Douglas County has a plan for revenue and expenditures in 2020 that includes a reduction in the tax levy.
The Administration Committee unanimously approved the 2020 budget Sept. 26; the plan goes to the full County Board for consideration Oct. 29.
Overall, the county’s total expenses in 2020 increases by 4.9% to $57,258,998, but tax collections to support those expenditures will decrease by $85,132 from the 2019 levy.
“With the state passing their budget, it made the job a little easier,” County Administrator Ann Doucette said. She said the state budget added to the revenue the county expects to receive next year.
Some things that worked in the county’s favor include sales tax revenue that is up slightly and upward movement in interest income, an increase in indirect cost revenue and an increase in state funding for the Department of Health and Human Services.
“We did not increase the forestry transfer this year,” Doucette said. “Some of the forestry timber markets are pretty flat or stagnant.”
Douglas County Board Chairman Mark Liebaert said the Forestry Department is holding one of its larger sales later this month, which will be a big indicator on where the timber market stands.
“We’re doing all right,” said Liebaert, chairman of the forestry committee. “It was due to a good start the last year.”
The transfer accounts for about $1.65 million of the overall budget and comes from county’s timber sales.
Supervisor Nick Baker, who is new to the county’s forestry committee, said bids for timber have typically come in three to four times higher than the appraised value.
“If it goes like it’s been, we’ll do well,” Baker said.
Forestry has been one of the county’s saving graces since the state frozen the tax levies for local government, Doucette said. And it’s helped Douglas County address ongoing shortfalls in its Health and Human Services Department that started last year as the number of child protective services cases started to rise.
As of the end of August, the department is about $700,000 overbudget for 2019, which is a lot better than where it started, said Finance Director Candy Holm-Anderson. Earlier this year, a $2 million shortfall was projected despite a $1 million increase in the budget for 2019.
“It could easily go back up,” Holm-Anderson said.
Covering the shortfall will come from surpluses in other departments, which is usually used for capital projects, Doucette said.
“No. 1 we balance the budget,” Doucette said.
The budget for 2020 addresses the county’s priorities, Doucette said. The plan includes funding pulverizing and paving about 8.5 miles of road, overlaying another three and Surface Transportation Program projects, about $1.2 million for highway vehicle and equipment purchases, increase contracted services in the jail, funding economic development effort, increased funding for zoning inspections, increased personnel costs, building, park and dam improvements and equipment upgrades.
The full County Board considers the proposed budget Oct. 29.
Superior’s City Council amended the city’s 2020 budget Tuesday, Oct. 1, to stay within the expenditure restraint program after receiving updated information about the ERP limit, reducing the budget by $5,000, which will come from the Finance Department budget.
Assistant Finance Director Ashley Puetz said it will come out of personnel costs, which were estimates, now that her salary is known.
The Council also decrease state revenues by reducing $4,000 from its anticipated shared revenue and eliminating $1,000 to be transferred from the oil pipeline terminal tax to the general fund.
Another $13,000 was added to the Fire Department budget, taken from the Information Services budget, to pay for needed reporting software updates.
The Council considers final adoption Oct. 15.