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County tax levy up so slightly that mill rate is reduced
County tax levy up so slightly that mill rate is reduced

By Matt Johnson

Richland County Board members approved the 2023 budget on Oct. 25 including a $10.45 million tax levy.

The tax levy is up approximately only $7,000 overall from the 2022 budget.

The budget includes a $6.81 county property tax on each $1,000 of equalized property value for property owners. On a property valued at $150,000 this would be a county property tax of $1,021.

The tax mill rate is decreasing  from the $7.82 per $1,000 in 2022. Tax bills are calculated using the previous year's equalized property value.

The total expenditures for the county in 2023 are to be a little more than $39 million with $28.5 million coming  from state revenue sharing to local governments and outside sources.

A previously identified $524,000 operational budget shortfall is being filled in 2023 using a portion of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal funds received by the county.

In the past, the use of the ARPA money has been described as a one-year budget fix so Richland County can closely examine all of its expenditures and services. The 2024 budget could include budget cuts, increases in locally-controlled taxes and fees and a possible operational budget referendum being considered in the county by a special ad hoc committee.

Richland County Administrator Clint Langreck provided the board with an eight-page report on the details of how the county's 2023 budget was created.

The report included visual aids and break-outs involving budget sources.

A key element of the budget includes $1.05 million in short-term borrowing for capital improvements. Most of this is for highway department truck improvements, new squad vehicles and dispatching software for the sheriff's department and repairs at the UW-Richland campus.

Budgeting is a year-around process and having the 2023 budget out of the way puts the county squarely into planning for 2024, a year when it will have an operational deficit to fill at the same level or greater than in 2023. There will be no ARPA money to fill the gap.

“That work on 2024 is already underway by the finance and personnel committee and the ad hoc operational referendum committee,” Langreck said. 

According to the report, there will be continued economic challenges for the county due to its aging infrastructure, state-imposed levy limits and increased expenditures. The report noted significant factors influencing expenditures to be health insurance benefits, the cost of living, cost of materials and services.

“The constraints on us in the budget situation are not going to go away,” Langreck said.

Further influencing future budgets is the population in Richland County is decreasing. Population has fallen from 18,021 residents in 2010, to 17,304 residents in 2020 to an estimated 17,212 in 2021.

One benefit is that should the ad hoc committee eventually come up with a referendum question that is then forwarded to voters, it would appear on a ballot in the April general election of 2023.

“We would know before the final budget process of 2024 from an organizational standpoint of where the referendum issue stands,” Langreck said.

(Matt Johnson can be reached online at