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Committee Okays $9.44 Million Bonds, Wonders About Next Year

With some obvious misgivings, Marinette County Board’s Finance committee on Monday, July 22 agreed to seek County Board approval for a resolution authorizing $9.44 million in general obligation promissory notes to finance projects listed for 2014 in the County’s previously approved $52.717 million 5-year capital Improvements program. Total capital improvement spending planned for next year comes to $10.8 million. The difference will come from special Parks and Forestry Funds and the Highway Department’s Heavy Equipment Fund.

Supervisor Vilas Schroeder, who chairs both County Board and the Finance Committee, assured members that this action is just to start the bonding process, and they and County Board still need to formally accept the bond issue once it is finalized.

“So the $9 million is just for one year?” asked Supervisor Connie Seefeldt. “How did we get into this?”

Schroeder said every year at budget time they put things off, “and sooner or later we have to take care of some thjings....Now we are looking ahead...Which is not to say that come 2015 we might again put something off.”

“We’re told this will cost just $20 per $100,000,” commented Town of Peshtigo Supervisor Don Pazynski. He added that for many families in his district, with high property values and lots of family farms, that cost will be over $100 a year. “What’s going to happen in 2015, when we come back for more?” he asked.

Schroeder, also from the Town of Peshtigo, said they cannot bond for the whole five year plan right now because of the arbitrage issues. He said he has talked with many people in his district and a majority feel the bond issue to get the expanded capital improvement program going is the way to go. “We need to keep our infrastructure in good repair,” he declared.

Pazynski said with local law enforcement hard hit by drug issues, along with aging populations the prospect for operating cost reductions do not look good. On the other hand, the county has a viable tourist industry, and good roads are needed to keep it viable and to support business and industry in general.

Pazynski asked if the goal of a 10 percent reduction in operating expenses is viable, and Schroeder said they need to find and implement some efficiencies. He added they may not be able to see some of them right away, but they will be there.

There had been concerns that once the bond proceeds are received the county has only two years to spend the money without being faced with “arbitrage” issues. Finance Director Pat Kass said once the enabling resolution passes the board any engineering that starts now can be paid for with bond proceeds rather than the general budget. To questions from Seefeldt, Kass said there are different time frames for spending within the arbitrage limits.

Before the committee vote, Schroeder assured them they will “get two or three more kicks at the cat” before the bonding and related tax levy become realities. The bonding resolution required approval from three quarters of the committee members present and received unanimous support. It also will require unanimous approval when it goes to County Board on Tuesday, July 30.

Kass suggested the resolution should state “up to” the $9.44 million, since once they put things in the budget they might not need to borrow that much.

In other business, the committee gave preliminary approval to the 2012 audit after a presentation by Jon Trautman of Schenk, SC. A full copy of the draft report is available in the Finance Department.

Committee members struggled more than a little trying to locate and read reports on the I-pads they are trying out as part of a move to a paperless technology. Everyone seemed to agree they need hard copy for audit reports and certain other financial information.

At the start of the meeting Information Services Manager Larry Schultz introduced Pam Hruska, who has just been named assistant manager of his department. Schultz said she has worked in the department for 11 years as a programmer.

After input from Schultz, the committee unanimously agreed to recommend County Board approval of video conferencing system improvements costing a total of $174,287, slightly below the $175,000 that County Board had previously approved. The video conferencing system itself will be purchased from Arrow AV Group of Appleton at a cost of $86,785 and purchase of hardware from CDW for $87,502, with both purchases pending Corporation counsel’s review of the contract. Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison was not present for he meeting.

Schultz said the judges are okay with the proposed plan, and at this time there is no need to spend an additional $11,105 to replace the 15” control panels. They can be updated later at no additional cost if necessary, Schultz said. Other equipment will be shuffled between departments and everyone should see some improvements, Schultz predicted. Holly Viestenz of the Finance office presented an update on the audit of telephone systems serving the county and so far Cost Controls has found an estimated $12,310 in savings from land lines due to moving long distance from matrix to CenturyLink and disconnection of unused lines in the vacated law Enforcement Center. Other savings are being identified.

The committee approved spending $8,292 for a “LEAN Government” Series of classes from NWTC plus $150 for supplies.

Kass reported the county has $40,152,173 in investments, based on market value.

Paid invoices totaling $477,330.64 were briefly reviewed by the committee.


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