Board considers budget with tax levy increaseDouglas County taxpayers will pay more for services in 2014. The budget the county board considers later this month includes a 3.25 percent increase in the tax levy. However, the level of service remains the same despite constraints placed on the county levy by the state.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Douglas County taxpayers will pay more for services in 2014.
The budget the county board considers later this month includes a 3.25 percent increase in the tax levy. However, the level of service remains the same despite constraints placed on the county levy by the state.
The majority of the levy increase — 2.25 percent — goes to pay off an unfunded pension liability owed by the county. Last year, the board approved bonding to pay off its debt to the Wisconsin Retirement System at a lower interest rate. The move will cut about five percentage points from the county’s obligation for each of the next 20 years.
The balance of the increase, about $82,000, comes from new construction in the county.
Douglas County’s Administration Committee approved the proposed budget with one change — $1,000 that won’t impact the county’s almost $15.8 million levy, said County Administrator Andy Lisak.
Next year’s budget includes funding for planned work on County Road T in Wascott. And the financial plan brings Douglas County closer to better planning for work on county highways through bonding.
While the county’s forestry department could be facing potential problems in the future with the recent discovery of emerald ash borer in Superior that placed the state’s largest county forest under quarantine, aren’t anticipated in 2014, and the problems facing the city budget — a $1.3 million deficit in 2015 — are not likely to be a countywide issue.
Better planning, not making commitments beyond the county’s means and guarding reserve funds are helping Douglas County as it moves to the future, Lisak said.
“I think we’re in pretty good shape,” he said.
The financial plan for next year also allows the county to move forward with a plan to ensure compensation for county employees rings true with the market for similar jobs.
The board considers a plan to determine the direction it will go to ensure quality employees to provide government services in the community Oct. 17.
“We had some good news,” Lisak said. “We had our sales tax revenue increase.”
Other things that improved in 2013 is increased revenue from land sales, no significant increase in health insurance costs, and paying off the unfunded pension liability last year.
“We’ve budgeted the same for the last five or six years, and we’re finally seeing that increase,” said Finance Director Ann Doucette. However, with interest rates continuing to be low, the county has never budgeted lower for anticipated interest earnings, she said.
The Douglas County Board considers the 2014 budget during a special meeting Oct. 29.