Fair manager announces January retirement
ELLSWORTH – When the proposed 2022 Pierce County budget goes before the county board in November, residents should see a slight decrease in the county portion of their property tax bills for 2022.
During the Oct. 4 Finance & Personnel Committee meeting, independent auditor Brad Geyen presented a proposed 2022 county operating levy of $16,832,103, which is $384,451 more than the allowable state limit of operating tax levy of $16,447.652.
What is a levy limit? Levy limits provide the maximum amount of money a town, village, city and county may implement as a property tax levy on properties in their boundaries.
The $16,832,103 is the total that standing committees approved for Pierce County’s department budgets and forwarded to administration/finance for consideration.
To have a balanced budget without using reserve funds, the county would need to either reduce expenditures by $384,451 or find that money by fine-tuning department budgets. The auditor does not recommend dipping into the county’s reserve funds to cover the gap.
“This is kind of a big deal here,” Board Chair Jeff Holst said. “We have $384,000 here more than we’re taking in.”
After going line-by-line through proposed department budgets, County Administrator Jason Matthys suggested two options to the committee to balance the budget.
Option 1 (totals $384,451)
•Remove budget funds: Leave liability $10,000
•Increase sales tax revenue: $105,200
•Increase revenue, interest on investments: $80,000
•Increase revenue, interest on checking accounts: $10,000
•Purchase body cameras and taser with budget funds in 2021, not 2022: $89,000 (due to staffing shortage in the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, $440,000 was unspent in 2021.)
•Reduce jail health insurance: $37,985 (five vacancies, not all take the family plan)
•Hire a new corrections officer July 1, not Jan. 1, 2022: $42,266
•Increase revenue in Register of Deeds: $10,000 Option 2 (also totals $384,451)
•Remove budget funds: Leave liability $10,000
•Increase sales tax revenue: $114,451
•Reduce Administration budget: $1,500
•Reduce sundry cont. services – Medical Examiner: $6,000
•Not approve a 1.25 percent wage increase for county employees: $179,000 (but could have an adverse effect for retention/recruitment)
•Increase revenue, interest on investments: $60,000
•Increase revenue, interest on checking: $5,500
•Increase Register of Deeds revenue: $8,000 The committee voted unanimously to pass Option 1 onto the county board for consideration.
Including Option 1 would make for a proposed county tax levy totaling $20,754,122, comprised of the operating levy ($16,832,103), the debt service levy ($3,215,088), and special purpose levies: County library ($506,931) and Bridges ($200,000). This is an increase over 2021 of 3.2 percent. If the county board does not pass Option 1, the operating levy would be $16,447,652, making a total county tax levy of $20,369,671.
Thanks to the county’s equalized valuation ($4,028,225,000) and a Tax Increment District closing, the proposed mill rate will decrease by 3.81 percent. The proposed mil rate of 5.152176 means on a $200,000 property, a property owner would pay about $1,030 for the county portion of their property tax bill.
New county positions
The committee unanimously voted to recommend the following county positions for approval to the full county board:
•Nutrition coordinator: Pierce County is the only county in Wisconsin without one; the state mandates each aging department to have one. Currently, the ADRC manager and administrative assistant are covering these duties. The estimated annual cost would be $82,354 (wages and benefits).
•Human services worker: Currently the department has contracts with three vendors to provide court-ordered family interaction for families involved in the Child Protection System. A county employee with an estimated yearly cost of $86,354 (wages and benefits) would save an estimated $25,646 in 2022.
•Social Worker – Comprehensive Community Services: A pilot project with Lutheran Social Services provides CCS facilitation in order to address Pierce County’s wait list, which is not allowable per state statute. The cost to the county this year would be $12,000 (to be reimbursed in 2023). The permanent position would carry its own caseload within six months. The position is estimated to cost $88,357 per year, funded through Medicaid reimbursement.
A PCSO sheriff’s deputy position and a Register of Deeds position did not make the cut for 2022.
The committee also approved a 1.25 percent salary increase (totaling $179,000) for county employees effective Jan. 1, 2022.
“It’s prudent to make sure folks are still receiving a competitive wage,” Matthys said.
In 2020, the salary increase approved was 1.5 percent. The county has problems more on the front end, of retaining new people hired, Matthys said.
Holst, who voted in favor of the increase, warned the committee about having to get creative in the future to balance the budget.
“At some point in time we need to take a hard look at how many people work at the county,” Holst said. “Don’t get me wrong, we need to take care of employees. But maybe we will need to learn to do more with a little less down the line.”
Pierce County Fair Manager Ann Webb announced her plans to retire Jan. 3, 2022. In light of that news, and the fact that Webb only had 15-16 hours left to work for 2021, Matthys requested an additional 200 hours be added to her salary, which the committee approved.
“Ann has worked more hours than what is actually obligated,” Matthys said.
The fair manager position is a 66 percent time position (1,373 hours annually). Webb has consistently donated 100 hours of time yearly to fulfill her job requirements. However, with budgeting, laying out a procedural manual and preparing for a new fair manager, Webb needs the extra hours, Matthys said. He added that she was instrumental in assisting Pierce County Public Health with COVID site testing and contact tracing during the pandemic. The 200 hours will cost an additional $7,273.55, but thanks to a record fair year, the cost will be absorbed by the fair budget.
“Ms. Webb, I’d like to thank you for your years of service,” said Holst. “You’ve done an admirable job of putting on a fair. It seems like just yesterday you were hired.”
Webb has served in her role for 23 years.
•The committee approved changing all county vehicle deductibles to $5,000 comprehensive and $5,000 collision effective Jan. 1, 2022. Since all county vehicles (such as highway tandem vehicles) currently don’t carry collision coverage, this will ensure all vehicles are fully insured. The annual premium will be $46,297. The county has an unfavorable claim history due to bad hail damage in 2018/2019.
•The committee voted to hire Ayres Associates to administer a $1,421,840.75 Community Development Block Grant, which will be used to reconstruct County Road B in Spring Valley. Ayres’ proposal was one of three proposals received, at $25,168.
•The committee approved changes to the Public Health nursing position description and to the Registered Nurse position description, grade and to allow for a hybrid posting for both a Bachelor of Science in Nursing qualified PH nurse or an RNqualified RN.
•The committee voted to forward a list of checks from 2018 totaling $10,647.44 to the county board in November, asking for approval of their cancellation.
•The committee approved a resolution to amend a personnel policy which will implement a tax preferred account benefit plan related to employees’ accumulated sick leave, vacation and PTO payouts.
•The committee voted to revoke existing commitments in the contingency fund; a total of $1.4 million has not been used. According to an Oct. 4 memo by Matthys, “The Continency fund has helped to support and supplement several projects over the years. As those projects and initiatives have been completed, unspent project funds remain committed within the Contingency Fund.”
•The F& P Committee will next meet at 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 1.