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Finance Committee Recommends $37,335,000 Borrowing Resolution

After some agonized discussion at its meeting on Monday, Aug. 18, Marinette County Board’s Finance Committee agreed to ask the full County Board to approve an initial resolution authorizing borrowing up to $37,335,000 over the next few years to finance projects in the county’s 5-year capital improvements plan. I’m having a hard time supporting the 5-year plan. I just can’t support this, declared County Board Vice Chair Kathy Just as she cast the sole opposing vote.

Voting in favor were County Board Chair Vilas Schroeder and supervisors Don Phillips, Melissa Christiansen and Don Pazynski.

Before the vote, Schroeder explained approving the resolution does not bind them to borrow that much, but it gives us the flexibility to borrow up to that amount. He said the County Board will still need to vote separately on each specific bond issue. He said he and Finance Director Pat Kass had met with Financial consultant Jeff Belongia to discuss the plans, and after that he felt more comfortable. I just felt we need to plan ahead. If we plan on doing these improvements, we need to plan for the funding.

Pazynski viewed the resolution as a cap on the amount they can borrow in the next five years. We can borrow up to that amount, but not more, he explained.

The board has already approved this year’s version of the 5-year Capital Improvement Plan.

Just asked what the impact of that amount of borrowing would be on a $100,000 home. Kass explained according to an estimated preliminary schedule he had worked out with Belongia the property tax levy will go up 19 to 27 cents per $1,000 of equalized value, or $19 to $27 per year on a $100,000 home. Property values in the county dropped about 3 percent this year, so that could mean a higher levy. A good sales tax year would mean less debt service on the tax roll.

Moments earlier the committee had unanimously approved a Scope of Engagement agreement with Hutchinson Shockey Erley & Company of Milwaukee which effectively hired the county’s long-time financial consultant Jeff Belongia to act as underwriters for the $6,270,000 bond issue to finance Capital Improvement funding for 2015.

Finance Director Kass explained it was Belongia who worked with them on the $9 million bond issue early this year, as he has on every bond issue for nearly two decades.

Kass said there is no fear that Belongia will not act in the county’s best interests on this bond issue as he has in the past, but the formal agreement puts more emphasis on what the consultant does and does not do for the county.

The committee agreed to accept a discounted payment option which they will get a 15 percent discount for paying Cost Controls Associates, Inc. the entire amount of their phone audit fee now, rather than over the life of the agreement.

Kass said the audit resulted in $85,579 in savings on telephone costs for the county, and Cost Control fee is 42 percent of the savings. The county will pay the entire $30,000, which is the balance after the 15 percent discount. Kass said he recommends doing it, even though it means taking $22,141 from Contingency. Kass commented he cannot make 15 percent on investments.

He said Holly Viestenz of his office went through the audit results closely, and these are solid savings.

Schroeder asked if they were losing oversight by releasing Cost Controls from their contract early, but Kass said the county, not Cost Control, is responsible for watching to see that the phone bills don’t get bumped up again.

The Cost Control summary report showed $43,761 in fixed phone savings, $28,655 in cellular phone savings and $13,163 in long distance savings.

While reviewing bills, Schroeder questioned payment of $6,000 to the Peshtigo Times and was told it was for publishing three full pages advertising tax delinquent properties.


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