Chippewa County will have a $550,000 shortfall after a $10-per-vehicle wheel tax expires at the end of this year. Supervisors at Tuesday’s October monthly meeting broached how to make up for that in the coming years.
“We need to find a long range plan for sustainable funding,” advised Finance Director Melissa Roach, noting no decisions had to be made that night, however, supervisors should begin considering future methods.
The wheel tax has been in effect for the last five year, relayed Brian Kelley, county highway commissioner.
“We didn’t want to rush something into this budget...we’ll work on it this fall and winter...the wheel tax will sunset in a couple of weeks,” he added. “As far as winter road funding (right now) we are sitting at where we want to be.”
The county currently spends around $4.4 million annually to upkeep its almost 500 miles of roads and about $500,000 for bridges in Chippewa County. This includes taxpayer dollars, state and federal dollars and borrowing. On average, just under 9 miles are replaced fully every year at this rate, Kelley indicated.
“We’re a little behind bridges,” said Kelley.
One option a referendum next November election. Voters would be asked to pay a total of $2 million more, thus increasing the tax levy to cover shortfalls. It would equate to roughly $57 per year, per $150,000 of value per homeowner, Kelley told the Board.
“We would request support from the public and County Board,” Kelley said.
“If the referendum passes, we can increase the property tax rate,” said Roach. “That allows us to increase the tax levy outside the state levy (cap).”
One proposal offered increasing the road funding each year to $7.9 million each year, and bridges by another $700,000.
A second option would be creating a new wheel tax to cover funds—this time without an expiration date. That would be $20 or $30 per vehicle, for several hundred thousand dollars of revenue.
Further options would be an increase in county sales tax, for just over $5 million generated in revenue.
Borrowing options included long and short term opportunities.
Supervisor Dean Gullicksen said while the county was on the right track, he felt Chippewa County was underfunding tourism opportunities.
“What you put out in marketing, is what you get back in revenue,” he said.
In other County Board business, supervisors:
• Approved 10-4 a new raise method for county employees, eliminating the pay for performance current system. That will end after 2020 completes, Randy Scholz, county administrator, advised.
Increases in pay could still be determined via an individual department.
“You’re asking us to pass this without knowing what’s going into it,” said Steve Gerrish, supervisor. “I don’t see a plan.”
“I think it’s a good move,” said Matt Hartman. “If something’s broke, we need to fix it.”
• Heard about the progress of the Stand for Meth Campaign from Scholz and Buck Rhyme.
“I’m proud to say we’ve worked ourselves out of a job,” said Rhyme of the success of the campaign.
The county now has a core team in place that meets once a month as well as more than 100 community volunteers who continue to work on the campaign.
“What a special place Chippewa County is,” he added.
• Approved a resolution to create an Ad Hoc Committee to Study the Feasibility of the Development of New Business Park in Chippewa County.
• Okayed an ordinance to create the Criminal Justice Division within the Department of Administration as well as create a criminal justice services division director. This will not be a new position.