Eau Claire County Courthouse

EAU CLAIRE — Eau Claire County sales tax revenues continue to be lower than last year, though perhaps not as low as some officials feared when COVID-19 struck this spring.

The county received $1.03 million from sales tax revenue in June, slightly less than $1.13 million last June and $1.25 million in June 2018. The Eau Claire County Finance and Budget Committee received this information during its meeting Monday.

Through the first six months of 2020, the county has totaled $5.19 million in revenue from sales taxes, about $152,000 less than the same time last year. Through June 2018, it had received $5.40 million.

The county budgeted $10.85 million in sales tax revenue this year. The full effects of the pandemic began in March, and when measuring sales tax collection this March through June against the same four months last year, revenue has decreased about $499,000 this year.

County Finance Director Norb Kirk was “pleasantly surprised” with the figures in recent months, saying they have been better than he anticipated in March.

Sheriff’s Office update

The committee approved a total of $143,763 for six separate gifts, grants and donations to the Eau Claire County Sheriff‘s Office for 2020. The largest item is a $58,000 COVID-19 support grant.

Danielle Powers, administrative services division manager at the Sheriff’s Office, said the office received the grant this April. The grant provides funding for three areas: safety, equipment and overtime.

Just under $17,000 will be spent on safety supplies, including face shields and cleaning and sanitation supplies like bleach and disinfectant wipes. The money also covers the purchases of disposable items in the Eau Claire County Jail like silverware and paper plates.

For equipment, $20,000 covered half the costs needed to buy a disinfectant robot. Powers said the robot, which can clean sheriff vehicles and areas in the county jail in 15 minutes or less, is the first of its kind at the Sheriff’s Office.

Slightly over $21,000 will go toward overtime costs, specifically for patrol officers and correctional officers who have to cover shifts for employees who miss work because of COVID-19. An example is someone who needs to quarantine at home and thus cannot work but needs another employee to cover their shift.

County clerk position

The committee also approved the removal from the county bridge plan of a part-time administrative associate in the Eau Claire County Clerk’s Office. The removal would allow the clerk’s office to hire a part-time worker to help with several activities, including those related to the November election.

In response to a question from Supervisor Jim Dunning, Eau Claire County Clerk Janet Loomis said it would have cost the county about $14,000 to reprint absentee voting ballots for the upcoming general election. That reprinting will likely not occur after the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Monday that the Green Party presidential candidate should not be added to the November ballot. The ruling comes four days after the state Supreme Court ordered that no absentee ballots be mailed until it makes any future ruling about who should be on the ballot.

The next Finance and Budget Committee meeting is scheduled for Sept. 24.