Budget calls for county tax rate to drop nearly 7%

Property value increase, sales tax help keep rate down even as levy increases
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press staff

Thanks to an 11.5% increase in property values, the 2023 Ozaukee County tax levy would increase almost 4% while the tax rate would drop nearly 7% under a proposed budget presented to the County Board last week.

According to the budget recommended by the board’s Executive Committee and presented by County Administrator Jason Dzwinel at last week’s County Board meeting, the county tax levy, not including the levy to support libraries, would total $21.57 million, up $808,100, a 3.89% increase from 2022.

The equalized tax rate, however, would decrease 6.86%, from $1.50 per $1,000 valuation this year to $1.40  in 2023, thanks to increasing values of existing property, Dzwinel said.

“We’re certainly living in inflationary times,” he said.

The exact tax rate appearing on property tax bills in December will vary slightly from community to community depending on the state’s equalization formula.

The county tax rate does not include taxes levied by school districts, municipalities and the Milwaukee Area Technical College.

The budget assumes a 3% increase in salaries and wages and a 5.5% increase in health insurance premiums, lower than the 7.5% initially proposed by the county’s insurance carrier, Dzwinel said.

Overall, expenses are projected to be about $93 million, offset by revenues of about $73 million from fees and other charges, state and federal funding and sales taxes, he said.

The proposed budget assumes $11.2 million in sales tax revenue, $1.1 million more this year than last year.

“If that number wasn’t there, we’d have to make some very tough decisions,” Dzwinel said.

Th county estimate is $200,000 lower than the estimate projected for Ozaukee County by the Wisconsin Counties Association.

“The sales tax revenue is incredibly important for our county budget,” Dzwinel said, noting that the amount of property taxes the county can levy is limited by the state.

For instance, the 2023 increase in wages and insurance for the Sheriff’s Office alone will total $800,00 while the county can only increase property tax revenue by $390,000.

Among items not funded under the Executive Committee’s proposed budget is a behavioral health officer requested by the Sheriff’s Office to help address mental health and substance abuse issues, which officials say are a major driver in increasing crime in the county.

That position would have cost about $100,000.

“I’m sure that’s something that will be revisited,” Dzwinel said.

Each county department submitted budget requests to Dzwinel and were reviewed by their various oversight committees, each of which made recommendations to the Executive Committee, which consists of the chairmen of the board’s eight standing committees and board Chairman Lee Schlenvogt.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31, in the County Board meeting room at the Administration Center, 121 W. Main St., Port Washington.

Supervisors are scheduled to adopt the budget when they meet at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 2.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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