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Paying the price: Living in Manitowoc County could become more expensive amid deficit

The county looks for solutions to fill more than $4.6 million in overspending.
Posted at 10:26 PM, Jun 10, 2024

MANITOWOC (NBC 26) — Living in Manitowoc is expected to be more expensive.

  • The county faces a budget deficit of more than $4.6 million and the two solutions are raising property taxes or installing a local sales tax.
  • Officials say much of the overspending is caused by Human Services, which is a department that follows state recommendations and guidelines in services.
  • A local sales tax could generate around $7 million
  • Increasing property taxes could generate around $4 million.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

On Monday, community members expressed concerns over having to pay the price for a budget deficit Manitowoc County faces.

"So when do we the people have our voice," Randall Bonde said.

People like Bonde say the news about overspending brings confusion and frustration.

The deficit points to the county's Human Services department, which operated in a $2.4 million deficit in 2023.

Now it's on pace to overspend again this year by $2.2 million, bringing the county's total budget deficit to more than $4.6 million.

Manitowoc County Executive Bob Ziegelbauer provided updates and answers at Monday's finance committee meeting.

"We are required to provide those services," Ziegelbauer said. "We have to provide when needed and we can't control the need and that's part of the problem."

Ziegelbauer says Human Services provides services for mental health, economic support, child protection services, and much more. He says these services are required by the state.

From 2019-2021, Ziegelbauer said the county experienced huge surpluses.

This prompted the county to increase services following expected reimbursements from the state, however, reimbursement amounts were lower than expected.

"And we didn't increase the local commitment, local dollars and we should have and that's my fault," Ziegelbauer said.

Ziegelbauer says he holds himself accountable.

He says the two solutions are either to raise property taxes by 12.5% or install local sales tax.

Sales tax could generate around $7 million and increasing property taxes could generate around $4 million.

"Even if we increase the property tax by the 12.5%, we'll still be far less than the other municipalities have risen," Ziegelbauer said.

"We don't have a sales tax, a local sales tax," Ziegelbauer said. "We're one of four or five counties that don't have that and I've been proud of that but now's maybe the time to do it.

The committee will meet again in early July.

That's where committee members tell me they will have a clear picture on next steps to recover from the millions of dollars overspent.