Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Must Attend Meeting - Aug 9th 6:30 PM Northbrook CC

Chris Rasmussen is a friend and is working hard to try to hold the spending line in Kewaunee County.  He has asked for my assistance in distributing the letter that appears below.  Mr. Luft, Chairman of the Finance Committee is hell-bent on increasing taxes and fees.

You must get involved now, or it may be too late.  Attend the Aug 9th meeting to get the details and let your elected Supervisor know of your position on these taxes and fees.

August 3, 2016

Dear Kewaunee County Taxpayers:
My name is Chris Rasmussen and I’m a first year Kewaunee County Board Supervisor from the 5th district, and I need your help!  

On Tuesday, Aug 9rd, 6:30 PM at NorthBrook Country Club, I am hosting a meeting get your feedback on a variety of new taxes and fees currently being considered by the Finance Committee and ultimately Kewaunee County Board. 

I serve on the Finance Committee and have learned over the last few months that Kewaunee County is facing significant budget deficits this year and the foreseeable future.  Finance Committee Chairman Lee Luft and the other Finance Committee would like to address this issue by creating new taxes and fees.  In fact, they voted 4-1 last night to recommend a county-wide sales tax to the full board – specifically denying input from the public by intentionally refusing a referendum.  Furthermore, they have not formally proposed even one spending reduction on almost $29M of spending before passing this tax out of committee! 

I fundamentally disagree with this approach, but my appeals have fallen on deaf ears.  A sales tax should be the very last resort – but they’re not even giving spending reductions a chance.  Without your help, they will pass their new sales tax without going to referendum, and along with it a whole host of new fees!  I NEED YOUR HELP AND VOICE!!

Kewaunee County Financial Forecast
The financial issues facing the county are relatively complex and span multiple decades and countless poor decisions by our elected officials.  Prior to the May County Board meeting, the County Administrator at the direction of Mr. Luft presented a five year Kewaunee County Financial Forecast showing a 2017 budget deficit of $1.0M, growing each year of the forecast culminating in 2021 with a $3.5M budget deficit. 

During that five-year span, they forecast spending to increase on average by almost $800K annually.  $800K per year!  While over the same span, property tax and other income is only forecasted to only grow by $210K per year.  Left untouched, the average spending growth outpaces income growth by almost $600K per year!  THIS IS NOT A REVENUE PROBLEM – IT IS A SPENDING PROBLEM!

Their original forecast included 15% year over year health insurance increases, a clear overstatement of expenses in order to “sell” their wish-list of taxes and fees.  After facing continuous scrutiny by me in that and follow up meetings, Mr. Luft and Mr. Feldt revised their forecasts, backing off of the 15% to 10% and eventually 5% year to year health insurance increases.  Although slightly more palatable, these versions still forecast average annual spending increases to outpace income growth in the county by $400K and $250K, respectively.  There is no tax and/or fee that will continue to grow by $600K, $400K, or $250K annually.

Mr. Luft & the County Administrator’s forecast included the following wish-list of new taxes and fees along with the extra spending money they predict each would generate:
A.      Referendum to Increase Property Taxes beyond Legal Limit - $2,000,000
B.      Wheel Tax - $360,000 ($20 per vehicle under 8,000 pounds)
C.      ½ % County-Wide Sales Tax - $1,300,000 (county-wide sales tax)
D.      “Increased Fees” - $350,000, comprised of some combination of the following:
·         Overweight Vehicle Fee - no dollar amount assigned
·         ATV Park Fee - no dollar amount assigned
·         Animal Waste Storage Unit Inspection Fee (annual) - $360,700
·         Agricultural Land Inspection Fee (annual) - $271,030
·         Private Well Registration & Inspection Fee (annual) - $40,000
·         Manure Spill Response Fee - no dollar amount assigned
·         Increase Fine related to Winter Spreading Ordinance from $250 to $2500 - no total dollar amount assigned

Their own projections show the result is a 3-year Band-Aid that would leave us further in the hole!  Not including the Property Tax increase because they know it would face certain defeat at the polls, but, if they were to impose their new wheel tax of $360K, half percent sales tax of $1.3M, and increased/new fees of $350K, they still generate huge budget shortfalls again by 2020 ($600K), and 2021 ($1.4M). 

That’s right – according to their forecast they would raise taxes and fees by $2,010,000 and still be in the hole by 2020.  THIS IS NOT A REVENUE PROBLEM – IT IS A SPENDING PROBLEM!
When I asked the County Administrator if he thought this was a Band-Aid, he told me that it would buy some time and that our “wake up call” would be in three years.  I suggest to you that the wakeup call has been ringing for some time now and we’ve been hitting the snooze button for far too many years.
What Are Our Options
Those on the Finance Committee keep saying the answer has to come from both sides – some spending reductions and some “revenue enhancements.”  And although this sounds great, but the fact of the matter is that they have not considered a single spending reduction.  I have brought forth a dozen ideas or more of areas to reduce, but they are unwilling to listen.  Their forecast is a reflection of what they will do with more tax revenues – not one area is reduced.  Not a single one.

I NEED YOUR HELP AND VOICE! – On Tuesday, Aug 9rd, 6:30 PM at NorthBrook Country Club!   I hope to see you there.

Best regards,

Chris Rasmussen
County Board Supervisor, District 5, Kewaunee, WI

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