One northern Wisconsin county plans to ask voters this August whether they would support raising property taxes to pay for services. Ashland County is putting a referendum before residents because of rising costs due mostly to methamphetamine use.
The number of felonies related to drug abuse in Ashland County has more than doubled in recent years from 122 in 2011 to 303 last year. Ashland County Administrator Jeff Beirl said they'd like to increase the tax levy by about $1 million to pay for law enforcement and health and human services.
"It's just not sustainable to keep covering these continued shortfalls out of the general fund because at some point in life the general fund won't have any more money in it," said Beirl.
The cost to the county for placing children in out-of-home care rose from $405,420 in 2016 to $720,909 last year. In addition, the county has also seen public safety spending increase by about $750,000 in the last three years. Beirl said they've tried to fill the gap through sales tax and timber sale revenues, but those sources of income have either hit a plateau or been maxed out.
"We used to budget $300,000 a year for stumpage revenue. We're at $760,000 a year in stumpage revenue that we're budgeting," said Beirl. "Our county forester had said he's comfortable predicting $750,000 on an average for maximum timber sales in a year."