County executive proposing 1.88 percent increase in tax levy for 2012

Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser unveiled his 2012 Budget Plan — which includes a 1.88 percent tax levy increase — at Tuesday night’s County Board meeting.

The following is from a statement released by Kreuser’s office:

“Included in this budget are difficult choices – and changes – that will ultimately make our community stronger in the years ahead,” Kreuser said. “This budget is designed to make the necessary cuts, but avoid unnecessary pain. That is not to say that people won’t experience waiting lists or experience some modest change in service.”

Kreuser’s proposal seeks significant health care changes for county employees. Under the proposal, employee health care contributions would increase 50 percent. The change will impact more than half of county employees in 2012 – non-classified employees and those whose labor contracts have expired. Nearly all of the remaining employees would be moved to the new plan in 2013.

“These changes will result in a $1 million savings in 2012 and puts a greater responsibility on the employees as health care consumers to make healthier choices or to pay more in the future,” Kreuser said. “In 2013, when almost all of our county employees can be placed in this new plan, we will save another $1 million.”

State changes in Human Services will result in a $2.4 million loss to Kenosha County in Federal pass-through dollars used for wrap-around services in the areas of mental health, youth jail alternatives, gang diversion and counseling for struggling families.

Kreuser proposes a reduction of $1.6 million to the Human Services Department and reinforcing the prevention and family services area.

“For every dollar we spend, we save $3 to $5 in juvenile detention, jail and court costs. We can’t afford not to do this,” Kreuser said. “We have seen other counties make that short term mistake only to pay millions of dollars later because, what people sometimes forget, is that many of these costs are court-ordered and we have to pay them.”

In addition to the $1 million gain from employee health care changes in 2012 and 2013, and the $2.4 million loss in Federal draw-down money for Human Services delivery in 2012 and 2013, Kreuser noted some of the additional assistance and challenges for the 2012 budget:

  • A cut of $1 million as the result of eliminating and defunding jobs county-wide;
  • A $317,000 reduction in overtime county-wide;
  • Increased revenues by $1.6 million from the state law changes in the Wisconsin Retirement System; and
  • Lost $400,000 in state shared revenue.

Other budget highlights:

  • Completion of the broadband Internet project for public safety and the underserved public and businesses. It will make high-speed Internet accessible county-wide;
  • $500,000 for the Kenosha Area Business Alliance high-impact development fund;
  • Paving about 13 miles of county highways – an on-going road maintenance cost;
  • Improvements and reconstruction on Highway G/30th Avenue;
  • Reconstruction of Petrifying Springs Park Road; and,
  • With the assistance of State Stewardship funds, connect Silver Lake Park to the public boat launch with a path that will then allow citizens to be able to walk or bike ride around Silver Lake.

“Taking into account all of the moving parts of the federal, state and local events, I am proposing the 2012 Kenosha County budget with a 6/10th of one percent lift in the operating levy, and a 1.2 percent increase in the debt service levy for an overall lift of 1.88 percent in the tax levy,” Kreuser said.

The owner of a home valued at $100,000 in Kenosha County would pay an increase of $4.52, or a 1.14% increase, in 2012 over the previous year – a little more than a penny a day.

Kreuser said his proposed 2012 budget provides stability for the county’s future.

“Any county that doesn’t prepare itself to come out of this recession stronger than it went in is making a serious mistake,” Kreuser said.

The budget will now go to the county Finance & Administration Committee for deliberations. Final budget adoption is expected on Nov. 9.

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