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County budget levy, rate increase

November 17, 2010 | 09:09 AM
Elkhorn — After expanding its 2011 budget and levy of $60.8 million by a scant $2,800, the Walworth County Board approved its spending plan by a 9-2 vote on Nov. 8.

Only supervisors Dan Kilkenny and Randy Hawkins voted against the budget and levy.

Based on where a taxpayer lives and how much of the four-part county tax levy he or she has to support, a property owner could find his or her property taxes for county purposes increased by 6.06 percent.'

The county's combined tax rate for all levies will be $4.20 per $1,000 of equalized assessed valuation. That's 6 percent higher than last year's combined county tax rate of $3.96 per $1,000.

That means the owner of a $250,000 home who is subject to the combined county rate will pay $1,050 in county property taxes for county purposes for 2011. That's an increase of 6.06 percent over when that same homeowner in 2010, paid $990 for county purposes.

However, the county's tax levy and tax rate are divided into four corresponding parts, and not everyone in the county pays the same tax rate:

n Operations fund, which funds most county departments.

The operations levy is $46.6 million, up 6.27 percent from last year's levy of $43.9 million.

The operating fund tax rate is $3.23 per $1,000 of equalized assessed valuation;

n Debt service, which pays off the county's long-term, structured debt.

The debt service levy is $4.2 million, down 19.5 percent from last year's levy of $5.2 million.

The debt service tax levy is 29 cents per $1,000, down from 34 cents last year.

n Library fund, which pays for library service in the unincorporated areas.

The library levy is $1.46 million, up 5.16 percent from last year's levy of $1.4 million.

The library tax rate is 10 cents per $1,000, up from 9.4 cents last year.

n CDEB (Children with Disabilities Education Board) fund, which pays for the county's portion of special education programs.

The CDEB levy is $8.5 million, down 0.7 percent from last year's levy of $8.55 million.

The CDEB tax rate is 58 cents per $1,000, down from last year's rate of 58.6 cents.

Everyone pays the tax rates for the operating fund and debt service.

Property owners in communities with municipal libraries do not pay the library tax, and Walworth County property owners in the Clinton and Burlington school districts don't pay the CDEB tax, because those school districts have their own special education programs.

The 2011 Walworth County $60.8 million levy is 2.88 percent more than last year's levy of $59.1 million.

Supervisors placed seven budget amendments before the County Board for approval. Of those, six had no impact on the tax levy. Five of the seven amendments were approved.

Of the five approved amendments, one, from Kilkenny, adds $2,800 to the budget for the Safe Ride Program, contingent on the Walworth County Tavern League receiving matching funds from the state to help pay for the program.

Safe Ride pays for cab rides for tavern patrons who have had too much to drink.

Two other amendments proposed by Kilkenny were rejected by the board.

The first would have cut $30,000 from the $130,000 county allocation to the Walworth County Visitors Bureau. The second would have eliminated the $50,000 county allocation to the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance. The $80,000 in cuts from those programs were to have gone to pay for retiree health insurance, (called Other Post Employment Benefits.)

Both Kilkenny and Hawkins, who voted against this year's budget, have questioned the county's funding of WCEDA.

The other four approved amendments:

n Makes room for $160,000 in state transportation aids, and reduce $8 million in bond funding for road construction by the same amount.

n Cuts $50,000 from medical services saved through a new contract, and put the savings into retiree health insurance.

n Reorganizes the public works department due to a vacancy and a retirement to save $140,600. Of that, $100,000 will go to bond funding for new road construction and $40,600 will go to contracted services

n Makes a technical correction in equipment charges in the Public Works budget and the State Highway Maintenance Division.

Still, while the county property tax rate will increase slightly, the county will be able to keep its operating tax rate well below the state-imposed cap.

This year, Walworth County's operating fund cap is $3.84 per $1,000, 61 cents more than the rate the county is levying.

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