JUNEAU – The Dodge County Board of Supervisors got its first look at the proposed 2012 budget numbers Tuesday night.
County Administrator Jim Mielke stressed that the numbers are only forecasts, for the most part. Many of the actual figures will not be available until mid-September.
The proposed numbers caused quite a bit of discussion in two areas; taxes and savings from the budget repair bill.
In order to keep the total tax levy equal to the 2011 levy, the mill rate would be raised 12 cents.
Since the property value dropped 2.18 percent in the county, the mill rate would be $5.52, as opposed to the mill rate of $5.40 in 2011, to give the county the same budget numbers.
Keeping the mill rate at $5.40 would be a loss in revenue of $700,000 in comparison to 2011.
However, some supervisors do not agree with raising the mill rate.
Supervisor Bob Smith said that saying they aren’t increasing the levy does not mean anything to the public. What they see is taxes going up.
“As far as the public is concerned, we’re playing games with numbers,” Smith said.
He said this year, everybody said they weren’t going to raise taxes and the mill rate increased. This year, everyone says taxes won’t be raised, but the mill rate could increase, basically raising taxes.
Mielke disagreed, stating that the state officials promised not to raise taxes.
“Dodge County did not promise anybody that taxes would not go up,” he said. “Mr. Walker does not speak for Dodge County.”
He said it is important to remember that with the levy cap, the 2012 levy will be the base for the 2013 budget.
Board Chairman Russell Kottke agreed.
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“If we don’t raise the 12 cents, I think it’s going to hurt us in 2013,” he said.
Supervisor Eugene Wurtz said he feels that it may be necessary to look at where the money is going in the county and prioritizing services.
“I don’t like the idea of property evaluations going down and taxes going up,” Wurtz said. “What are our citizens’ priorities?”
Smith stated that in looking at all the numbers, the loss in taxes could possibly be made up in part by some excess from the budget repair bill.
He said he felt the budget repair bill saved far more than was expected, giving the proposed budget over $500,000 excess in savings from employee contributions.
“The employees are sacrificing to a greater extent than I anticipated,” Smith said. “I think we have a responsibility to see it put to good use. We have a responsibility to make it as fair as possible.”
Mielke said the plan was to put the savings into the general or “rainy day” fund to be used in future years. He said in future years, there may be more challenges that would be a better use of the funds.
Smith felt that the funding would be put to better use in allowing the board to raise the mill rate partially instead of by the full 12 cents.
He said he did not believe the employees, after all the grief given to them, are giving up 12 to 15 percent of their pay to the board can put it in a bank account to be spent at some undecided future time.
Board supervisor Rodger Mattson agreed, asking how he was supposed to explain to his constituents that the county is putting money in a rainy day fund when they don’t have enough money to put aside some to fix their car or replace their refrigerator.
Mielke stood by the proposal, saying that once the numbers are in, they will have a much more firm grasp of the budget requirements. He said the board is seeing the proposal to save them from bringing a budget into the October meeting that no one could agree with.
He said the board is there to look into the future of the county.
“As a county, we’re here to help our residents and help them where the need is,” Mielke said.