Marathon County will face another shortfall in its next budget, regardless of whether or not the county’s new wheel tax is renewed next year.
Last year, Marathon County was wrestling with a projected 2017 budget hole of roughly $6 million, of which $3 million was covered by a wheel tax that went into effect December 2016. Some board members said they’d vote for the $25-per-vehicle tax only as a temporary fix, insisting that it “sunset” after a year.
Current projections show Marathon County will face at least an $800,000 deficit in 2018, says County Administrator Brad Karger. Costs are expected to increase roughly $1.3 million each year, and state caps allow the county to bring in only $500,000 more per year in tax levy. If the county doesn’t renew the wheel tax, that gap will be $3 million more. The county’s subsidy of the nursing home will also likely increase, Karger says, possibly by as much as $1 million.
The county is currently undergoing a priority-based budgeting process that will rank programs and services. Marathon County had explored priority-based budgeting last year but didn’t have time to complete the project in time for the 2017 budget.