Property Taxpayers United for Fairness and Reform Since 1985
2nd Quarter 2016
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2nd Quarter | May 2016
Educate and inform the whole mass of the people...They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty. —Thomas Jefferson
running for the state legislature, and share some information on school districts finding a way around revenue limits.
We will also share our recent interview with Representative Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee), in our ongoing series of interviews with Wisconsin lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.
We hope you find this week's Capitol Report to be interesting and informative, and as always, if you have something you would like to see featured in a future edition, please reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the best for a great week ahead,
WPT Legislative Director
School districts and energy efficient projects
In 2009, the state legislature passed a law that provided school districts a one-year revenue limit exemption to work on energy efficient projects in their schools. This might come in the form of some new windows, energy efficient roofing, or any other project that might cut the overall costs of energy consumption in school districts around the state of Wisconsin. In a recent report from the Taxpayer Alliance, we are starting to get a bigger picture of how the exemption is being used.
The exemption was rarely used in the initial years after it passed, with only about 35 school districts taking part in the first year, 25 the next year, and 32 in the third. But between 2015 and this year, that number has rocketed to 105 school districts, and is costing around $49 million dollars to local taxpayers. Adding to that, the school districts in some cases borrow up to 20 years to cover the costs of the project, if they can't afford the project costs up front.
So, what's the big deal? The report asks a few very critical questions, and we happen to agree. If a school district needs some relief from revenue limits, why not go to referendum, rather than taking action on their own without public approval? One of the other questions asked is; why is the exemption actually needed? Won't the cost savings on increased energy efficiency pay back the cost of the project? Sure, to actually realize energy efficiency savings, it can take some time, so the exemption could help them in the short term, but is this money actually being used for these projects? That's up to you to take notice in your community.
At the end of the day, the question comes down to "how is my school district doing?" And if it's not doing too well, you have to ask yourselves "will our community do something about it" by way of referendum. WPT believes if the state of Wisconsin would pick up their share of school funding, bringing it back to 66%, the local property taxpayer could see relief, and schools could rebound at a much more rapid pace- rather than having to claim energy exemptions and tip-toe around local taxpayers.
Elections: WPT's plan, and your feedback
The months between now and November will be filled with a lot of contention on the national level. With hot button issues coming to the forefront of many campaigns, including races for the Presidency, the U.S. Senate, and others, it's easy to get lost in the rhetoric of the day, and forget that many local people are running for the state legislature. In many cases, these people are your neighbors.
As a nonpartisan organization, it is WPT's ongoing mission to provide you with nonpartisan information. This is why we have taken the time to highlight three Republican lawmakers, and three Democratic lawmakers in our recent interviews, and we will continue to bring more. With all 99 State Assembly seats up for election in November, and half of the State Senate seats on the ballot, we will be working our hardest to bring you those candidates' perspectives, issues, and plans for public office, should they be so lucky to win their race.
Between now and November, WPT will be surveying every candidate on the ballot for the State Assembly and State Senate, and putting their answers up on our new website (coming soon) for you to take a look, weigh in with your thoughts, or seek additional information. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, the idea of property tax, school funding, and helping grow small business and farms, should not be seen as partisan, but as an issue we can all rally around as a state and fellow Wisconsinites, and find some common goals through our collective voice.
So, where do WPT members fall on the political spectrum? What are the answers to last week's survey? Let's dive in and take a look.
Are you going to vote?
Well, of course you are. Or, at least 98% of you said yes. That's great to hear, and we're glad to help get you any information you might need about issues impacting our state. In the last two presidential election years, Wisconsin was ranked #2 in voter turnout, with 73.2% of eligible voters showing up to the polls to cast their ballot in 2012.
In last week's survey, we expressed our approach to advocacy in Madison, and wanted to get your thoughts on WPT's nonpartisan nature. We asked if you agreed with us that if a good idea is proposed, party affiliation should not matter.
Here's what you said.
94% of you think a good idea is a good idea regardless of it's a republican or democrat proposing it. We agree, and in fact, there have been both republican and democratic control of the Capitol in our 30 years of existence, and we have been happy to work with anybody who shares our vision of lower property taxes, and an economic environment where small businesses and farms can thrive.
Does the current legislature do a good job making sure that economy is alive and well in Wisconsin? That was our next question: Are you happy with the current legislature?
Well, this split is a little different than the other two above. 60% are happy with the current legislature, but a pretty large number, 40%, said they are not happy. Instead of making guesses as to why, let's direct our attention to some of the comments that we received on this question.
"Mixed thoughts on this one, not enough gets accomplished."
"Fighting for conservation."
"We hear from our customers that they, and we, feel as though we are not being listened to [or] taken seriously, nor are our customers thoughts making it to the elected official's floor."
