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To be, or not to be... in debt
County ponders how to cover future budget growth

The future cost for operating a proposed second courtroom and typical expenditure increases — such as a 1% to 2% percent pay raise or an increase in health insurance — would create nearly $1 million in additional expenditures for Sawyer County without the equivalent of additional revenue.

Typically, the early stages of county budget discussions include some expected expenditures outrunning revenues, but through months of wrangling, and sometimes good luck, the budget gets balanced. But discussions about the 2020 budget at the June 20 county board meeting took on an ominous tone, leading the county to consider using debt or possibly floating a referendum to voters.

Sawyer County Accounting Manager Mike Keefe said he had been taught in college the optimal budgetary planning is for the "long term," but Sawyer County has now entered what he called "the survival phase."

Sawyer County Administrator Tom Hoff said Senate Bill 148 in Madison includes a provision for adding a second circuit court for the county. If the bill is approved, a second judge could be seated in either 2020 or 2021. (The county merits a second judge based on the high number of cases being processed in the existing court.)

The state assumes the judge's salary and partial funding for a clerk, but the county would pay for additional support staff, including a bailiff, security officer and clerk. All told the expense could amount to $270,000 annually.

In addition, another bill under consideration would add a second assistant district attorney for the county, a position that also will require additional staff, which could raise the total new court-related expenses to $420,000.

Hoff also noted the county typically adds an additional $300,000 to $400,000 per year

for a 1% to 2% percent salary increase, along with increases in health insurance, which can reach an additional $200,000.

"Each additional year we are looking at an additional $500,000 to $1 million just to do the same thing as we've done last year," Hoff said.

Meanwhile, the state sets limits on how much counties can raise taxes. The county can raise its general operating levy only by a percentage of new construction, which in Sawyer County typically works out to an additional $50,000 to $70,000 each year.

In his budget proposal, Gov. Tony Evers had included a straight 2 percent increase to the general levy cap that would have added another $200,000, but Evers' proposal was rejected by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Hoff said he has no idea where the county will get an additional $1 million, but he expects the departments with the biggest budgets — sheriff, health and human services and highway — to take the biggest hits from cuts. They are positioned best to absorb cuts and to find alternative revenue sources such as grants.

Regarding the highway department, Hoff said, in each of the last two years $200,000 had been cut from its general fund, and this year it looks like operational funds also could be cut, impacting the department services.

Keefe discussed a new "priority budgeting" approach being used this year to prepare the 2020 budget by comparing services for governance — services to the county itself — and services to the community. This approach results in fairer comparisons made across departments of governance and communities. Hoff said the new approach should be a "helpful tool" but would not be a "savior."

He said he anticipates department personnel would make impressive arguments for funds and possibly even new staff, but added there is a new reality.

"We have to start deciding what we are not going to do," Hoff said.

Debt, referendum

One idea Hoff offered as a possible solution was using debt instead of spending general operating funds to pay for capital improvements. This is because the state allows municipalities to use debt for capital improvement.

The debt raises the overall tax burden, but the use of debt provides an alternative to using the general operating levy so those general levy dollars can be spent in other areas. It is one way to go beyond the state-mandated levy cap without going to a referendum.

However, some object to the use of debt because of interest payments and because too much debt can impact the county's bond rating, thus raising the interest rate it is charged for bonds.

Hoff suggested the county could use debt to pay for three to five new squad cars the county acquires each year for the sheriff's department.

"That's debt, and you can never recover from that once you go down that road," Hoff said, "and maybe that's fine, and maybe that's a discussion we have to have regarding providing for services."

Keefe said the county could borrow up to 5 percent of its equalized value (which is over $1 billion) but suggested the county would never get near its borrowing limit, $50 million.

Keefe added that debt would not be "a good, long-term solution" but is now an option the supervisors have to consider.

Another idea Hoff offered was asking county voters to consider a referendum to increase the county's general revenue cap, which currently is just under $10 million.

The Hayward Community School District made two recent unsuccessful attempts to increase its levy cap by referendum.

Hoff said he is unaware of any county that had passed a referendum, and at least two supervisors — James Bassett and Elaine Nyberg — predicted a countywide referendum wouldn't pass. In particular, Nyberg predicted the first attempt would fail.

However, Supervisor Kathy McCoy said there is no other option but to pass a referendum.

Others asked Hoff if there is any possibility state legislators would provide more funding for a second courtroom or make special allowance for Sawyer County to exceed its general levy cap.

Hoff was not enthusiastic about obtaining any relief directly from Madison.


Start planning for Fourth of July

Communities throughout Sawyer County and southern Bayfield County will celebrate Independence Day July 3-6 with an array of fun events, picnics and a multitude of fireworks.

Chippewa Flowage

July 3

42 nd Annual Chief Lake Lodge Independence Day Celebration, Chief Lake Lodge, 7444N Pat's Landing Road. Live music and fireworks at dark.

July 5

Fireworks at The Landing on the Chippewa Flowage, sunset.

Town of Edgewater

July 3

Birch Lake Resort Fireworks at 10 p.m., 1085 County Highway F, Town of Edgewater.

Village of Exeland

July 4

Community picnic starts at the Exeland Sports Center at 5:30 p.m. (bring a dish to pass). There will be music, games, raffles and 10 p.m. fireworks.

