Abiding by a deadline that calls for a “published” version of its 2021 budget no later than today, Oct. 14, 2020, the Barron County Board of Supervisors Executive Committee voted Wednesday, Oct. 7, to approve its spending plan for calendar year 2021.
The full County Board will consider the measure on Oct. 19, 2020.
The new budget includes totals of nearly $70 million (including state and local funding sources), and about $22,200,000 of locally-financed costs.
Supervisor Jerry McRoberts, Dist. 19, Rice Lake, made a motion to publish two alternative versions of the budget, one that would raise property taxes just over a single percentage point, and one that would raise taxes less than one percent.
The motion came after the committee discussed a request from Supervisor Gary Taxdahl, Dist. 8, Turtle Lake and town of Almena, regarding a proposed new full-time recreational officer’s position with the Sheriff’s Department.
Although much of the position will be paid for by Department of Natural Resources grant funding, it represents a new position in what otherwise would have been a Sheriff’s budget that was frozen last year after an $89,000 contract payment for 911 computer services was inadvertently left out of the 2019 county budget. The omission created issues with auditing and further budget planning.
Louie Okey, County Board Chair and supervisor for Dist. 16, town of Cedar Lake, said he differed with Taxdahl, but told the Executive Committee that he supported the idea of giving the full County Board a choice in the matter.
Okey said there is a need for more enforcement on the county’s trails and lakes, and that the recreational officer could also work on further state funding to support the county’s burgeoning tourism industry for all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles and boats.
“Supervisor Taxdahl feels we’re letting the sheriff off the hook” Okey said. “Well, in life, things change, and you roll with those changes. (But) it’s for the full (County) Board to decide.”
In further remarks on the budget, County Administrator Jeff French linked the 1.1 percent property tax increase to a good year in terms of county health insurance claims.
French said two other major factors influenced the budget:
• County sales taxes, which remained strong through the summer despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
• An estimated $350,000 in savings in the Health and Human Services department, which is placing fewer children in foster care than it did in prior years, when children were taken away from their parents after being arrested on methamphetamine-related charges.