The comments here are not surprising. WPT members aside, many people in communities across the state think that their input stops after they cast their ballot. That could not be farther from the truth. When you hear something on the news, or even in the weekly WPT Capitol Report, it's important that you contact your lawmakers directly, or reach out to us to get more information or answers. The State Legislature makes it very easy to figure out who represents your area, and how to get in touch with them. Just visit LEGIS.WI.GOV, and enter your address. It's that simple. Take a look...
All I did was enter my address, and a nifty map pops up, with both my Senator and Representative's photos, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers. Contacting your lawmaker directly goes a very long way in helping WPT continue being an effective voice.
98% of respondents last week said they would be interested in what the candidates running in their communities have to say about the issues. That's great news, and WPT will be launching our survey as soon as the candidate filing deadlines are final, and the ballots have been set. In the coming weeks, we will be reaching out to you directly to find out what information you will be interested in receiving from candidates, and which tax and spending policies in particular we should focus on.
As we gear up to send out these surveys, we will not change the questions based on party affiliation. Both Republican and Democratic candidates will get the same questions. But just to make it interesting, we thought we would ask you if you generally stick to one party. Here's how you responded:
Most of you (about 56%) said you usually vote for the Republican candidate. Some identify as independent, but lean republican. None of you stick solely to the Democratic candidate when casting your ballot, and 20% of you said you have voted for both parties.
We look forward to bringing you information on each candidate as the elections get nearer, and if there are any particular issues you feel strongly about adding to our survey, click email@example.com and let us know.
Survey time. Don't forget to click.
Governor Walker has stated that K-12 funding will receive a boost from the state in the next budget. Our survey will asks few questions to get your thoughts on the topic, so we can bring you some information next week.
All answers are kept anonymous, even we don't see who responds. Five questions, multiple choice, less than one minute!
Unemployment numbers drop
Unemployment numbers dropped in Wisconsin for the month of April to 4.4%, down one tenth of a percent from March. The national unemployment average is 5%.
The labor participation rate stood at 68.8%.
Some of the other news released last week from the BLS was that Wisconsin added 35,565 jobs in 2015. The biggest increases were in the construction industry, which grew employment by about 6% within the year. Private sector wages were also up about 7%.
DWD Secretary Ray Allen cited progress when noting that initial unemployment claims in Wisconsin are at their lowest since 1989, below the US average. This was also the single largest one-year gain in employment since September of '95.
Milwaukee lawmaker no stranger
to issues around the state
WPT recently sat down with two-term State Representative Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) to talk about his work in the legislature, plans for the future, and what inspired him to enter public office. But after only a few moments, it became clear that this Milwaukee lawmaker is also quite familiar with the issues facing many other communities around Wisconsin.
"I was inspired from birth," Goyke joked, when I asked about his inspiration to enter public service.
"Both of my parents have been active in government and politics their entire careers, so I grew up in a house where discussions of public policy and public service were frequent. I believe deeply that we can do great things for people in need, and felt that from a very young age." He added that he feels it's his duty to give back, and to make positive change, after all of the opportunities that he has been given.
Rep. Goyke is also gearing up for another huge commitment. "I'm getting married in October to an incredibly smart, beautiful woman and welcome every opportunity to spend with her when we can, with our busy schedules."
With a metro population nearing two million, Milwaukee and its issues can often become isolated from many other regions or smaller cities in Wisconsin. But as a state lawmaker, Goyke knows that both urban and rural areas working in tandem under common goals is best for the state's workforce and economy. That's why he has spent countless nights on the road meeting with business and civic leaders in every corner of the state.
And what are some of those common goals?
"Almost every community I have been to is trying to figure out the same thing: how to attract and retain smart, young talent. Communities are investing in ways to keep their human capital. Efforts that I have seen include increased transportation solutions, downtown or main street revitalization, anything to create a desired, livable community for a smart, young workforce." He drew so many parallels between the large city and smaller communities that aren't necessarily obvious. "We are experiencing a new mix of urban dwellers: baby-boomers that are downsizing from the suburbs and young people who are drawn to urban living."
And there are other not-so-urban issues that we wanted to hear about. Rep. Goyke is also a member of the Assembly Committee on Agriculture. I asked what being an urban lawmaker on the agriculture committee is like, because we don't often think of Milwaukee when we think of farms.
"I can remember a talk my mom gave me as a kid about her experience growing up on a dairy farm in Brown County. She wasn't sharing glowing, romantic memories of life on the farm. It was tough, tough work." At the same time his grandfather was aging, the land around the farm changed as Green Bay expanded, and the market for milk changed.
It's a trend that we are continuing to see today, and there are an array of solutions being proposed. "I'm not sure that the state government can entirely reverse [the aging farm population, and declining number of small dairy farms.] But one thing the state can do to help is to continue to be a pioneer in technology and science as it relates to agriculture, especially animal agriculture. New technologies developed in Wisconsin can give farmers here an edge over national and global competitors. That's especially true given our country's movement to know and care more about our food, our health, and the connection between the two.
The message of hard work and innovation resonates with Rep. Goyke, but also his deep understanding of the issues facing farm communities today, and the proud agricultural heritage in the State of Wisconsin, make him an active member on the committee.
