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With only two supervisors objecting and with little discussion, the St. Croix County Board adopted a budget Nov. 10 that raises the property tax levy 4.6 percent. While votes on bonds will come later, the 2010 and subsequent budgets rely on borrowing the county's full $3.36-million allocation of Recovery Zone Economic Development Bonds.
While employers and coworkers don't want people coming to work with H1N1 symptoms, workers who have little accumulated paid time off may be reluctant to stay home and lose income. St.
Wisconsin Municipal Mutual Insurance Company's motto is "Strength in Members," but other members see St. Croix County as the weak link and the county will pay a price. St. Croix has been notified that its liability premium for 2010 may be increased over 25 percent and that its self-insured retention, roughly comparable to a deductible, will be increased from $250,000 to at least $500,000 per loss. Actual costs will be determined in December. "From the other members' perspective, we are not a good risk," summarized Kristin Ziliak, St. Croix's risk manager.
Department budget requests, escalating insurance costs and lagging sales tax income sabotaged the St. Croix County Finance Committee's plan to hold the tax levy increase to the rate of new construction. Instead, when the County Board meets for its budget hearing Tuesday, Nov. 10, the committee will recommend a 2010 levy for general operations that is about 3 percent higher than this year's levy. The proposed general operations levy is $25.8 million. The recommended overall levy -- which includes county aid for bridge construction, debt service and library tax -- is up 4.6 percent.
Come April the St. Croix County Board's work will be divided among fewer supervisors, but they won't get a raise. A citizen referendum adopted in November 2008 cuts the number of County Board members from 31 to 19. The filing period for those positions opens Dec. 1. The election will be held April 2010. At its Oct. 20 meeting, the board voted to reduce the number of standing committees from about a dozen to five.
In a few months, clusters of smokers outside St. Croix County buildings and the litter of cigarette filters in county parks should be things of the past. Seventeen years ago the County Board voted to ban smoking inside county government buildings and passenger vehicles. Tuesday the board went farther by agreeing to ban use of tobacco products on the grounds of county government buildings, at the fairgrounds, in county parks and in all county-owned vehicles and equipment regardless of location. The tobacco-free policy will be effective Jan.
Two western Wisconsin lawmakers are introducing legislation to require that DNA samples be taken when suspects are arrested on felony charges. Twenty-one other states have implemented this procedure, which is aimed at stopping repeat criminals, said Sen.
Apart from inconvenience for workers who will have to file in two states, the end of the income tax reciprocity agreement between Minnesota and Wisconsin may have greater implications, say some lawmakers. "There's a state border there, but we really operate as a region," said Wisconsin state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls. She said ending this 40-year-old cooperative agreement could jeopardize others. "Once you lose one, it's easier to watch the others fall apart," Harsdorf said.
The St. Croix County Board voted last week to declare the entire county an economic recovery zone. The action clears the way for the county, and perhaps its municipalities, to receive federal economic stimulus subsidies to help pay for building or infrastructure projects. The assistance is provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. According to the resolution adopted Sept. 22, general economic distress in the county impairs sound growth and the tax base and threatens the well-being of residents. According to numbers released Sept. 23, St.
St. Croix County supervisors and administrators are $750,000 short of reaching a balanced 2010 budget, according to reports heard by the County Board Tuesday. In his budget progress report, Finance Committee Chairman Daryl Standafer said because of prudent budgeting last year, the county avoided mid-year layoffs forced on other governmental units. Standafer said even though the state would allow the county to raise its 2010 property tax levy higher, the Finance Committee intends to increase the levy only by the amount of new construction.