Ask an Official: County Administrative Coordinator discusses state-imposed levy limits
This week’s featured question was submitted for Lincoln County Administrative Coordinator Jason Hake.
The question reads:
“I’ve seen a lot of talk and rumor about levy limits imposed by state government which is affecting county governments and budgets, making it harder to to address budget concerns etc. But what exactly are levy limits and how do they work? And most of all, how do they impact us locally? How does this all tie together with our county? It seems like every year we hear more and more about cuts and more fees coming up and so on. Thank you! “
Answer as given by Hake:
“State imposed operational levy increase limits are the maximum amount the county may levy property taxes on parcels within the county, which cannot exceed Net New Construction. Essentially, if no new construction occurred in the county, then the allowable levy increase is zero percent. Net New Construction is the metric that determines how much the county is allowed to increase the levy from year to year.
“In 2018, Lincoln County’s net new construction was 0.76%. In comparison, the Consumer Price Index is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services, which is currently 2.3% (as of September, 2018). As you can see, the levy increases, due to the levy limit, fall far short of covering basic increases in the market.
“Additionally, the levy limits do not account for unexpected losses of revenue or unfunded federal/state mandates.
“Locally, the impact of the state imposed operational levy increase limits makes it challenging for the county to balance its budget. With the levy limits unable to even cover the increases in fixed expenses, such as salaries and utilities; each year the county is faced with increasing fees and making budget cuts, which results in reducing services. Along with the increased fees and reduction of services, it also limits the county’s ability to deal with current hardships (i.e. opioid/meth crisis and the increase in out of home placements of children) which results in an increase of expenses with no funding source to support the increase.”
Have a question or concern you would like to address? Simply send your question or concern to firstname.lastname@example.org along with an indication of which entity your question or concern pertains to. Current participants are the Merrill Police Department, Merrill Fire Department, Tomahawk Police Department, Merrill City Administrator Dave Johnson, Merrill Area Housing Authority Director Paul Russell, Lincoln County Clerk Chris Marlowe, Lincoln County Administrative Coordinator Jason Hake, Lincoln County Forestry Land and Parks Director Kevin Kleinschmidt, Local DNR Conservation Warden Curt Butler and Merrill Area Public Schools (MAPS) Superintendent Dr. John Sample. Please note: Those who submit to the ‘Ask an Official’ feature remain anonymous.