Property owners will see a 15% rise in taxes
Property owners in St. Croix County will see a significant jump next year in their county tax bills after the county board recently approved its 2023 budget and tax levy.
The total county budget of $120,306,192 was approved last week by the board, along with a total tax levy of $43,683,274.
The total 2023 budget shows a 5.78% increase over the 2022 budget of $113,728,502.
The levy includes $31,794,257 in maximum allowed property tax, as well as $10,712,540 levied for the county debt, and another $1,176,477 in special purpose levies.
The budget will include a debt levy of $10,912,540, with $4,990,463 being added in 2023 - an 87.2% jump from last year.
County Administrator Ken Witt said in his report to the board that the debt increase is due to the construction project approved last year for the government center, but he tempered that issue by describing how growth will continue to offset the tax impacts.
“We have made great progress on capital projects over the past few years, putting the infrastructure of the county in a good position to serve the needs of the public for decades to come. We have prepared a viable plan for continuing to maintain and expand our infrastructure with the current five-year Capital Improvement Plan, with the goal of avoiding the use of debt for all but the larger building projects,” Witt said.
While the debt levy is increasing because of the $80 million government center expansion, Witt said the cost is offset through population growth within the county.
Witt said that for the tenth straight year the county has seen a decrease in the mill rate.
“We’re at $3.08,” Witt said about the 2023 mill rate. That’s a 1% decrease in the rate over 2022.
“We’re 6 cents off the recorded low going all the way back to 1975, so I think we’re doing a good job of pointing the county in the right direction.”
Keeping the mill rate low was “helped by the increase in equalized value, helped by the increase in equalized value, helped by new construction, and the closure of a couple of TIF districts,” Witt said.
Despite that, the county taxpayer will still see their tax bill rise on a $264,000 home from $761 in 2022 to $814 next year.
“While the tax rate is coming down, that $5 million in debt has to be paid by someone and that’s reflected here. The good news of that is it’s a one-time increase, so it goes up, it does not continue to escalate in coming years. We’ll see it increase this year and then it will continually go down. When we have tax increases, I like to do them right away, get it over with and continue our trend of decreasing taxes,” Witt said.
Depending on the statistics considered, St. Croix County continues to see one of the top growth rates in the state.
“Eighty million dollars is huge project,” Witt said about the government center construction costs.
However, because of the increasing population growth in the county, those taxes will be spread over a larger group of taxpayers. That’s why he expects the mill rate to continue to see a decrease in the coming years.
“Estimates show our population increased to 93,684 residents, making St. Croix County the fastest growing county in the State of Wisconsin over the past five years,” Witt wrote in his report. “St. Croix County has the 8th lowest levy rate in the state. These statistics are important as we look at service delivery demands and expectations.”
Witt also said it was important for the county to correct structural deficits created when the county used ARPA dollars for law enforcement in 2022. He said no structural deficits will carry over into 2024 and the county also addressed employee compensation to “remain competitive in the market and help retain employees. The budget includes a 3% cost of living adjustment to the wage grid and a step increase. Employees can expect to see a 5% average increase in compensation. We maintained health insurance with just a 1.4% increase in premiums,” Witt said.
The motion to approve both the budget and tax levy was unanimous.