the county will pay $2.7 million in principal and interest on the $27.87 million in the general obligation bonds to finance construction of the new highway department facility that the board approved in March of this year.
If the county does not borrow any more money over the next six years, its debt service payments should drop from $5.1 million in 2019 to $1.75 million in 2024.
When it approved the bonding for the new highway facility, the county board also eliminated $6.14 million in debt when it voted to redeem bonds from 2011.
The county used cash reserves from the highway operating fund and general reserves to redeem the bonds.
A public hearing on the county’s proposed 2019 budget is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, at the courthouse.