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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County Board Tax Rate Drops Slightly, To $4.315 Per $1,000

Issue Date: October 28, 2020

Following a very brief public hearing at which no one from the public appeared, Marinette County Board unanimously approved the 2021 budget as proposed, and adopted a tax levy of $16,421,262 to go with it. With the 25 cents per $1,000 levy for debt retirement, tax rate was set at $4.315 per $1,000, down from $4.404 for 2020. Total assessed value of the county is $4,039,237,800.

At the start of the brief budget hearing, Finance Director Laura Mans had explained the proposed budget, which provides for a grand total of $52,868,172 in expenditures, $295,000 in contingency and a total tax levy of $17,471,943.

Questioned about a drop in interest from loans, Mans explained the Revolving Loan fund had 15 active loans and three had been paid off, resulting in the decease in interest income from that source.

The only debate on the budget was raised by Supervisor Bonnie Popp, who argued strongly in favor of a $15,000 increase in the allocation for economic development and tourism promotion. She pointed out Door County, Marinette County's closest competitor, recently received a large chunk of a $50 million grant for tourism, and said since tourism promotion is funded by sale taxes, an increase in spending to promote it would be an investment that resulted in more money being generated for the county.

Her motion to increase spending for tourism was seconded by Supervisor Connie Seefeldt, but ultimately Popp cast the sole vote in favor. Supervisor Bob Hoyer was absent and excused, and the other 28 supervisors were opposed. All 29 supervisors present then voted in favor of a motion to approve the budget as proposed by Administrator John LeFebvre.

Before the vote, LeFebvre said the tourism budget had been $267,000 for 2020, and the newly created Economic Development and Tourism office had requested only $260,000 for 2021, and that is what he had put in he budget. He said they have a non-lapsing account of money unspent from prior years from which they can draw if they need to.

"This county board adopted a budget policy that said they wanted a zero increase in the tax levy," LeFebvre reminded the "Unfortunately, to do that, I sometimes have to take money from one department and give it to other departments."

Supervisor Clancy Whiting noted County Board had told LeFebvre to be fiscally responsible and get more of the county's debts paid off, and said he has been doing that.

One of Popp's concerns was lack of Supervisor input while the budgets were being prepared. Board Chair John Guarisco said he felt they could discuss budgets in committee, and supervisors should contact their committee chair to have those discussions put on future agendas.

Supervisor Gail Wanek and Seefeldt both commended Popp for her willingness to speak up, and Guarisco agreed, and declared, "It's never a waste of time when we discuss issues on this County Board floor, so thank you!"

Seefeldt said she had seconded the motion to get the discussion, and since she had her questions answered had ultimately voted against it.

Early in the meeting LeFebvre had congratulated NewCap on getting part of a new $10 million Community Development grant, and had reported the first of the homes that were taken for unpaid property taxes and refurbished through a contract with NewCap has been completed and was to be offered for sale by sealed bids with a minimum price of over $99,000. The two story house, located at 1842 Liberty Street in Marinette, could be for one or two families. Supervisor Tom Mandli said the home is in his district, and from the exterior it looks very nice.

There was a comment that it is wonderful seeing the county put some life into these old homes.

LeFebvre said most of the houses the county obtained through tax deeds were so bad they must be demolished, but in addition to the Marinette house, one in the City of Niagara and one on Dow Dam Road in Amberg are being refurbished.

LeFebvre said work on the Ella Court Building adjacent to the courthouse is to be completed by Nov. 12, a bit later than the Nov. 1 goal, because Covid had caused a delay in delivery of the elevator, which still has to be installed. He said Otis Elevator Company had been shut down for a time, delaying the delivery. He added contractors had to deal with Covid issues throughout the entire construction and still would be done nearly on time.

Furniture for the second floor offices is to be delivered on Nov. 2, and due to lack of the elevator will be raised by lifts from the outside and brought in through windows so it can be placed.

Construction of the green roof enclosure is underway, and cleaning painting, ceiling tiles and electrical work is being completed for first floor offices. The first walk through inspection was scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 29, LeFebvre said.

The contract with the City of Marinette for closing half of Ella Court Street ends on Oct. 31, so the barriers will be removed and the street will be re-opened by the end of the week, LeFebvre said, adding there will be some temporary blocking for specific tasks.

"We are on track to move in on schedule,"LeFebvre declared.

To a suggestion from Popp, he said tours for supervisors could be scheduled to coincide with committee meetings during the early part of November.


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