Eau Claire County Courthouse

Eau Claire County Courthouse

The Eau Claire County Board got its first peek Tuesday night at an official proposal for a 2020 budget calling for increases in spending and property tax collections.

The budget is projected to total just under $124 million, according to a recommendation from Eau Claire County Administrator Kathryn Schauf. That number represents an increase of about 9% compared with the projected 2019 budget.

The 2020 tax levy, meaning the amount of money collected from county taxpayers, is projected to equal $35.8 million, an increase of about 5.2% compared with $34 million this year. The tax rate is expected to go up slightly from $4.06 per $1,000 of equalized valuation in 2019 to $4.09 next year, an increase of 0.7%.

The information presented Tuesday by Schauf is the first step on the way to approving a 2020 budget in November. Supervisors will now have time for input before the Finance and Budget Committee presents its recommendations during the Oct. 15 County Board meeting.

Supervisor Jerry Wilkie said determining next year’s budget will be painful in some cases, but expressed confidence in the County Board to turn things around.

Eau Claire County Finance Director Norb Kirk also provided an update on 2019 financials. Kirk discussed potential cash flow issues in the county as a result of underfunding and delays in reimbursing programs, particularly in the Department of Human Services.

“The county doesn’t have as large a cash balance as it once had,” Kirk said. “This situation didn’t occur overnight, but it’s now a situation that needs attention.”

Kirk said short-term and long-term solutions need to be looked at by the board to alleviate more potential cash problems. He said short-term initiatives being done include more detailed cash forecasting by various county departments, delaying payments and further educating all departments and stakeholders about the topic.

“It’s certainly cause for concern, but I think at this point in time, we’re certainly addressing it,” Kirk said. “[Cash] now needs to be part of our conversation, even though it hasn’t been in the past.”

In other business, the board:

• Learned that a public notice will be displayed next week to attract applicants to fill the vacant seat of former Supervisor Brandon Buchanan until elections next April.

Board Chair Nick Smiar will then interview the applicants, as will the Administration Committee. The Administration Committee will then make a recommendation to be voted on by the County Board. Smiar said he hopes the vacancy will be filled before the end of October.

• Referred the creation of a special committee to oversee a new Highway Department project back to the Highway Committee for more information.

• Approved a proclamation to recognize Sept. 21 as International Day of Peace in Eau Claire County.