By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — Every year, it seems as if it is becoming a bit more difficult for Dunn County to balance the budget.
The Dunn County Board reviewed the proposed budget for 2018 of $79.8 million that included $2.6 million from the fund balance and $21.7 million in tax levy at the October 18 meeting.
Dunn County also will be considering, as alternative financing, borrowing $1.7 million for capital improvements, said Paul Miller, county manager.
The $1.7 million in alternative funding in the form of a loan to cover specific capital improvement items will probably be taken out as two loans, said Tonya Kusmirek the county’s chief financial officer.
The money most likely will be borrowed toward the end of the next year when the county is ready to complete the projects, she said.
The loans will be taken out for projects with a long useful life — that is, the county will not borrow money with a ten-year payback period for something that will have to be replaced in five years, Miller said.
Dunn County will check with local banks to find out about interest rates and compare what is available to the interest rate on a state trust fund loan, Kusmirek said.
Dunn County has supplemented the budget with money from the fund balance for the past several years.
Gary Bjork, county board supervisor from Colfax, asked how much money would be left in the unassigned fund balance after the money was applied to the 2018 budget.
Steve Rasmussen, county board chair, handed out a sheet to the board members containing information about the fund balance and the county’s general obligation bonds.
As of December 31, 2016, the fund balance contained $10.1 million. The amount reflects a $4 million loan to the Neighbors of Dunn County.
As of December 31, 2015, the fund balance was $10.7 million.
At the end of 2014, the fund balance was $11.8 million, while at the end of 2013, the fund balance was $10.25 million.
On December 31, 2012, the fund balance was $11.43 million, while in 2011, the fund balance was $9.74 million, and in 2010, it was $10.15 million.
In 2009, the fund balance was $9.78 million, and in 2008, it was $8.13 million.
Miller reminded board members that last year, when the county board was considering the 2017 budget, he had told them “we can’t keep dipping in.”
“But,” he added, “we did it again this year.”
“The fund balance has stayed fairly level over the past few years,” Rasmussen noted.
Any money left over at the end of the year is transferred into the unassigned fund balance.
Municipalities can borrow up to 5 percent of the equalized value.
Dunn County’s equalized value for this year is $2.94 billion.
Based on 5 percent of the equalized value, Dunn County could borrow up to $147 million.
As of December 31, 2016, the balance remaining on Dunn County’s general obligation bonds was $38.17 million.
In 2015, the balance was $40.63 million, and in 2014, it was $43.21 million.
In 2013, the balance of the general obligation bonds was $38.47 million, and in 2012, the balance was $30.13 million.
In 2011, the balance of the general obligation bonds was $9.46 million, and in 2010, the balance was $10.79 million.
In 2009, the balance of the general obligation bonds was $12.07 million, and in 2008, the balance was $13.30 million.
In 2012, general obligation bonds were issued for the Neighbors of Dunn County, and in 2013, general obligation bonds were issued for several projects, including remodeling the old Dunn County Health Care Center into the Community Services building, Rasmussen said.
Since 2014, the county has been working to pay off the general obligation bonds, going from $43.21 million to $38.17 million in 2016, he noted.
None of the tax levy collected by Dunn County since 2013 has been applied to the Neighbors, Rasmussen said.
The recommendation is that the county keep $7.7 million in the fund balance, Kusmirek said.
After the fund balance has been applied to the budget, the remaining total will be $7.6, million, she said.
Dunn County is at the minimum for the “safety net,” Kusmirek said.
The Dunn County Board will meet next on Tuesday, November 14, at 7 p.m. and will consider the 2018 budget as one of the agenda items.