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Proposed budget maintains Rock County services

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ANN MARIE AMES
October 9, 2009
— Rock County taxpayers could foot a larger part of next year’s county budget than they have in recent years.

And more sales tax dollars will be spent to cover the county’s day-to-day operations than in other years.


But Administrator Craig Knutson included no major cuts or additions to his version of the 2010 budget, which he presented Thursday night to the county board.


Knutson’s goals, he said, were to maintain the county’s financial integrity, maintain service levels during this time of need and position the county to address issues in 2011 and beyond.


The board will spend the next month going over the $170.8 million budget in detail with Knutson and will host at least one public hearing before possibly adopting the budget Tuesday, Nov. 10.


Knutson recommends the county levy $57.04 million from property owners in 2010. That boils down to an increase of $19 per $100,000 of property for the average Rock County property owner, Knutson said.


It’s an increase of 3.66 percent over last year’s levy, according to county data. Compare that to a 3.03 percent increase in 2009 and a 2.94 percent increase in 2008.


The increase is bigger than it has been, but not as big as it could have been, Knutson said during a review of his proposal with the Gazette.


While the state numbers aren’t finalized, county staff members estimate the county could increase the levy as much as 8.13 percent in 2010, Knutson said.


Knutson recommends the county in 2010 stop using money from its general fund to cover day-to-day operations. In 2009, he recommended spending $700,000. It was $1.7 million the year before that.


He does not recommend using money for expenses from the $16.9 million “rainy day” fund because the fund is getting close to the minimum of 10 percent of expenditures financial experts recommend keeping in reserve.


On the flip side, Knutson recommends using a bigger chunk of county sales tax dollars to fund operations in 2010 compared to other years.


Sales tax dollars continue to fall below annual projections made since the county started collecting the tax in 2007. The county anticipated collecting $10 million in 2009, but at this point, that number looks like it will be closer to $9.5 million, Knutson said.


In 2010, Knutson projects the county will collect $8.8 million in sales tax—a conservative estimate based on UW Extension annual sales tax estimates.


Knutson recommends spending $1.6 million of that money for capital projects in 2010 and using $7.16 million for operating expenses. That’s an increase of $1.15 million over sales taxes budgeted for operations in 2009.


The biggest capital project planned for 2010 is an upgrade at the Rock County Jail. The first phase of the $56.5 million jail expansion could cost $8.46 million and would include building a new booking room, remodeling the medical facility and some maintenance projects.


Other phases of the project are on hold at this time.


The other capital project could be at the of the county-run Rock Haven nursing home. If the county decides it will stay in the nursing home business, it will have to decide whether to renovate or rebuild the nursing home in order to meet new federal guidelines and meet the needs of the home’s population.


Overall, the county will lose 11.3 net staff positions in 2010, according to Knutson’s proposal. Some departments could gain positions, including economic support, the department that oversees medical and food programs.


ROCK COUNTY BUDGET

A look at the 2010 budget for Rock County:


Highlights: For the first time in several years, the county tax rate is increasing, although the increase will be balanced by a projected decrease in property values. The average Rock County property owner could see a property tax increase of $19 for every $100,000 of property. Also for the first time in several years, the county will not spend any of its general fund for operations, according to the proposed budget. Construction at the Rock County Jail and a debate about the future of Rock Haven look to be the big capital project discussions in 2010.


What’s next?: The county board Monday, Nov. 2, will review the budget proposal with Administrator Craig Knutson. The board will host a public hearing on the budget at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4. The board could adopt a budget Tuesday, Nov. 10.


Total budget


Next year $170.8 million


This year $169.9 million


Increase 0.58%


Tax levy


Next year $57.04 million


This year $55.03 million


Increase 3.66 %


Tax rate


(Per $1,000


of equalized valuation)


Next year $5.65


This year $5.38


Increase 5.05%


Note: Percent changes calculated on whole numbers.



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