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New Pierce County budget raises taxes just a little

With only a little fuss, last week Pierce County Board members finalized a 2009 budget that will mean a slight tax increase for county property owners.

The 2009 budget adds two new employees: a jailer/dispatcher and a lead economic support worker. It also gives most union employees a 2 percent salary increase on Jan. 1 and another 1 percent increase on July 1, 2009. Non-union workers, who are generally department heads and managers, will get 2.5 percent increases Jan. 1.

The 2008 budget resulted in a tax rate increase of 8.57 percent, in part because first payments on a $4 million debt for maintenance projects were included. Those payments will continue next year and in subsequent years.

The new county operating tax levy of $13.67 million will help fund a total budget of a little over $36 million.

Property tax levy limits mandated by the state will result in a mill rate of $4.59 per $1,000 of valuation. That means an owner of a $200,000 house will pay a county tax of roughly $919. This year the owner of a house valued at $200,000 paid about $912.

The only change made to the budget proposal at the Nov. 12 meeting was the transfer of $24,500 from two projects to fund a commitment the county made when it applied to host Wisconsin Farm Technology Days in 2010.

The $24,500 will pay a temporary marketing coordinator to work with Farm Technology vendors.

Finding the extra money was too easy, complained Supervisor Ben Plunkett, River Falls, who wondered where else surplus funds are concealed.

"Honestly, I've seen drunken sailors spend money better than this board," said Plunkett.

He added, "I've been a drunken sailor and spent money better than this board."

Budgets - in industry, governments and families - are spending plans and money can be transferred when the need arises, replied Supervisor Rich Purdy, town of River Falls.

For more please read the Nov. 19 issue of the Herald.