Hayward Area

July 4

Hayward Civic Club 4th of July Celebration behind the Primary and Intermediate Schools on Fifth Street. Music, children's games, brats and beer, ice cream from 5 to 10 p.m. Hayward Hawks baseball game vs. Windfall Lake Loons at 7 p.m. at adjacent Larry Somerville Field. Fireworks begin at 10 p.m. sharp.

Sevenwinds Casino, Highways B and K, will feature a pig roast on July 3 and fireworks at dusk on July 4.

Moose Lake

July 4

Fireworks at Louie's Landing on Moose Lake, dusk.

Town of Round Lake

July 3

24 th Annual Round Lake Fireworks display at dusk. Music all day, at Prop's Landing, 9971N Grand Pines Lane.

Grand Pines Resort Celebration at dusk, 9993N Grand Pines Lane.

Stone Lake

July 3

Boat Parade on Big Stone Lake and Sand Lake Boat Parade.

July 4 Stone

Lake Lions Club 4th of July Celebration at Lions Park, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Softball tournament, bouncy house, face painting, water balloon toss, brats and hot dogs, ice cream, pop, beer. Fireworks display at dusk. Free-will donations support the fireworks fund

Village of Winter July 4-July Jubilee

Main Street Events:

7 a.m. 10K and Color Fun Run Registration.

7:30 a.m. Winter Library 10K Run

8 a.m. Winter Library 2 mile Color Fun Run.

11:30 a.m. Kiddie Parade (line up at 11 a.m. at school parking lot).

Noon-Main Parade (line up at 10:30 a.m. at Zion Lutheran Church. Prizes offered to first place in all three categories of parade entries: Most Patriotic, Funniest, and Most Beautiful.

Doc Smith Park Events:

Food and beverage stands, inflatables for kids, Kids Trout Fishing Pond.

8 a.m. Volleyball Tournament.

11 a.m. Tuscobia Trails ATV Club barbecue ribs.

Noon-4 p.m. Pie and Ice Cream Social at American Legion Hall

1 p.m. Princess/Little Lumberjack Awards and WALDO raffle drawing at Main Pavilion.

2 p.m. Truck & Tractor Pull (registration at 1 p.m.)

2 p.m. Bingo at American Legion Hall

9:30 p.m. Queen coronation; cash raffle drawings.

Fireworks at dusk.


July 4

Pancake breakfast, 8-11 a.m., sponsored by Barnes Christian Men, Barnes Community Church, east of Highway 27 on County Road N.

Cable Area

July 4 Downtown Cable: 8 a.m. 5K or 10K run or walk in front of the old school to support Cable Area Resources in Emergencies (CARE).

Downtown Cable:

8 a.m. 5K or 10K run or walk in front of the old school to support Cable Area Resources in Emergencies (CARE).

11 a.m. Cable Area Lions Club Parade and Picnic starting at Kavanaugh Road near the post office.

9 a.m.-3 p.m. Katie Flowers Endowment Book Sale at the library.

Other events are held at Cable Recreation Park (on Cable Sunset Road), including Cable and Area Lions Club Old-Fashioned Community Picnic and bingo after the parade.

4-8 p.m. Live music by the Drifters.

3-9 p.m. Concessions in the Depot by Living Hope Church.

Fireworks at dark.

Others on July 4:

Lakewoods Independence Day Fireworks at Lakewoods Resort & Lodge, 21540 County Highway M. Music, food, fun and fireworks display at dusk.

Lake Namakagon Boat Ride, Staudemeyer's Four Seasons Resort, 44705 Birch Point Road.

Hall of Fame honors local guide Ted Dorazio

Longtime Hayward area guide, bait-maker and fisherman Dave Dorazio was honored on the main stage at the 70 th annual Musky Festival Saturday, June 22, by colleagues and the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame Executive Director Emmett Brown presented Dorazio with a plaque inducting him into the Hall of Fame as one of the Hall's award recipients for 2019. Brown said Dorazio "could have been inducted into the Hall in a lot of different ways — as legendary guide, legendary angler, communicator, field editor for Musky Hunter magazine. He's also a pro staff member for St. Croix Fishing Rods out of Park Falls."

Steve Heiting, managing editor of Musky Hunter magazine, said, "Dave has been an outstanding angler, a terrific guide to thousands of fishermen, a wonderful communicator through Musky Hunter and the seminars he did, and a terrific friend to me for over 30 years."

Rich Belanger, promotions manager for St. Croix Fishing Rods, said Dorazio is a "tremendous fisherman, communicator and comedian."

Dorazio responded that "The Hall of Fame has done some great work around here."

Dorazio's guiding career started in the mid-1960s when he was a teenager and continued for another 50 years. His first clients were guests of the Arrow Resort, owned by his parents on the Chippewa Flowage.

By the time he was 18, he was making a name for himself as a fishing guide, and was invited to join the Herman's Landing Resort guides. He became the youngest guide at Herman's Landing.

Dorazio guided out of Herman's Landing for almost 30 years. He was one of the senior members of Hayward Guide Service, serving for 46 years.

Dorazio is a former two-time world line class record holder in the Hall of Fame, for a 46-inch tiger musky and a 52-inch musky.

(Copyright © 2019 APG Media)