CHIPPEWA FALLS — The Chippewa County tax levy would increase 2.13% in 2020 under the preliminary budget going to the County Board for approval on Thursday.

The levy, the amount collected through property taxes, would increase $407,000, from $19.14 million to $19.54 million. Last year, the tax levy saw a similar increase of 2.18%.

The tax rate also is expected to decrease 5.8%, from $3.64 per $1,000 valuation in 2019 to $3.43 next year.

Property taxes make up 25% of the overall budget, with the rest coming from state and federal dollars and grants. The overall budget will be $78.73 million, down from $82.17 million in 2019.

The County Board approved several new positions at an Aug. 13 meeting, including several that will begin in 2020. Those include four new social workers in the Department of Human Services and an environmental health specialist.

“The number one challenge facing Chippewa County is still the current meth epidemic,” county administrator Randy Scholz wrote in his budget letter to the board. “The county added several positions in the 2019 budget to address the meth epidemic. The added positions have helped to reduce out-of-home placements and staff turnover. The county will add several more positions in the 2020 budget in an effort to reduce and hopefully eliminate waiting lists for Children’s Long Term Support and Comprehensive Community Services. The state has mandated that counties cannot have a waiting list in these programs.”

The county’s equalized value climbed 8.4%, or about $441 million, he wrote.

Scholz asked the board to submit any proposed amendments to him in advance of the meeting. Last year, the board opted to increase the budget by $200,000 at the budget hearing, with that additional money going toward the winter road maintenance account. The $10-per-vehicle wheel tax, which was created to pay off a debt in the winter road maintenance account, will expire Jan. 1.

Chippewa County collects a half-percent sales tax, which will climb to $5.7 million in 2019. By county ordinance, those dollars must go toward a property tax credit — this year it is $1.5 million — and those dollars cannot be used to pay salaries or benefits. The county spends the rest of the sales tax revenue on capital purchases, from building repairs to purchasing new vehicles and computers, to highway projects.

The 2020 budget includes spending $1.3 million of the sales tax revenue on highway and bridge projects, $400,000 on jail upgrades including a new washer and dryer, and $215,000 on IT equipment replacement.