The 2023 Marathon County Budget :: Investments in Our People, Our Infrastructure, and Opportunities for Innovation, while Mitigating Future Financial Risk

Written by Lance Leonhard

Each November, municipal governments in Wisconsin, including Marathon County Government, adopt their annual budgets. The approval of the budget is the most important policy decision that a government body makes each year. Simply put, the budget identifies a government’s priorities. Our County budget tells me — and the other 800+ County Government employees — what work to tackle in the next year.

But, the importance of a budget certainly extends beyond the next calendar year. In fact, the best budgets prepare a community to address future challenges well before they become emergent needs.

With that background offered, let’s talk about the Proposed 2023 Annual Budget…

The County Administrator’s 2023 Annual Budget Message can be viewed online here.

What priorities are identified in the Proposed 2023 Budget?

As we began building the 2023 Budget, we continued our efforts to align our resources with our goal of being the Healthiest, Safest, and Most Prosperous county in Wisconsin. Additionally, the budget includes significant investments in strategies that are foundational to Marathon County’s long-term fiscal health and operational success.

Those foundational strategies continue to manifest themselves in this year’s budget through investments in Our People, Our Infrastructure, and Opportunities for Innovation; however, given the impacts of significant inflation, concerns regarding future economic outlook, and a significant reduction in general transportation aids, the 2023 Budget and capital funding plan also focuses on maintaining existing programs and service levels, not incurring any additional debt, and utilizing American Rescue Plan Act funds sparingly to mitigate future financial risk. The combination of these strategies will allow us to continue to deliver the programs and services that you – our taxpayers – have come to expect, while also living within our means.

Ultimately, the product of our team’s collective effort is a spending plan that I believe delivers on the priorities set by the Marathon County Board of Supervisors, maintains our essential services, invests in Our People, Our Infrastructure, and Opportunities for Innovation, all while reducing the cost of government by avoiding borrowing. 

Based on our current economic environment and the budget assumptions discussed with the Human Resources, Finance and Property Committee, I directed our Departments to use the following methodology in developing their 2023 budgets:

  1. Strive to reduce non-payroll operating levy budgets by 2% from 2022.
  2. Evaluate opportunities for increasing non-tax revenues, adopting alternative service delivery models, and sharing or reducing staffing allocations to ensure we continue to be good stewards of our resources.

While external fiscal forces such as significant increases in contractual services or materials costs, made this work more difficult, I am exceedingly proud of our 2023 Proposed Budget.

* * *

How does the 2023 Budget help us prepare for the future? And, what’s happening to your tax rate? I’m glad you asked…

As we look to the future, we recognize a number of significant challenges. Importantly, the proposed 2023 Budget provides strategic investments in Our People, Our Infrastructure, and Opportunities for Innovation, while mitigating future financial risk.  The Budget Message discusses each of these areas in greater detail, but here are a couple examples of strategies proposed as part of our 2023 Budget…

Our People

I often say that government is a people focused business. Our staff are our most important asset, and we can’t deliver the programs and services funded through the budget without our talented staff. The 2023 Proposed Budget funds the implementation of our recent Class-Compensation Study that was unanimously approved by the County Board and will be instrumental in ensuring we are able to recruit and retain people the people necessary to deliver high-quality services.

Additionally, this budget – through the use of ARPA funds – provides funding for an additional limited-term Victim Witness Specialist within the District Attorney’s Office. This position will be used to support two additional prosecutors that were funded by the State of Wisconsin through the end of 2024 with state ARPA funds as part of a strategy to address court backlogs caused by the pandemic.

Our Infrastructure

The proposed budget provides funding for significant improvements to roads and bridges and ensures we maximize our general transportation aid eligible spending, while also positioning us well to compete for federal and state transportation grants.

The budget also continues to fully-fund necessary routine and end-of-life maintenance for our buildings and IT infrastructure. Furthermore, the budget provides capital funding to bolster our IT security by way of 24/7 event monitoring.

Opportunities for Innovation

New this year, the proposed budget provides $50,000 in funding to support the Extension, Education & Economic Development Committee in their efforts to develop strategies to address significant issues that are impacting our county’s economic future: a shortage of accessible, quality childcare for working families and a lack of accessible, workforce housing.

