County Finance Director Leydet presents Supervisors with balanced 2022 budget proposal
Board will vote on spending plan next month
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Editor
MERRILL – Lincoln County Finance Director Dan Leydet presented the county’s Board of Supervisors with a balanced 2022 budget proposal this week.
The finalized report was put together by the county’s Finance and Insurance Committee.
Leydet walked the board through the proposal during its meeting at the Lincoln County Service Center in Merrill on Tuesday, Oct. 19.
Leydet said that when the Finance Committee began working on the proposal at the beginning of October, there was a roughly $190,000 deficit in the budget, down from the approximately $800,000.00 shortfall the county faced this summer.
Among the steps the committee took to deal with the $190,000.00 hole in the budget was to increase the county’s projected sales tax revenue by $70,000.00.
“Sales tax has been really hopping in the county,” Leydet stated, noting that he had initially believed that the recent yearly increases in sales tax revenue may have been related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This year, it’s continued, and we’re at a 14% overall increase over last year,” Leydet said. “(Sales tax revenue) has exceeded expectations, by far.”
The committee was able to trim $30,000.00 from the Informational Technology (IT) Department’s operational budget by making a change in a software package.
After several adjustments over the course of the budget process, the committee settled on a 1.5% cost of living increase for county employees.
With these steps factored in, the committee was left with about a $130,000.00 budget shortfall, Leydet said. The committee decided to use funds from the county’s general fund to offset the deficit, but due to several new county employees either not using the county’s health insurance or utilizing single plans rather than family plans, only $14,479.00 from the general fund was needed to account for the shortfall.
The decrease in projected health insurance costs was “just luck,” Leydet noted.
Leydet told the board that the county’s equalized value went up 6.21% to $2,748,951,800.00, an increase the likes of which the county hasn’t seen in nearly 15 years. Leydet said the average equalized valuation has increased by roughly 1% each year since 2010.
“With sales tax increasing, and equalized valuation and your tax base increasing, that’s a really good economic sign for the county,” Leydet stated. “(What is) not a good sign is the net new construction.”
The county’s net new construction went up by 0.5%, allowing for an additional $113,606.00 levy increase under the state’s levy increase statutes.
“That’s a low number,” Leydet said, noting that net new construction is “the trigger for the levy increase limits.”
The county’s mill rate will decrease 5% to an average of $5.47 for towns and $5.22 for cities due to the increase in equalized valuation, and the total tax levy will increase by $119,653.00 (0.8%).
Leydet made note of several future budgetary challenges faced by the county, including the expiration of the county’s $20 wheel tax next year, which will create a $560,000.00 deficit, and operational budget shortfalls, which could lead to diminishing services and the elimination of county positions.
The county board will vote on the budget next month.