The 2020 Kenosha County budget, resulting in a 2.43 percent increase in the tax levy, was approved by the County Board Wednesday night, though not without an eleventh-hour attempt to restore bonding for capital improvements.
“It has definitely been a challenging budget,” chairman Daniel Esposito, said, adding he appreciated the number of supervisors who attended the committee meetings and budget hearings.
“This budget is a compromise,” Supervisor Terry Rose said in making the motion to approve the budget. “Some of the compromises that were made have to do with bonding. There has been concern over some period of time that we have been borrowing too much.”
As a result, the proposed 2020 capital outlay bonding of $22,850,000 was reduced by $750,000 after budget hearings last week eliminated or deferred bonding for specific projects.
Supervisor Jeffrey Gentz made a motion prior to the budget adoption to restore that $750,000 in bonding. He said the projects the bonding would pay for will cost more later and could result in the need to pay for costly repairs in the interim.
“What we did was defer bonding at a time when interest rates are at a historic low,” Gentz said.
Supervisors Dennis Elverman, Daniel Gaschke and Monica Yuhas agreed, and voiced support for Gentz’s motion, which ultimately failed by a 17-6 vote.
The following projects were either eliminated or deferred:
$500,000 HVAC replacement (pushed to 2021)
$100,000 golf course improvement (stormwater related; pushed to 2021)
$100,000 parks project design (eliminated for 2020)
$50,000 operations equipment for Sheriff’s Department (eliminated for 2020)
Cuts called ‘reckless’
Elverman, chairman of the Public Works and Facilities Committee, called the cuts “reckless,” and Yuhas said “kicking the can down the road” is a disservice to taxpayers.
Elverman said the projects were identified as part of a five-year plan, and Gaschke said eliminating the bonding for those items is irresponsible.
“These proposed purchases, projects and repairs are not frivolous wishes,” Gaschke said. “They are prudent recommendations and requests based upon professional opinions from dedicated county employees.”
Rose and Supervisor Erin Decker said the county is still bonding significantly more in the capital improvement project budget than in 2019.
“There is $10 million more in the CIP budget than last year,” Decker said, listing each and every increase. “To say that we carefully watch CIP is ridiculous.”
Espisito passed the gavel in order to weigh-in on the issue, stating he supports the elimination of the $750,000 as a compromise.
Budget to decrease
The 2020 budget, approved by a 19-4 vote, comes with a decrease in overall expenditures from $235 million to $234 million.
Rose said the budget includes changes to the health insurance plan for county employees, who will pay a $500 deductible under single plans and a $1,000 deductible under family plans.
Once the deductible is met, the plan covers eligible in-network claims at 90 percent until maximum out-of-pocket amounts of $6,000 for single and $12,000 for family plans are reached. At that point, claims are covered at 100 percent.
During budget deliberations, several county employees pleaded with officials “not to balance the budget on the backs of county employees,” claiming their wages have not kept pace with inflation and how their health insurance costs will increase as well.
Rose said the budget includes a 4 percent wage increase in 2020 for those who are not at the top of the scale and 2 percent for those who are, with an additional 1 percent increase in 2021.
Tax levy to increase
The tax levy, or amount needed from local property owners to support county services, is now budgeted to increase $1,624,742, to $68,557,937, which falls below the county’s levy limit.
As a result, the tax rate is now set to decrease 22 cents, to $4.53 per $1,000 of property value. It means the owner of a home valued at $200,000 would pay $906 to support the county. Taxes on a median home, which increased in value from $179,196 in 2019 to $188,950 in 2020, will increase $4.15, to $855.87.
Other failed eleventh-hour budget amendments:
A motion by Gentz to require the Kenosha County sheriff to use money being budgeted for vehicle purchases on SUVs or sedans rather than for the proposed purchase of trucks.
A motion by Supervisor John Poole to eliminate one staff member from Workforce Development because the economic climate does not justify the current staffing level.