Kewaunee County Administrator Scott Feldt this week introduced a $23.7 million budget proposal for 2019 that actually spends a little less than this year while making significant investments in economic development and broadband access.

“As a county we have weathered a number of challenges, and because of hard work by dedicated employees and smart decisions by the County Board, we are in a better financial position today than we’ve been in nearly a decade,” Feldt told the board as he distributed the 300-page map of proposed tax and spending for the coming year.

Work to stabilize the county’s fund balances and overcome deficits in key departments has enabled Kewaunee County to improve its credit rating from A to AA-, resulting in interest savings of more than $423,000 when it refinanced a portion of its debt in 2016, Feldt said, one of several steps he recounted in describing the work to recover from the economic blow created by the closure of the Kewaunee Power Station nuclear plant in 2013.

Among the highlights of the budget proposal:

+ The county will begin to address the issue of a new public safety facility to replace the jail and law enforcement center in Kewaunee (pictured), which Feldt noted opened 50 years ago.

“Since that time federal and state standards have changed, and we must adhere to those standards,” he said. “Kewaunee County will conduct this process methodically and deliberately.”

No decisions will be made until a needs assessment has been completed, discussed and thoroughly debated, Feldt said.

+ $1 million from the county’s economic development fund will be allocated to expand internet access to the rural areas of Kewaunee County.

“It is our hope that we can provide broadband access to 75 percent of Kewaunee County by 2020,” Feldt said.

The allocation does not obligate the county in any way, he added.

“The board will have to approve the project, the vendor, and the contract agreement before one dollar is expended,” Feldt said.

+ Feldt is asking the board to renew the county’s commitment to the Kewaunee County Economic Development Corp., which has been undergoing a transformation this year after the 2018 budget cut the county contribution to $18,000. The administrator proposes increasing that to $40,000 in 2019.

“KCEDC plays a vital role in supporting our current businesses and attracting new ones,” he said. “With this commitment, I challenge existing businesses to reaffirm their commitment to KCEDC as well. This public-private partnership cannot flourish without a strong and sizable financial support from private businesses.”

Among other initiatives, Feldt said the county will continue to work with other local governments to find efficiencies, collaborate with friends groups and other private organizations to improve parks, and supplement local funding by applying for grants when available.

Over the next several weeks, each of the board’s governing committees will review its portion of the budget during its regular monthly meeting and forward any recommendations to the Finance Committee.

A public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 9 in the County Board room at the County Administration Center, 810 Lincoln St., Kewaunee, starting with a review and explanation of the budget by Feldt.

The County Board’s statutory annual meeting and budget adoption are scheduled for its November meeting, to be held at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 5, also at the Administration Center.