County Board passes 2016 budget

By Kathleen McGwin

By applying $594,053 of cash surplus to next year’s budget, the Marquette County Board was able to reduce the increase in proposed tax levy for the 2016 budget from 7.34% to 2.29%.  The budget of $19,706,599 passed at last week’s County Board meeting.  Administrative Coordinator/Finance Director Brenda Jahns-Grams said that the fund balance would still be within the range recommended by the auditors if the cash surplus was used.

The levy rate per $1,000 of equalized value will be $7.9197 compared to $7.5435 in 2015 and $7.5599 in 2014.

According to the Summary by Department handed out at last week’s County Board meeting, the largest areas of increase in the County Board Budget are $103,063 in the Sheriff’s Department for added security staff, $340,496 in the Highway Department for county road maintenance and a reduction in road aid, $102,576 for Circuit Court caused by loss of revenue from grants, fines and fees, $42,076 in the Health Department due to increased wages and health insurance costs, $49,900 in Property due to radio tower expenses and increased fair grant support, and $33,511 in the County Board costs due to anincrease of per diem payment to County Board Supervisors.

The County Board voted prior to last week’s meeting to increase the per diem rate for supervisors from $50 a day to $75 a day.  According to County Clerk Gary Sorensen, supervisors will receive this payment for any day they attend meetings regardless of the number or kind of meeting attended in any given day.  Supervisors also get $.55 a mile for travel on county business.  A quick review of other county’s per diem rates showed:

Monroe County recently considered a resolution “which calls for supervisors to receive a $10 increase for attending committee meetings, going from $40 to $50, and a $25 hike for attending the monthly county board meeting, going from $50 to $75.”

Washington County Board members “receive a salary of $550 per month and a per diem for each day of meetings attended after the first thirty meetings of each County Board year.”

In Adams County, “the per diem rate for attendance at County Board meetings is $45.00; per diem rate for attendance at all other meetings and events, is $35.00. Effective April 2016, County Board meetings are $50.00 per diem rate for attendance. All other meetings and events are $40.00.”

In 2016, the Waushara County Board Supervisors will “be increased to $50 (committee meetings), with a maximum of three meetings per day; $75 if attending a full day conference or meeting lasting six or more hours; County Board meeting per diem be increased to $75…”

Citizens were present to speak during the Public Hearing portion of the meeting about Marquette County Library Aid.  County Board Chair Bob Miller allowed only two people of about ten in attendance on the issue to speak in support of returning $4,000 to the budget.  The libraries had requested an $8,000 increase after several years of no increase. This had been approved during the budget approval process then was cut to a $4,000 increase at a prior meeting.  No one spoke in opposition to restoring the requested amount. Aaron Raschke, Director of the Ethel Everhard Public Library in Westfield told the board that flat funding really means a reduction in funding because of increased costs.
The total County portion of Library Aid was $232,642 in 2015.  There are six libraries in Marquette County.   It was also pointed out by speakers that if the increase stayed at only $4,000, that would not even cover the cost that Marquette County libraries pay to libraries in adjacent counties for Marquette County citizens who use those libraries.  This means, for instance, if a Marquette County resident checks out a book at the Portage Library, a Marquette County library must pay the Portage Library for that service. 

Board Supervisor Jon Sheller made a motion to restore $2,000 of the $4,000 was that was cut.  Supervisor Robert Goldsmith seconded the motion and the motion carried with two dissenting votes.  After the meeting, Goldsmith said that he supported the motion and libraries because they are important resources for children.  Sheller also expressed support for the libraries because of their use by children.