Taxpayers in Oneida County will pay a 3.2 percent increase in rate per $1,000 of equalized value on property after the Oneida County board approved their budget at the monthly meeting held on Tuesday. Last year, the rate was 2.16 percent and this year’s rate will be 2.23. That means the owners of a home worth $100,000 will pay $223 in property taxes. Last year the bill would have been $216.
Total expenditures for the county in 2011 were $53,575,046 and they are estimated at $47,941,527 for 2012. Revenue for 2012 was estimated at $47,953,618. The county also has an estimated $10,985,680 in the general fund.
The board did take $640,000 from the general fund for several different purposes. There was $250,000 removed to balance the budget so the levy would remain relatively unchanged; $335,000 was taken out to purchase technology upgrades to the county’s accounting system and phone and Internet programs; and a total of $55,000 was taken out to replenish several county program budgets that were cut. That included $17,000 from UW-Extension to support a youth development agent. There was $23,000 taken from the dive team budget, and the tourism budget was decreased by $15,000. Board supervisor Jerry Shidell thought depleting the general fund, at least to balance the budget, was a bad idea. “I think having a rainy day fund is very good,” he said. “My problem is using it during bad economic times. To dip into this fund is the exact thing we shouldn’t do. If $250,000 is the trend now and every year, when do we stop this trend? Unless we see better times, I can’t see dipping into this fund.”
But despite Shidell’s remonstrations, the board voted to borrow an additional $55,000 after hearing pleas from directors of programs that would be directly affected by those cuts. Lara Reed, executive director of the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, along with Kim Baltus, executive director of the Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce, explained to the board how cutting the tourism budget was detrimental for the county. Last year, they were allotted $100,000 for tourism expenses, mostly marketing the area to other regions of the country. This year, the board decreased that budget by $15,000. “That money comes back to the county many times over,” said Baltus. “Tourists bring in a lot of revenue to Oneida County. It’s very important to keep promoting the county in other parts of the state and country.”
Erica Brewster, director of UW-Extension in Oneida County, told the board removing $17,000 from that budget would essentially eliminate the youth development position. She gave a very thorough presentation on what a youth development agent does and how they help promote such programs as teen court.
Also making a pitch to the board was John Sweeney, chief deputy with the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department, who was representing the dive team. That was slated for $23,000 in cuts. “Since 2008, we’ve had 37 dive team calls,” he said. “We’ve had 187 volunteer dives. I think it’s important to have a dive team here. We have over 1,000 lakes in this county.”
Again, Shidell thought the expenditure was unnecessary. “This is more of a recovery team,” he said. “We can contract this out.”
The board did vote to reinstate all the money to these programs through the general fund.