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County Board borrows for highway projects

The Douglas County Board set the parameters for borrowing $5 million for capital projects, including highways, in 2018.

After approving the initial authorization to issue no more than $5 million in general obligation promissory notes, the board set the guidelines for the actual sale in December.

The bonding is part of a series of borrowings launched in 2015 to address the county's deteriorating highway system. The plan included borrowing $22 million over a period of years in four installments through 2022.

"We've assumed an interests rate for this borrowing of 2.6 percent, said Kevin Mullen of Hutchinson, Shockley and Hurley, the county's financial adviser. "I think that's still relatively accurate in the market, although interest rates have been bouncing around a bit."

Mullen said because the County Board won't meet again until Dec. 21, he recommended going ahead with the sale before then because there aren't likely to be many in the bond market that close to the Christmas holiday.

The board established a limit of 3.75 percent interest when the notes are sold, and allowing the county's administration and County Board chairman to sign the necessary paperwork for the sale. That will allow the county to enter the market a week earlier, after rating agencies review the county's finances Dec. 11, enhancing competition in the sale.

Mullen said by following the borrowing plan, the County Board is limiting the impact on the property tax levy.

"That's what this project plan has always attempted to accomplish," Mullen said. Debt service is expected to drop off after 2023 when borrowing for the Government Center is repaid.

"I really support this," Supervisor Dave Conley said. "It's the only option you really get from the state anymore to raise revenue."

The state restricts growth in the property tax levy to the rate of growth.

The sale of bonds and parameters established were approved unanimously by a roll call vote. Supervisor Keith Allen was absent from the meeting.

In other business:

* The board approved submitting a grant application for the Community Development Block Grant Housing Program for Small Cities for 10 counties in Northern Wisconsin, including Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Iron, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor and Washburn. Douglas County, working with Northwest Regional Planning, is the lead county to manage the grant funding.

* Adopted agreements with area utility companies to lease space on county-owned communications towers for the companies' communications.

*Authorized the District Attorney's Office to charge $150 per day to private attorneys for television rental.

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