Supervisors approve 2022 county budget, tax levy, district maps
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Editor
MERRILL – Lincoln County’s 2022 budget and tax levy were approved by the county’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Nov. 9.
During its meeting in Merrill, the board also gave the green light to Lincoln County’s redrawn Supervisory district maps. The redistricting process takes place every ten years, following the completion of the U.S. Census.
Budget, tax levy
County Finance Director Dan Leydet presented Supervisors with a balanced 2022 budget proposal at the board’s meeting last month. The finalized report was crafted by the county’s Finance and Insurance Committee.
The committee was tasked with trimming roughly $800,000.00 from the budget, a process that began this summer. By October, the budget shortfall was about $190,000.00. After accounting for a projected increase in sales tax revenue, a change in a software package in the Informational Technology (IT) department, and a 1.5% cost of living increase for county employees, that number was whittled down to about $130,000.00.
The committee originally planned to utilize funds from the county’s general fund to offset the remaining hole in the budget. However, 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 deficit.
The decrease in projected health insurance costs was “just luck,” Leydet noted last month.
In October, Leydet told the board that the county’s increase in sales tax revenue and equalized valuation, combined with an increasing tax base, make for a good economic sign for Lincoln County.
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%).
The board voted unanimously, with abstentions from District 1 Supervisor Bill Bialecki and District 3 Supervisor Elizabeth McCrank, to approve the 2022 county budget and tax levy.
Bialecki said he abstained due to his position as director of the Lincoln County Economic Corporation, a private 301(c)(6) nonprofit organization that is partially funded by the county. Bialecki noted he has abstained from voting on the county’s budgets “for the last several sessions at the recommendation of (former Corporation Counsel Nancy Bergstrom).”
McCrank said she abstained due to her salary being paid by through the budget as an employee of the T.B. Scott Library.
Supervisory district maps
The board approved the Lincoln County’s tentative supervisory district plan on Tuesday, Sept. 21. Following the adoption of the tentative plan, each municipality in the county provided feedback regarding the boundaries and drew the wards that will be used for election purposes over the course of the next decade.
During a public meeting regarding the maps, Board Chair Kevin Koth noted a few adjustments to the tentative plan that were made to account for changes in population.
Koth said the tentative maps were at 10.35% deviation, which is the difference in population between the highest-populated district and the lowest-populated district relative to the ideal population in each district. In Lincoln County’s case, the ideal population is 1,292 residents per district.
With the adjustments, the maps have a deviation of 10.6%. Andrew Faust, Senior GIS Analyst with the North Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, told the board in September that courts have previously ruled that deviations of roughly 10% are constitutional.
Later in the meeting, following the end of the public hearing and minimal discussion, the board voted to approve the maps.
The maps can be viewed at www.bit.ly/3HqWed4.
The Lincoln County Board of Supervisors’ next meeting will be held in-person at the Lincoln County Service Center in Merrill and virtually via Google Meets on Dec. 21, 2021. Links to virtual meetings can be found on the county’s website at www.co.lincoln.wi.us/meetings.