High Pension, Retirement Costs Continue to Plague County Budget

Racine County executive Jim Ladwig pitched his 2013 budget proposal to the County Board at their meeting on Tuesday. If approved as is, taxpayers won't see much of an increase on the county portion of their tax bill.

Taxpayers won’t see much of an increase on the county tax portion of their property tax bill, if the 2013 budget is accepted as is by the Racine County Board.

County executive Jim Ladwig presented the budget to the board Tuesday night.

If the board approves the budget, a homeowner whose property is valued at $200,000 would pay $760 on the county portion of their tax bill.  

For Caledonia, Mount Pleasant, Sturtevant and Wind Point taxpayers, their county tax levy includes the general countywide tax levy and the library tax levy. The general county tax levy would remain the same at $48 million. However, the library portion of the tax levy increase by $68,000 to $2.2 million, or just more than a 3 percent.

During his budget address, Ladwig highlighted the rising cost of employee pensions and the cost of health insurance for retirees.

Provisions outlined in the state budget repair bill mandated that all public employees pay 5.9 percent of their total wages toward their pension, except protective service unions. But the county still pays a portion of their pension costs. In 2012, the County paid 5.9 percent of their employees’ wages into their pension, but in 2013 that amount is expected increase to 6.5 percent.

The county also expects to pay 23 percent of the salaries of all sworn officers hired prior to July 2011, and 16.35 percent of the salaries of all sworn officers hired after July 2011.

“The other big issue that we have to face is whether the sheriff’s deputies are going to contribute to their pensions or not,” Ladwig said. “To me, we’re not out to get them by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a question of fairness and equity. I mean, we don’t pay 23 percent of anyone’s pension except for protective services.

“For me, it’s a shared sacrifice, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask those that are reaping the largest benefit to contribute what everybody else is.”

Ladwig also pointed to increased health insurance costs for retirees, which is adding $2.4 million to his proposed budget.

“The irony is that the great majority of the covered retirees pay no more than 10 percent of the premium, and many pay only 5 percent,” Ladwig said.

The county is looking into whether or not it can legally change those plans, or increase the premium retirees will pay.

Other proposed changes include:

  • A 1 percent pay increase, but the county is currently conducting wage studies and is reviewing whether the increases will be across the board or performance based.
  • Adding a dog park in Waterford
  • Adding an investigator to the Racine County Sheriff’s Department
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