Pascarella reviewed his letter outlining various options for the County Board to consider, all of which require County Board action (copy on file). Hunt explained the Highway Winter Maintenance account is currently -$571,978 and the shortfall for FY14 will grow between October and December to $750,000 to $1,000,000.
Pascarella stated there are two questions to consider. Does the County want to maintain the same level of service for snowplowing for the future? If so, are we looking at addressing this issue every year (or every bad year), or is the County going to look at some means of sustainable funding? Pascarella will not recommend using any more of our fund balance to address this weather issue.
Stelzner explained the Highway budgets are developed on five year averages. The state dealt with this issue a couple months ago and decided to transfer funds from the coffers. Stelzner also explained the Highway Department has been affected by the number of retirements. In addition, the frac sand industry is fighting for our workers and the quality of applicants we are getting isn't as good as in the past. This all has an impact on the budget.
Michels isn’t sure that reducing the services is even practical when we are dealing with emergency services, etc.
Stelzner stated there are a couple of municipalities that have adopted a wheel tax and many other counties are considering it as well because most of them are facing the same concerns with winter maintenance. There are approximately 59,000 vehicles registered in Chippewa County that are over 8,000 lbs and may be exempt from the wheel tax. Hunt reminded the committee to also consider that if we continue to hit our fund balance every year it will have an impact on our bond rating. We are better off hitting it with a larger amount, if needed, so we don't have to do it as often.
After a lengthily discussion the committee directed staff to look at a wheel tax of $10.00 with a sunset clause of five years and with the mindset it will probably take us three years to get out of the red. The County Administrator will report on this and provide a sample resolution to the County Board and Highway Committee in August with a final resolution to the County Board in September for action.
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