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Cut county deficit in half, says committee

Cut county deficit in half, says committee Cut county deficit in half, says committee

The Marathon County Human Resources, Finance and Property Committee last week Tuesday tasked administrator Lance Leonhard with finding spending cuts to cleave in half a projected $5.17 million budget deficit.

County finance director Kristi Palmer told supervisors the county was on track to run a multi-million dollar deficit in 2020 largely as a result of COVID-19 pandemic stunting both sales tax and property tax receipts. She said sales tax receipts would likely fall 12 percent this year and property taxes by 1.5 percent.

Palmer said supervisors budgeted $50.6 million in property taxes in 2020, but likely will only receive $50.2 million. Similarly, supervisors planned for $13.5 million in sales taxes, but should anticipate receiving only $11.9 million.

In terms of the total budget, Palmer said supervisors projected receiving $171 million in total revenues in 2020. A revised forecast, she said, is $167 million.

County board chairman Kurt Gibbs, town of Cassel, said private businesses “instantly” adjust their budgets when the economy sours and the county needed to do the same.

He said the county board used reserves to pay for this past year’s emergency jail construction projects and it would “not be prudent” to tap county reserves again for the entire deficit.

Committee chairman John Robinson, Wausau, suggested financing half of the deficit through reserves and the other half through program cuts. Committee vice-chair Alyson Leahy, Wausau, and supervisor Jonathon Fischer, Wausau, said the half-and-half approach was “balanced...and prudent.”

In a four year financial projection, Palmer told supervisors she predicted three years of county deficits before the county would run a small surplus. Deficits would crescendo in 2021, she said, at $7 million and trend down to $6.3 million in 2023 and $3.8 million in 2023. Palmer predicted a $267,000 surplus in 2024.

In those four years, she said, property taxes would incrementally increase from $50.6 million to $53.7 million.

In other business, the committee passed a motion not to support an Act 185 resolution that would end interest penalties for people who don’t pay their property taxes on time.

John Robinson