Dodge County Board Reviews 2023 Proposed Budget

(Juneau) The Dodge County Board got a first look Tuesday night at the preliminary 2023 budget. The proposed mill rate of $4.39 per thousand-dollars of assessed value would be a decrease of 38-cents from the current budget year. The $149.9-million-dollar document includes a projected tax levy of $37.9-million-dollars, which would be a $2.1-million-dollar jump from 2022.

A driving force behind the increase is the addition of $1.9-million in debt tax levy which was utilized to free up sales tax dollars to be used for operational expenses. A move that Supervisor David Guckenberger could not get behind.

“Quite honestly we have a board policy, and we are strongly deviating from that by starting to fund operations with sales tax,” says Guckenberger.

“I don’t know where all of these decisions have been made but to make decisions outside of the policy, I don’t know if those things happened at a finance meeting or if those things are happening in the back room but I’m somewhat frustrated…but just from first glance we are way outside of policy here.” Guckenberger adds that when the levy goes up five-percent, taxes go up five-percent.

Administrator Cameron Clapper, who started in the position in August, says the county is at a crossroads and must utilize all its revenue streams.

“We’re bringing it forward because we are at a point now where we don’t really have a lot of other options,” says Clapper. “We have been using up other resources for years and been restricted in how much we can accommodate cost through the use of property tax.”

Jon Hochkammer, who is serving as interim administrator while Clapper acclimates to his new role, explains that the 2023 proposed budget relies a lot on American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars. He says this is another reason the county is “deviating” from its sales tax policy.

“There is less sales tax dollars going to the Highway Department for road improvements because we are utilizing ARPA dollars which are legally allowed for that type of a project,” says Hochkammer. “That is a main part of the reason why we are talking about a deviation from the sales tax policy, it’s because we have to follow federal law…that’s law. The sales tax policy is a policy that can be waived or amended by the county board.”

Equalized property values jumped by just over 15-percent to $8.6-billion-dollars. Final budget adoption is slated for November 15th.