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A $64,000 question: Mistake leaves St. Croix County short on revenue side of budget

The St. Croix County Board's Finance Committee agreed last Thursday to correct a 2007 budgeting error by using an extra $64,000 from the county's sales tax fund.

When the County Board adopted the 2007 budget Oct. 31, the intent was to raise the property tax levy to the maximum allowed by state controls, and the budget was developed that way.

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue gave the county its levy limit number earlier this fall, and that number was used in most budget work.

Shortly before the County Board's annual budget meeting, the DOR revised the number, increasing the tax the county could levy by $64,115.

That new number was figured into budget information provided to the board, but the number was not changed on the budget resolution adopted by the board.

The intent was for the County Board to adopt a property tax levy of $23,584,793 -- but it adopted a levy of $23,520,678. The mistake wasn't caught until after the County Board meeting.

The Finance Committee could call a special board meeting to correct the error, use money from the sales tax fund to make up the difference or dip into the general fund, said Finance Director Michelle Pietrick last week.

It would cost about $3,000 to hold another County Board meeting, and it might be difficult to get a quorum on short notice, said County Board Chairman Buck Malick.

"It seemed to me that was not a desirable option," he said.

The committee isn't changing the budget. It just turns out that the County Board levied $64,115 less than it could have, responded Supervisor Daryl Standafer.

"It's just a shift... The budget is the budget," he said, adding, "If there's any good news, it's that we're going to extract $64,000 less from the taxpayers."

The Finance Committee had agreed earlier in October to use about $400,000 from the sales tax fund to the balance the 2007 budget and voted last week to use another $64,115.