Additionally, the proposed budget provides continued funding for entrepreneurial education delivered by the Marathon County Development Corporation (MCDEVCO), implementation of a new county website aimed at improving the public’s ability to access services, and the creation of a Data Officer position within County Administration that will aid in the assessment of our performance and development of efficiencies within the Criminal Justice system.

Mitigating Future Financial Risk

In developing the 2023 Proposed Budget, we looked to four main strategies to mitigate the county’s future financial risk: (1) take on no new debt, (2) be conservative in sales tax revenue projections, (3) strategically reduce Library reserves, and (4) use ARPA funds sparingly within the budget.

I’m pleased to share that we achieved each of these objectives in this year’s budget. Most notably, this 2023 capital improvement plan calls for no new borrowing. Furthermore, ARPA funds were used sparingly, funding the county’s share for a limited-term Victim Witness Specialist position and offsetting increased utility costs

*  *  *

What does this budget mean for your taxes?

The proposed tax rate for 2023 is $4.47, which is eight cents lower than the 2022 rate of $4.55. Furthermore, Marathon County’s tax rate continues to remain significantly lower than the rate of our neighboring counties. The proposed tax rate is 50 cents (10%) below the 2022 rates of any of our Central Wisconsin neighbors and below the 2022 statewide median rate of $4.92.

Clark County: $8.04
Langlade County: $6.18
Lincoln County: $5.47
Portage County: $5.03
Shawano County: $4.97
Waupaca County: $6.24
Wood County: $5.33

If you have a $200,000 home and live in a community that participates in the county culvert & bridge aid program and is a member of the Marathon County Public Library system, that means the county share of your property tax bill will be $894, which I think is a great value when you consider all the programs and services delivered by Marathon County government staff.

So, what’s the next step in the budget process?

After I presented the proposed budget to the Human Resources, Finance, and Property Committee, it made a couple of modifications to the capital funding plan before forwarding the budget to the full County Board.

But, before the budget is formally considered each year, the County Board holds a public hearing on the budget. The purpose of the public hearing is to give everyone in the community the opportunity to weigh in on the budget and express their thoughts on how the County should allocate its resources.

The public hearing is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 3, 2022, at the Marathon County Courthouse in the Assembly Room. If you’re considering attending the budget hearing, I invite you to read my Budget Message (available on the County’s website) and watch this recording of my presentation of the budget to the Human Resources, Finance, and Property Committee (presentation begins at approximately 20:03 of the video). The second half of the presentation can be viewed here. You can also watch the meeting where the Committee made modifications to the proposed budget (available here).

The public hearing, like all meetings of the County Board, is open to the public, livestreamed on Government & Education Cable Channel 981 of Wausau Area Access Media, and is available on our YouTube Channel.

Citizens may provide comments related to the budget during the public hearing on Thursday, November 3, 2022, at 7:00 p.m. at the Marathon County Courthouse. If you wish to address the County Board during the public hearing, please register with the Marathon County Clerk no later than five minutes before the start of the meeting (click here to email the County Clerk). Please include your name and address in your email.

If you are not interested in making a comment at the meeting, but would like to share your thoughts on the budget to your elected County Board Supervisor, you can find your representative and his or her contact information on the County Board page of our website.

The County Board will formally consider the budget, including any proposed amendments to it, on Thursday, November 10, 2022, at 7:00 p.m.

I encourage everyone to take a moment to review the proposed 2023 County Budget. If you have comments or questions, please contact your County Board Supervisor. They want and appreciate your feedback and suggestions. As always, if have you any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at

After all, this is YOUR County budget.

Lance Leonhard-2022-aLance Leonhard

Marathon County Administrator

Lance Leonhard began his career in Marathon County Government in the Office of Corporation Counsel. He then served as Deputy Administrator and currently serves as the Marathon County Administrator. Lance’s career in public service has spanned more than a decade, having worked for the federal government as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and for the state of Wisconsin as an Assistant District Attorney. Outside of work, you’re likely to find Lance spending time with his family, traveling, teeing off on a local golf course, or sitting around a campfire with friends.  Email Lance Leonhard

You might also like…

Marathon_County_LogoPlease email our Editorial Board with your comments, suggestions, and article ideas.

And if you spot a typo or an inaccuracy, please contact us so we can fix it. Thanks!