Finance Committee reviews financial impact for jail replacement

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A preliminary layout of the replacement jail addition and existing Sheriff’s Office was given to the county to review. The image shows a skywalk that would connect the addition to the existing structure where the jail is currently located along with the Sheriff’s Office and Police Station. (Reprinted with permission from Klein McCarthy Architects)

By Steve Van Kooten


Crawford County’s Finance Committee has served as the first line of review for the potential replacement jail project. As 2023 crept out of summer, the replacement jail project picked up speed and went headlong into committees and agendas in the last quarter of the year. 

Now, the jail has a place on another agenda: the December County Board of Supervisors meeting.  The board will review progress, potential financial impact and other variables before, possibly, approving the project to move forward in 2024.

Greg Callin, Vice President of Client Services for Kraemer Brothers, attended the Finance Committee meeting where Carol Ann Wirth, President of Wisconsin Public Finance Professionals, LLC (WPFP), gave a presentation that could outline a path for the county to handle financing the jail project. The Dec. 6 meeting was an important one; a scrimmage two weeks before a big game.

“The work here is preliminary,” Wirth said. “We’ve taken assumptions from reliable sources here. Markets, interest rates and construction projects are all subject to change.”



Wirth stated the county has existing outstanding debt. The debt is scheduled to be paid off between 2025-26 and some bank notes have final payments in 2029. Wirth stated those payments were small amounts.

“We want to wrap this new jail project debt around existing debt because we want to create all debt service being level to avoid fluctuation up and down from years.” Wirth stated the preliminary information used $30 million for the estimated total cost of the project. Callin later told the committee, “You’re being conservative, which is probably prudent at this time... I’m comfortable with the numbers.” Callin noted that the current numbers were still in a range, but the middle of that range was $29 million, which would give the county a $1 million buffer. Wirth also stated the financial data presented accounted for a two year construction period.

For interest rates, Wirth and WPFP used five percent but stated the current market was under four percent. “There’s a little conservatism built in there.”

Supporting documents showed the county’s 2024 debt service levy was $1,349,906. Wirth stated that the debt service in 2025 was calculated at $2,732,362, an increase of $1,382,456, when they combined the current levy with the replacement jail payments. The estimates also marked a $0.77 increase to the county’s mil rate, from $5.22 in 2024 to $5.99 in 2025.

“We just passed our budget for 2024, and we had an equalized rate of $5.22. The previous year it was $6.08. We would still be under what we were at in 2023,” Koch said. “If all these things came true, we wouldn’t be going crazy as far as debt limit is concerned and overall tax rate.” 

Koch also said he felt the numbers presented by Wirth were conservative: “I think we’re in the ballpark.”



Wirth provided a chart that showed three phases to the project’s possible funding in three separate bonds issued between 2024-26.

“You get a couple more years to repay the debt. That lowers the payments,” Wirth said. She also stated Wisconsin statute only allow for 20 year periods for repayments in this type of financing. By staggering bonds it could give the county two extra years to pay them off. The repayment time period was given as 2025-2046.

The three bonds were marked at $10 million for July 2024, $12 million for 2025 and $8 million for Spring 2026.

“The goal of this preliminary plan was to get a number that you know you can do and stay at for 22 years,” Wirth said. For the first bond in 2024, Wirth stated, “That would provide significant dollars to get the project started.”

Koch asked Callin whether the county would need funds available at the time of bidding if the county decided to have bids go out for items that had a long wait time (e.x. Elevators). Koch hypothetically used May 2024 for a time frame. Callin stated the project should be at the “tail-end” of the design phase in May 2024 and money would be needed for consultants, architects and other services utilized up to that point.

“I think we’ve determined that the county can carry the design phase costs,” Koch said.

“There wouldn’t be any funding construction-wise that you would need,” Callin stated. Construction has been tentatively slated to begin in July 2024, and Callin said funding for construction shouldn’t be needed until the end of the summer if that remained accurate. He estimated the first finances for the project’s construction costs would come in August and “ramp up” in September through December.

Wirth continued to the second phase, which had a price tag of $12 million for bonds in 2025.

“This would not be bank qualified, but it is necessary in order to ensure that you have funds until the next phase of financing is done. We don’t want you to run out of money,” Wirth said. “I think this is pretty safe dollar amount.”

Phase three would be a smaller amount and have bonds issued in 2026 with the construction of the jail addition projected to be completed in July 2026. “I think if you have eight million by April, that should carry you through your payments.”



For the Board of Supervisors to authorize funding the jail project, there would be multiple actions needed: an adoption of Initial Resolution and adoption of Award Resolution.

The Initial Resolution would have the board authorize not to exceed a stated amount of money and designate what the funds were allocated for. According to Wirth, the language of the resolution would state, “For the purpose of…” followed by a description of the jail project.

The resolution would give the board the authority to borrow money at a later date. Wirth stated the resolution would not commit the county to borrowing money if, for instance, the project didn’t happen.

The Initial Resolution requires a 3/4 vote of all members to pass, which would mean 13 ‘yes’ votes. Not present or vacant positions at the vote would count as an automatic ‘no’ vote.

If the project came in at less than the stated amount, the board would stop borrowing money and the rest of the authority would expire as part of the resolution. If money is never borrowed for the project, the authority for the board to borrow the money would also expire with the resolution. If the stated amount was not enough for the project, the Board of Supervisors would have to reconvene and pass another Initial Resolution for the remaining amount needed.

The second action would be an Award Resolution, which would require the county to put bonds out to the bid market and acquire underwriters. The process would result in a concrete dollar amount for the terms and interest rate.

Each phase of the borrowing would require its own Award Resolution to pass with 3/4 ‘yes’ votes from present members at the time of voting. These resolutions would be the borrowing of money for the project.



The Finance Committee recommended Klein McCarthy’s move to the schematic design phase be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors at the Dec. 19 meeting. Koch stated a presentation of the preliminary financial information would be given at the same meeting.

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