The Kewaunee County Board on Tuesday voted 14-5 to approve a $24 million county budget for 2018 and 15-4 to set a tax levy of $11,864,016. Three separate attempts to amend the budget were defeated; property taxpayers will be charged $7.30 per $1,000 of equalized value for county purposes when their bills arrive next month.
The board turned back three efforts to amend the budget. First, Supervisor Chris Rasmussen made a motion to reduce the levy by $250,000 using the proceeds from the first $500,000 contribution that Dominion Resources Inc. has agreed to make.
Dominion, owner of the closed Kewaunee Power Station nuclear plant, negotiated the contribution to offset the effects of a property tax refund the company is owed as part of the settlement in an assessment dispute. The $500,000 has been put into a segregated fund while the county mulls how best to use the money.
“I’m just suggesting we meet in the middle for taxpayers,” Rasmussen said.
Finance Committee Lee Luft cautioned that the county has not yet experienced a full year of revenue from the new county sales tax.
“We all support tax relief, but I cannot ignore the fact that we may have needs that would require us to go out and borrow money,” Weidner added. “I just don’t think those things would look very smart, that we give tax relief now and then borrow money later in the year.”
Rasmussen’s motion was defeated 11-8. (See the end of this article for the roll calls.)
Next, Supervisor John Pagel moved to change the county’s annual contribution to the Kewaunee County Economic Development Corp. back to $30,000. The investment was reduced to $18,000 for 2018.
“They’re doing a lot of good things, we should continue to support,” Pagel said, citing the KCEDC provided valuable services to workers affected by the Masonite closing in Algoma, the Kewaunee Harbor renovation, and job fairs among other efforts.
Supervisor Tom Romdenne said the KCEDC contribution was never meant to be an annual thing.
“At some point we need to start taking steps to step that money down,” Romdenne said.
County Board Chairman Robert Weidner agreed that the county’s $50,000 contribution in 2004 was intended as a one-time donation to get the public-private partnership started.
Supervisor Chuck Wagner, a charter board member and former president of KCEDC, agreed that the organization has served the county well.
“It’s important that the county puts some skin in the game,” Wagner said.
Pagel’s motion failed by an 11-8 vote.
Finally, Supervisor Linda Teske made a motion to back the county administrator’s salary and benefits increase down a step, reducing the budget by $3,407.
After Administrator Scott Feldt’s annual performance review, the personnel committee recommended increasing his salary from its current Step 2 to Step 6 in the county salary schedule, a 12.5 percent increase. The board voted 13-7 in October to drop the increase to Step 5, still a 9.3 percent increase that would result in a 2018 salary of $100,755.
Teske said she is still getting a lot of calls about the move, but other supervisors said the matter was settled last month.
Corporation Counsel Jeff Wisnicky, the board’s parliamentarian, said he toyed with the idea of declaring Teske’s motion out of order but concluded that it was appropriate.
“I think it’s not good practice, if you set a salary you should stick to it, but this is a budget, it’s open for debate, if you want to open up every salary, every line item in this budget, you can do it,” Wisnicky said.
The motion was defeated 12-7.
ROLL CALL VOTES
$250,000 levy reduction — YES (8): Chris Rasmussen, Dennis Cravillion, Doug Doell, Scott Jahnke, Ron Paider, Linda Sinkula, John Pagel, Kaye Shillin. NO (11): Gerald Paape, Larry Kirchman, Charles Wagner, Robert Weidner, Donna Thomas, Thomas Romdenne, Linda Teske, Virginia Haske, Patrick Benes, Lee Luft, John Mastalir.
$30,000 for KCEDC — YES (8): Paape, Wagner, Thomas, Doell, Paider, Pagel, Teske, Haske. NO (11): Kirchman, Weidner, Rasmussen, Cravillion, Jahnke, Sinkula, Romdenne, Benes, Luft, Mastilir, Shillin.
Step 4 for administrator — YES (7): Rasmussen, Doell, Jahnke, Paider, Teske, Benes, Shillin. NO (12): Paape, Kirchman, Wagner, Weidner, Thomas, Cravillion, Sinkula, Pagel, Romdenne, Haske, Luft, Mastilir.
Final budget vote — YES (14): Paape, Kirchman, Wagner, Weidner, Thomas, Cravillion, Jahnke, Paider, Pagel, Romdenne, Haske, Luft, Mastalir, Shillin. NO (5): Rasmussen, Doell, Sinkula, Teske, Benes.
Set tax levy — YES (15): Paape, Kirchman, Wagner, Weidner, Thomas, Cravillion, Doell, Jahnke, Paider, Pagel, Romdenne, Haske, Luft, Mastalir, Shillin. NO (4): Rasmussen, Sinkula, Teske, Benes.
Supervisor Mary Ellen Dobbins was excused.