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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County Tax Levy To Increase 1.029 Percent

Next month, on Tuesday, Nov. 12, Marinette County Board will adopt the budget and tax levy for 2014, and before they do the public will have a chance to speak to them at the Annual Budget Hearing, which is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Administrator Ellen Sorensen reported at the board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 29 that the proposed budget requires a 1.029 percent levy increase, which equates to a $9 increase - about two cents a day - for a property valued at $100,000

In her formal administrator’s budget message to the board, Sorensen said the operating budget for the year totals $74,482,952 and the debt service budget totals $2,720,725. The $9,436,200 bond issue to be finalized later this year is included in the budget, but the property tax to start paying for it will show up in the 2015 budget.

The county’s equalized value dropped by one percent this year, and that downward trend is expected to carry over to next year, Sorensen said. The county tax levy is at the legal maximum of $15,045,207, with the maximum allowable tax increase of $153,238. The budget slows the drain on county reserves by cutting the operating deficit almost in half, Sorensen said, citing numerous savings worked out during the year.

“The 2014 budget will be successful if everyone works together,” Sorensen said.

She thanked department heads and Finance Committee for working with her throughout the budget process, particularly Jennifer Seguin “for pulling all the information together.”

“As a local government, the county’s primary focus must be on continuing to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and accountability of current county operations. It is our responsibility to give the citizens of Marinette County a good return on their investment of property tax dollars to ensure a good quality of life.”

At Sorensen’s request, County Board unanimously approved amendment to the county’s sales tax ordinance to be used to pay the annual debt service and to fund capital outlay and tourism expenditures for 2014. She said without using the sales tax proceeds they would need to cut $374,000 from the budget, which would result in loss of some services. The sales tax is expected to generate $3,005,000 in 2014. Projections when it was adopted in October of 2001 were that it would raise $2,186,000 annually have been far exceeded.

Major discussions of the day centered on the controversial County BB reconstruction project and a resolution opposing FCC regulation of jail inmate telephone costs. The county uses payments from the phone service provider to help cover jail costs and gets some perks for investigation efforts, particularly in regard data from phone calls and cell phones confiscated in searches and arrests.

The resolution passed by 22 to eight vote, despite opposition from Law Enforcement Committee Chair Ken Keller, who expressed strong concerns about the impact high phone call costs place on families of prisoners, and need for prisoners to maintain family contacts if they are to stay out of jail after serving their terms. Supervisors voting against the resolution in addition to Keller were Al Sauld, Gilbert Engel, Ken Casper, Larry Nichols, Al Mans, Tom Mailand and Bob Holley.

In other business:

*Although the grant application has already been submitted, the board formally approved applying for a Treatment Alternatives and Diversion (TAD) grant with an integrated drug court as recommended by several committees, including the Criminal Justice Committee. Grant request totals $285,349.24, with in-kind contribution of $94,183.93, for a total of $379,533.17 for the two programs aimed at combatting Marinette County’s growing heroin problem.

*The board approved transfer of $25,000 to cover the uninsured portion of cost to replace equipment damaged in the August lightning strike to the courthouse.

*The board approved Sorensen’s appointments of Carl Turkiewicz to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, with Todd Stepien and Wayne Gerondale as alternates; Patricia Weddel to the Governing Board of the Aging and Disability Resource Center representing the advocate or consumer, and John Goldschmidt to the 911 User Committee as a representative of the DNR.

*A Zoning Ordinance change for the Town of Niagara was approved as requested.

*Purchase of 40-acre parcel in the Town of Amberg from Gary and Mary Widner for $99,400 was approved. Financing is provided by a previously awarded Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Grant, and the transaction may include trade for another 38-acre property the county owns on the Peshtigo River in the Town of Silver Cliff as a local match. The board was assured the Town of Amberg has no objections, but Supervisors Shirley Kaufman and Russ Bauer were opposed. Keller said he would vote in favor this time because the parcel is land locked, but will vote against acquiring more forest land in future. Forest Administrator Pete Vilas said the county can gain income from the transaction almost immediately because timber it contains is ready for harvest. A cabin will be moved, Vilas said.

*Bridge aids were awarded for the towns of Grover, Dunbar and Stephenson for bridges on Twelve Foot Falls Road, Loucks Road, Boat Landing Road and Butler rock Road.

*On recommendation of the Personnel and Buildings and Grounds committees the board approved up to two weeks of “overlap” for a new Maintenance Technician to train with the retiring employee.

*At the start of the meeting, Sorensen saluted retired Human Services Employee Kerry E. Valley for her 23 years of work as an Initial Assessment Social Worker. Valley thanked County Board for her employment, and expressed gratitude to Dave Harper for hiring her 23 years ago, “and for believing in me.” She said the job caused much stress, but brought many rewards and much opportunity for personal growth. “The children taught me insight and understanding of problems like violence, alcoholism, drug abuse and child abuse. They taught me also about resilience, hope, strength and recovery, and the list goes on,” she said, thanking the board again.

*At the end of the meeting, Nichols explained he was absent from last month’s meeting for an excellent reason. He was in California with his daughter to attend his grandson’s graduation from Boot Camp, at the top of his class of 550 Marines. “That was a proud moment for me, and I’m glad I was able to go,” he declared.


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