County Board Weighs Budget Options

Aug 28, 2013

At Tuesday’s monthly meeting, the Vilas County Board of Supervisors went through a second round of voicing their ideas for how to balance the 2014 budget. Finance director Jason Hilger says the county is facing a deficit of roughly $1.2 million for the upcoming year.  Nonetheless, Hilger says Vilas county is in good shape, with a reserve fund of more than $7 million.

Supervisors made several suggestions.  With Vilas County’s mill rate—the rate at which taxes are computed—at the second lowest in the state, some supervisors are willing to raise it.  Others shied away from an increase and suggest taking money out of the reserve fund.

Still others expressed the desire to do what it takes to maintain current services.  Two services offered by the sheriff’s department have been eliminated because of recent budget cutbacks, according to Chief Deputy Joe Fath who spoke after the meeting:

"In the past two years we have done very little snowmobile patrol, and the last two years we have done no boat patrol.  I know some of our town supervisors really want our boat patrol presence in the summer.  We just aren't able to provide that because of some of the reductions in our overtime costs and expenditures."

Hilger said that a small increase in the tax rate may be the best way for the county to continue to provide the best services.        

Steve Favorite, county board chair, recommended cutting the budget by $400,000 and trimming health care costs by getting competitive quotes and establishing a more aggressive wellness program.

To reduce expenses, Vilas county supervisors okayed outsourcing maintenance services to two private companies.  Supervisor Erv Tike-miller, one of the opponents of outsourcing services provided by county employees, questioned whether outsourcing is a good move for the county, which he described as “ losing in lots of ways.”