County budget hearing scheduled for Oct. 26

Spending to increase 5.6%, property tax levy up 1.4%
Warren Bluhm
News Editor

A $50.2 million county budget for 2024 is heading toward a public hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 26 at the Oconto County Courthouse, 301 Washington St., Oconto.

The budget resolution was on the agenda for the county board’s Administration Committee meeting on Oct. 12, so some tweaking may be completed before the budget reaches the full board later this month.

County Administrator Erik Pritzl says the budget was hammered out over a series of about 30 meetings over 2½ weeks in September, as he and Finance Director Lisa Sherman met with department heads and outside agencies that receive county funding.

“I will say the department heads did an excellent job of preparing their budgets,” Pritzl said. “I think in particular they really looked for ways to support their operations and their staff increases with any revenue they have access to or looking at expenses they could make changes to.”

County revenues got a boost when the state Department of Revenue boosted equalized values by double digits for the second year in a row. The equalized value of property in Oconto County increased 18%, according to a DOR report last month.

An increase in net new construction of 1.56% translates to $309,182 in new money, and the Legislature approved a supplemental shared revenue increase of $477,412, Pritzl said.

The bottom line is that the county has up to $786,594 in additional funding available for its 2024 budget, he said.

The budget includes 2% across-the-board wage increases for most county employees, along with step increases and merit pay, plus a 1% retention incentive to be paid for employees who stay with the county through 2024.

Pritzl said the county got good news from its health insurance provider, which came in with a 5% premium increase. County officials prepared their original budget estimates based on a 9% increase, he said.

To maintain services, the county will have to apply about $713,000 of its fund balance – or savings account – but that is less than the $1.2 million that was applied a year ago, Pritzl said.

“We’re getting closer to — I don’t know if we’ll ever get to zero, but I don’t want to apply general fund unless we have to,” he said.

The proposed budget spends $50,254,566, a 5.6% increase over 2023, but because of increases in other revenues, the proposed property tax levy of $22.06 million represents only a 1.4% increase.