2020 budget: Leydet talks health insurance costs, wheel tax at Board meeting
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor
Lincoln County Finance Director Dan Leydet provided County Supervisors with some information about the preliminary 2020 budget at the Board’s meeting in Merrill on Tuesday, Oct. 15.
The preliminary budget proposal was approved by the Finance Committee earlier this month, and no changes were made from September, Leydet said.
The overall budget dropped about 26%, almost entirely due to Pine Crest Nursing Home and Lincoln Industries no longer being included in the budget. Leydet noted the budget is about $40.5 million, a $14.8 million decrease.
Leydet noted that a slight decrease in capital improvements was due to the CIP Committee removing projects that had been submitted to the plan because a $335,000 shortfall had to be dealt with. He added that the projects, including IT infrastructure and the purchase of a new ambulance, will have to be done eventually, and that fund is currently within about $5,000 of being balanced.
An open accountant position was eliminated, leading to a roughly $80,000 savings for the county, Leydet noted.
Leydet explained that a large contributing factor the budget being balanced is due to projected revenue increases that, if not met in 2020, will leave the county in the red in 2021. The projected increases in revenue in 2020 are due to increases seen in 2019.
Projected health insurance costs to the county went down about 11% after the removal of Pine Crest from the budget, Leydet noted, adding that about $157,000 was saved on the levy.
Leydet noted future budget challenges includes having to find $3.2 million dollars to cover health insurance costs. “As we listen to the health insurance consultant, and we look at health insurance trends, we used to have a good year, then a bad year, or two bad years, then two good years. Now we just have bad year after bad year after bad year.”
He added that he believed that the trend of increasing health insurance costs is a “national crisis,” adding, “I think we need a health insurance policy within our country, and we just don’t have one. And until we have one, we are going to be in this mode. I don’t know what to do, except it’s going to cost money for health insurance. … If something doesn’t change somewhat drastically, I don’t know how we’re going to be able to pay that $1.2 million back to the general fund. I don’t even know how we’re going to hit the $2 million without real substantial health insurance changes in the county. So that’s going to be a challenge.”
“I’m gonna do ‘I told you so,’ because when Randy Scholz was Administrative Coordinator and myself, presented the wheel tax to the board … we recommended you don’t put a sunset on it because we’re looking at this as a regular, ongoing funding source that was given to the counties by the state.”
Leydet cautioned that road maintenance is already behind with the wheel tax in place, and if it were to be allowed to expire, “You’re going to lose $560,000 out of that roads fund,” adding that making cuts elsewhere may be necessary to make up the shortfall.