County Board presented with balanced 2021 preliminary budget
Finance Director Leydet warns Supervisors of challenges on horizon
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Editor
MERRILL – Lincoln County Finance Director Dan Leydet presented the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors with a balanced 2021 preliminary budget during the board’s Tuesday, Oct. 20 meeting at the Lincoln County Service Center in Merrill.
Leydet, Administrative Coordinator Jason Hake, and the county’s Finance and Insurance Committee have taken numerous steps to deal with the nearly $700,000 shortfall that was presented to the board in August. Through reductions in the contingency fund and maintenance budget, and an increase in projected revenues from housing out-of-county inmates, sales tax revenue and forestry revenue, they were able to reduce the shortfall to $286,604 in September.
Leydet told the board in September that through reorganization plans involving open county positions and other state aid revenue numbers, he expected to present a balanced preliminary budget to the board this month.
Leydet, Hake and the committee were successful in their efforts, and a balanced preliminary budget was presented to the board, albeit with changes.
These changes included an increase of $4,986 in shared revenue to match the Department of Revenue’s 2021 shared revenue estimate; an increase of $39,000 in sales tax revenue to match the 2021 projection; a $74,953 reduction in payroll in Land Services to reflect a reorganization plan; a $25,000 reduction in the Sheriff’s Office fuel budget to reflect prior year spend; a $30,000 increase in Health Department state aid for anticipated COVlD-19 reimbursement; a $112,000 increase in a transfer from the Forestry department to the General Fund for anticipated forest land revenue; and a $284,350 increase in the EMS levy to purchase a new ambulance, according to a presentation from Leydet.
Three vacant positions, one in the Personnel Department and two in the Land Services Department, were eliminated due to the Finance and Insurance Committee’s decision not to fill them.
Leydet said the overall budget increased by 18%, largely due to the refinancing of the $2.6 million note from the Pine Crest Nursing Home renovation project. Increased grant revenue and an increase in Highway projects also contributed to the budget increase.
The county’s tax levy increased by 1.53%, at a slower rate than the equalized valuation, leading to a drop in the county’s mill rate.
“As the overall tax base grows faster than the tax levy, you’re going to have your mill rate drop,” Leydet explained, noting that it’s the fourth-straight year and the fifth out of the last six years this has occurred.
Leydet also outlined numerous budgetary challenges the county will face in the future, among them the county’s $20 vehicle registration fee, also known as the “wheel tax.”
Leydet noted that when the wheel tax expires in 2021, the county will face a $560,000 hole in its budget.
Leydet encouraged the board to address the issue “so that we can either plan on how we’re going to cut $560,000 on the county budget or you’re going to extend the vehicle registration fee for however long you want to.”
Another challenge facing the board is continuing operational budget shortfalls, which will ultimately lead to “diminishing services and elimination of positions,” Leydet said.
The board will vote on the preliminary budget during its Tuesday, Nov. 10 meeting at the Lincoln County Service Center in Merrill.