Chippewa County

Information Item

Winter Maintenance Fund Balance


Department:Highway DepartmentSponsors:


  1. County Maintenance Analysis 2005-2016

Meeting History

Jun 29, 2016 8:00 AM  Highway Committee Regular Meeting

Kelley reviewed the status of the Winter Maintenance Fund. As of June 22nd, the Winter Maintenance fund was at $39,457. The County has received $1,250,000 in tax levy and $192,972 in vehicle registration fees and has spent $748, 060 this year to date. Based on $540,724 of vehicle registration fees received in 2015 and the anticipated remaining 2016 winter costs, Kelley estimated a deficit at year end of approximately -$63,000. This is based on an average winter. Kelley pointed out that early-2016 was beneficial to the winter fund due to mild weather, however this has had an adverse effect on the County Maintenance Fund. These two funds are inversely proportional and need to be looked at together.

Sikorski stated that when the committee approved the vehicle registration fee it was to fix the immediate problem of the deficit in the winter maintenance fund. The goal was to build up a surplus in the winter maintenance fund, however a long-term funding strategy needs to be achieved.

Pascarella stated that there is currently $772,000 of levy available to the County to stay under the state-imposed levy limits, but he does not recommend tapping into those funds in case something unforeseen happens at the County. He had also discussed the issue recently with the County’s bond counsel and the recommendation was to maintain or increase the County’s reserve funds in order to keep the current bond ratings for future borrowing. He also stated that the Highway Department will continue to identify efficiencies to keep costs down, however there are simply not enough efficiencies to keep up with increasing fuel and materials costs.

Pascarella reviewed the process of a public referendum to permanently increase the County’s levy limits. He cautioned that the County Administrator and Highway Commissioner cannot be the only ones to promote this option to the public if the board goes that direction. It will require support and public outreach by the County Board. Gerrish stated that the public feels the wheel tax is an unfair tax due to the statutory heavy vehicle exemptions and perhaps a levy increase is a more fair way of spreading the winter maintenance costs across the County’s tax base.

Hartman noted that the winter maintenance fund has been underfunded for at least 10 years. He pointed out the increases in salt and fuel costs that have not been offset by any additional revenues during that time.

Sikorski suggested that this issue may warrant a special meeting of the County Board. Hartman agreed that this discussion may be very lengthy and difficult to fit into a regular board meeting. Pascarella felt this may fit into a regular County Board agenda if there is a light agenda.

The committee would like staff to come back with 3-4 options to fund winter maintenance. Options Kelley will consider include the impacts of cutting winter and summer maintenance services at the Highway department, permanently scaling back equipment purchases, or decreasing funding for construction projects. Additional information will be prepared in regards to a levy referendum and any other viable options that exist. Kelley stated that he and his staff are focused on putting the 2017 budget together for the July 27th meeting, but will try to put these options together for that meeting as well.