In a press release last week, Vilas County Finance Committee chairman Mark Rogacki had good news for Vilas County residents.
“A preliminary budget has been compiled and we are awaiting committee approved budgets which are due in August,” Rogacki said in the press release. “This committee will then be reviewing the document and discussing with each supervisor.”
The really good news, however, is the county’s tax rate.
“The Vilas County-county purposes property tax mill rate continues to be the second lowest in the State of Wisconsin,” Rogacki said. “This means that Vilas County property taxpayers are receiving county services at a very low price.”
Rogacki then highlighted some of the things he said the county is doing to help keep that tax rate where it is.
Among those items:
• Better management of human resources by managing overtime, using limited term employment, and using outside contractors when appropriate.
• Reducing the cost of payroll and benefits through the use of a voluntary retirement plan.
• Actively shopping for health insurance, implementing a health savings accounts and a wellness plan.
• Supporting economic development and creating new jobs with the much needed support of the members of the Economic Development Corporation.
• Use of short term borrowing when needed to help preserve the county’s fund balance and to equitably spread the cost of new capital assets to all Vilas County taxpayers.
• Public Safety: services and protection from the sheriff’s department, jail and emergency government.
• Parks and Recreation: clean parks and boat landings, assistance with Oldenburg Sports Park and fairgrounds.
• Forestry: well-maintained forests for walking, hunting, birding, etc.
• Communication: updated towers for meeting public safety concerns.
• Highway: routine road maintenance, plowing and recent paving projects.
• Commission on Aging: consolidation with the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) to provide services to the county’s senior citizens.
• Department of Social Services: support for residents and visitors with basic needs.
• Public Health: continued support to schools and residents for health and wellness, dental care and animal control services.
• Land and Water: clean water for all our lakes, rivers and streams.
Asked by The Lakeland Times if there were any areas seen as real challenges in 2015, the county’s finance director, Jason Hilger, said one of the items the county is looking at for 2015 is in the area of road improvements.
“I don’t see a lot of sparks in this budget cycle period,” he said. “I think we’re going to beef up the roads. There’s something like $400,000 in [the 2015 budget] but I think the Highway Committee is contemplating throwing another $800,00 on that. I don’t think it’s a bad thing as we’re looking at fixing Highway K. I think we have to figure out how to fund it and whether or not to use the fund balance or short term borrowing will be the debate.”
Hilger said what he really wanted to get out there was that second lowest tax mill rate in Wisconsin for Vilas County.
“We’re working hard to spend money wisely,” he said. “When candidates ran for county board, they had as part of their platforms ‘We’re going to save taxes.’ Then, when they get on board I ask, ‘How much do you want to save? I mean, you’re second lowest in the state.’ What I really want to get out there is ‘Be happy, be lucky and we’re doing good things with your money.’”
Brian Jopek may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.