The Vilas County Finance Committee completed its work on a proposed 2019 budget and will forward the document to the county board for approval Oct. 23 asking for a 1% increase in expenditures and a 3% increase in the property tax levy.

The 2019 budget was set at $35,713,403, compared to $35,237,151 for 2018. Meanwhile, the tax levy for 2019 is proposed to be $16,477,250 compared to $15,982,786 for 2018.

The tax rate for 2019 is estimated to be $2.36 per $1,000 of property value compared to $2.34 for 2018.

Vilas County Finance Director Jason Hilger expressed his thanks to all department heads and their staffs for bringing their budget proposals early to his office and discussing each in detail.

The Finance Committee also heard a report from Jon Trautmann, a certified public accountant with Schenck, on the 2017 county budget audit which showed an unassigned general fund balance of $6.8 million which is close to 39% of the budget. Trautmann said counties should have a minimum of 20% to 25% unassigned fund balance and “anything above 25% you could use.” 

But Trautmann cautioned it “was very dangerous to balance the budget using the fund balance.”

Vilas County expects to use $107,575 next year to balance the budget using surplus funds. The county used $282,509 of surplus dollars in 2017 to balance the budget.

Minor adjustments

Some minor adjustments were made to the budget before it was finalized, including adding $22,000 to the Social Services Department budget for an all-wheel drive, seven-passenger van to be purchased from the state equipment pool.

“We have a state requirement to provide family visits,” said Social Services Director Kate Gardner. “We have 90 kids under our care all over the state and only five in our area and we try when possible to have parents visit at the foster care family location if safety permits it.”

One social worker related the safety aspect of an all-wheel drive vehicle. She said one winter day she had to go from Eagle River to Eau Claire to La Crosse to Lac du Flambeau during a snowstorm.

“It would be safer with all-wheel drive,” she said.

A line item was added to the budget for a revolving loan fund of $200,000 for business start-ups on a 3-1 vote. The item was supported by the Vilas County Economic Development Corp.

Also added to the budget was the anticipated interest for short-term borrowing.

The Vilas County budget hearing is set for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, at the courthouse in Eagle River, conference rooms A and B.