As months dwindle down towards November — budget crunch time — the Vilas County Finance Committee will meet more frequently to prepare for the task at hand: The 2020 county budget and tax levy.
At a meeting Aug. 15, supervisors approved a variety of preliminary budgets.
“I’m looking for preliminary approval not action, many departments are meeting today,” finance director Jason Hilger explained.
Approved were preliminary budgets register of deeds, county clerk and surveyor.
District Attorney Martha Milanowski presented her 2020 budget, noting cuts had been taken in extradition and postage.
“We only do (extradition) in extreme cases,” Milanowski explained. “That’s an unknown. Right now we haven’t used that as much.”
As the office works towards becoming paperless, postage costs can be dropped, she explained.
The capital equipment portion also was lowered, though the department is seeking four new monitors to give them the ability to work on more items at once.
“Our caseload is up,” Milanowski said, adding the office had about 1,000 cases last year, with 900 of those closed.
No interns have expressed interest in Vilas County District Attorney’s office in the last several years, however one Northland Pines graduate studying law did recently contacted Milanowski hoping for the opportunity to intern with her office next summer. The potential candidate hopes to move to this area to practice law after graduation. Milanowski indicated she did plan to request $2,500 for that chance.
“It would be fantastic,” she observed.
“I have no problem with that,” chair Ron DeBruyne said.
The preliminary budget for the district attorney’s office was OKed unanimously.
The victim witness coordinator plans to request a laptop for 2020 — half of which is paid for by the state, it was noted. That initial budget also was passed through.
Also reviewed was the proposed medical examiner’s budget. Vilas County contracts with Oneida County’s medical examiner for coroner services. That individual also contracts with Forest County. That contract can be negotiated, Hilger noted, and it is hoped to be lowered than it currently is proposed.
“I look forward to conversation to reduce the contract,” Hilger observed.
2019 year to date budget reports were also accepted from the district attorney, victim witness, county clerk, finance, treasurer, register of deeds, medical examiner and surveyor.
Tourism budget error
In line item transfers, Hilger indicated a line error resulted in the tourism department having lesser funds than expected in savings resulting from a half time administrative assistant position versus a full time position.
Because insurance costs had not been factored in, the number reflected around $15,100 in savings (with Tourism permitted to use $7,580 of that for promotion and the remainder going to the general fund). The number should have shown insurance and equated to a savings of about $33,250 (with Tourism receiving around $16,600).
“It’s been … restored to its full component,” Hilger said.
“I have big concerns here,” tourism Committee chair Holly Tomlanovich said. “The department took those funds and applied them to other things … the wheels are in motion and it’s kind of hard to unapply that … there could be a shortfall in tourism (now).”
Further, Tomlanovich warned finance supervisors that after a recent discussion, the tourism committee aimed to move back towards a full-time administrative assistant position instead of half time.
“We don’t feel the savings of $8,000 is worth it,” Tomlanovich explained. “There are too minuscule of savings … we weren’t dealing with these numbers when we made these choices.
When the position was reviewed to be cut, the committee expected the department would be permitted to retain all of the dollars it saved, but reducing the assistant — around $33,250. But that figure was cut in half and then cut yet again, Tomlanovich indicated.
County Road B
The committee also reviewed options for County Road B borrowing repayment terms.
The project aims to replace much of County Road B between Land O’ Lakes and Presque Isle.
Options included three-, eight- and 10-year. The 10-year plan would increase the mil rate from $2.31 to $2.39 for the 2021 budget cycle, resulting in an additional $8 per $100,000 of property valuation. The eight-year would have gone to $2.41 for another $10 per valuation and the three year $2.55 for an added $24 per $100,000.
“Five to eight years is a little aggressive,” Hilger said.
“Eight years is a little more favorable, but I’m sure in eight years we’ll lose more roads,” committee member Ron Kressin said. “The five year to me seems to be the best choice.”
DeBruyne said he agreed with that analysis.
A motion regarding the three-year repayment term was approved without opposition.
Vilas County hopes to double the amount of roads it is tending to in coming years to avoid too many roads falling into disrepair beyond reasonable repair belief, Hilger indicated.
“We’ll be in darn good shape 10 years from now,” he observed.
In other business, the committee:
• Approved amendments to the Foreclosure of Tax Delinquent Properties Policy. The resolution is being forwarded to the full county board.
“This better defines the role of the finance committee,” Hilger said.
• OKed survey of several parcels and division into two lots.
• Learned and OKed a real estate agent is expected to sell several tax deed and Vilas county-owned lands.
“Our challenge is to get these properties back on the tax rolls as soon as possible,” DeBruyne said.
• Heard in correspondence a letter regarding the $20,000 cap on the county’s new revolving loan fund.
“We don’t want to be in the business of financing,” DeBruyne said when the question of raising it was examined.
• Also heard in letters a correspondence regarding a body dropped off at an area funeral home resulted in the funeral home not being able to recover services rendered.
The next finance committee meeting is at 9 a.m. Sept. 12. The committee will be weekly thereafter through that month’s end on Thursdays.