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Waupaca County tackles debt

Property tax rate drops in 2020

By Robert Cloud

Finance Director Heidi Dombrowski presented the proposed 2020 Waupaca County budget at the county board’s Oct. 29 meeting.

The county’s proposed tax levy for the 2020 budget is $28.4 million, an increase of just under $150,000 over 2019.

The estimated tax rate is $6.70 per $1,000 of equalized value, as compared to the 2019 mill rate of $6.86.

Dombrowski said the median value of a home in Waupaca County is $142,300.

The 2020 county tax on that home would be $953.84, which is $22.85 less than 2019.

Factors that have contributed to the county’s decreased tax rate have been the elimination of some debt service, increased revenues from the county’s sales tax, rising property values and the sale of Lakeview Manor in Weyauwega.

The county originally planned to spend $484,000 in 2020 to raze the old Lakeview Manor building in Weyauwega.

In October, the county received multiple bids on the facility through an online real estate auction.

Although the sale has not closed yet, Dombrowski said the county hopes to finalize it by the end of the year.

Total equalized property values in Waupaca County rose from $4.11 billion in 2018 to $4.23 billion in 2019.

County cuts annual debt payments

Waupaca County paid off its 2009 notes on May 1, 2019, which will reduce the county’s 2020 debt service by about $1 million and the debt service levy by $183,000.

Waupaca County’s total general obligation debt is $32.5 million, with debt service payments of nearly $4.2 million in 2020.

Dombrowski explained Waupaca County’s recent history of debt service payments.

In 2017, the county paid $6.1 million on its total general obligation debt.

Those debt payments were funded by $3.5 million in sales taxes, $3.5 million from the operating levy and $1.85 million in debt levy adjustment.

In 2020, the county’s $4.2 million debt service payments are covered by $570,000 from sales taxes and $3.65 million in debt levy adjustment.

Debt levy adjustment allows the county to apply other revenue sources and raise its levy capacity to pay for its capital improvement projects. “As debt service payments decreases, the amount of sales tax and operating levy applied to capital projects increases,” Dombrowski said.

Since 2017, the county has not applied any debt service payments to its operating capacity.

“Heidi, with her vision and guidance, has really brought this budget under control,” according to County Supervisor Peter Bosquez.

Sales taxes

Waupaca County’s sales tax revenues have increased steadily since 2014.

Instead of relying on debt, the county is using more of its sales tax to help fund its capital improvement purchases and projects.

Of the $4 million in sales tax revenues expected in 2020, $3.5 million will pay for capital improvements.

Public hearing

The Waupaca County Board will hold a public hearing on the 2020 budget at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, in the board room at the courthouse.

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