The proposed $23.7 million 2019 Kewaunee County budget includes $1 million for the expansion of broadband, doubling the capital improvement fund, and $657,000 in local bridge projects, all while decreasing the property tax rate.
The total tax levy will increase by $226,104 to $12,090,120, but thanks to a 2.52 percent increase in the county’s equalized value, property owners will see a modest five cent decrease in the tax rate, down to $7.25 per thousand. That is a decrease of five dollars per $100,000 in assessed value.
In an ambitious foray into economic development, the county administration is asking for $1 million to be set aside for broadband expansion. County Administrator Scott Feldt said the goal is to provide broadband access to 75 percent of the county by 2020.
The county board will still have to approve the projects and contractors that bid for portions of the $1 million fund.
In another show of support for economic development, the proposed budget asks for an additional $22,000 for the Kewaunee County Economic Development Corporation. The increase will more than double the $18,000 allocated in the 2018 budget.
The budget also sets aside $93,105 toward the capital improvement fund (CIP). The CIP helps prevent shocks to the budget when an unexpected expense arises. The allocation will nearly double the fund, bringing it to $195,176.
The county had some wiggle room with the budget thanks to relinquished control of the landfill earlier this year, reducing expenses by approximately $2.2 million. Even with the increased funds for economic development, the budget calls for a reduction in total expenditures by $832,390.
This comes just a few years after a battle with Dominion Energy over the property tax assessment at the Kewaunee Power Station shocked the budget, as the county and the Town of Carlton grappled with how to pay back $11.9 million in property taxes to the company. Next year will be the second of a 10-year deal to pay $486,000 annually for the county’s portion of the refund.
The $7.25 tax rate is lower than the rate in 2015, when the power station property was still being assessed at approximately $450 million.
There will be a public hearing on the budget on Oct. 9 and the county is expected to adopt the budget at its annual meeting on Nov. 5.