County Budget Includes Small Tax Increase

Property owners will see a 1.5 percent increase in their tax rate at the end of this year after the Door County Board of Supervisors passed its 2018 budget. The increase of approximately six cents per $1,000 of assessed value represents an additional $643,071 in the tax levy.

“We’re trying to put ourselves in a strong position moving forward,” said County Administrator Ken Pabich to county supervisors Nov. 14.

Dan Austad, Richard Virlee, John Neinas and Steve Sohns all questioned various expenses before voting against the budget.

“Often, constituents ask, ‘Well why did it go up?’ and you want to give them a fair answer to why there was that increase,” said Virlee, who added that much of the increase is for expenditures in public safety.

On Oct. 24, the county board voted to hire two additional captains for Emergency Services in a 14-5 vote. While state law limits how much a county can increase its levy to the amount of new construction value added, public safety expenses are generally exempt from that cap.

While the county could tax an additional $1 million under its levy cap, it is not doing so.

“We’re trying to be responsible in terms of how we’re building our budget and we are naturally growing into that capacity,” Pabich said.

This marks the eighth straight budget that includes an increase to the tax rate. The last time the county decreased its tax rate was between 2009 and 2010.

The county is just starting to recover its equalized value from steady decreases following the 2008 recession. As of Aug. 8, the county saw approximately $71 million in net new construction in 2017, the majority of which took place in the City of Sturgeon Bay, Sister Bay and Sevastopol.

Other notes from the adopted 2018 budget include:

  • An increase of approximately $6,000 of funding to UW-Extension, despite the reorganization that took place in 2016 intended to consolidate county offices and save costs. “This one probably has been very frustrating,” Pabich said. “We are paying more for less.” Sohns cautioned of decreasing revenue from the state forcing the county to pick up a larger portion of the tab for services. “That’s something we have to be cognizant of – are we going to continue to offer those programs or are we going to cut the service when we’re looking at new unfunded mandates?”
  • Approximately $50,000 in additional funds for the Door County Historical Museum, which will go toward implementing a strategic management plan the museum funded this year. Pabich said the museum is staffed by seven part-time individuals and future operations would likely require a different, and possibly more expensive, staffing structure. If the museum does not use the additional $50,000 placed in the budget in 2018, the remainder will go back in the general fund.
  • Construction on 16.1 miles of road at a cost of $3.2 million.

Article Comments