We switched gears and began talking about accomplishments and priorities. "This session I was able to author and pass a few bills, change several bills for the better through amendments, and defeat a few bills that were bad public policy. But, the greatest accomplishment for me personally since being elected has been maintaining a perfect attendance record. In four years, I haven't missed a committee hearing, a committee vote, or a vote on the floor." He added, "that might not seem like a big accomplishment, but I prioritize being present, prepared, and involved, which has frequently meant missing more glamorous or exciting opportunities. I like what I do and am proud to have shown up for work every day for four years."
He also added that he'll continue his work within the criminal justice system, work on several housing-related issues, including continued work on mortgage and tax-foreclosed properties. And just like the rest of the state, there's infrastructure. "I am also focused on several infrastructure projects around Milwaukee. As the City of Milwaukee grows and new, exciting developments are announced seemingly every week, several projects in the neighborhoods that I represent are ripe for further development, and I am excited to help lead the way."
One thing is certain with Rep. Evan Goyke, he's never afraid to go the extra mile, quite literally, to learn about the issues and educate himself before making decisions. In our interview, we noticed his emphasis on collaboration and consensus. Recently, he and Republican State Senator Alberta Darling championed a large revitalization partnership in urban Milwaukee. Just looking at the list of diverse stakeholders in the project is evidence enough of the Rep. Goyke's willingness to work with whoever it takes to achieve results. The partnership includes Marquette University and Harley Davidson, just to name a couple.
We asked Rep. Goyke if there was anything he would like to say directly to WPT members. And in true collaborative form, he said, "thanks for the opportunity to introduce myself. I am always open to talk, collaborate, get criticized, get praised...whatever. Please contact me if you are interested in working to make Wisconsin an even better place."
Could you cover a $1,000 emergency?
A unique and interesting poll concluded last week that surveyed countless Americans. The question was, could you cover a $1,000 crisis if something came up and you needed to shell out a grand.
The poll found that two-thirds of American would have a hard time coming up with that kind of money, which lends credibility to the argument that families' financial situations are still unstable, even after a near-decade since the Great Recession.
The findings also showed that the financial difficulties don't just impact poorer households. According to the poll, 75% of people in households under $50,000 would have difficulty putting together $1,000, and 67% of people making between $50,000 and $100,000 would still have a hard time.
A financial expert noted that people are particularly vulnerable if they don't have savings, which can also result in the cost being shifted onto taxpayers.
Even despite this information, two-thirds of Americans say they feel positively about their cash situation, and that they are managing their money just fine.
To read more, click here.
Class III milk prices could see 2009 levels
Professor Emeritus Bob Cropp of the UW-Extension, one of Wisconsin's foremost dairy market experts says things could get worse for Wisconsin's dairy farmers before they get better.
He predicts that declining cheese prices will result in a Class III price that we haven't seen since the fall of 2009, citing that a 40 lb. block of cheddar on the Chicago Exchange ranged between $1.36 and $1.27 per pound this month. That's a seven-year low. The Class III price was $13.63 in April, and will be near $12.75 in May. Last year those numbers were $16.19, and in 2014, they were $22.57.
Cropp said that domestic cheese and butter sales have been good, but exports have been soft. We aren't shipping enough products overseas to make up for the difference. Despite lower milk prices, production continues to increase in the Northeast and Midwest, more than off-setting lower milk production in some Western states. He also noted that cow numbers in April were 4,000 more than in March, which means that they are producing more milk per head than in any time in history.
Cropp said the USDA All Milk price is forecast between $14-60 and $15.10 for the year. Last year, that number was $17.11. Despite the USDA forecast, Cropp said he's more optimistic if there are improvements in exports, domestic sales remain strong, and production increases less.
BILLS IN CIRCULATION
These are bills that are being circulated for co-sponsor-ship by lawmakers in the State Capitol.
WPT thought our members might be interested in seeing some of the bills that might have an impact on small business, agriculture, or taxes in the State of Wisconsin. So, each week, we will begin sharing pieces of legislation that are currently being circulated in the State Capitol for co-sponsorship. Click the "LRB" link for the actual text of the bill, or click "Memo" to read the description and explanation from the lawmaker.
Currently there are no bills being circulated.
News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
Good evening! We hope you had a chance to enjoy the weekend, and that your week is off to a great start.
This week, we will talk a bit about new jobs and unemployment numbers in Wisconsin, talk a little about WPT's plan to survey candidates
Simply fill out the form below to leave your comments and
opinions. We will be glad to assist you in any way possible.
Read Members Comments
will advocate for:
-Restoring the "beginning farmer" tax credit
-$5000 refundable tax credit
-$5000 tax deduction
-Provides beginning farmers with interest-free loans
-Eliminate capital gains tax for farmers who sell to beginning farmers
Together, lets work to restore our family farming heritage.
For more information call: 1-800-994-9784
John Jacobson (L), WPT's Legislative Director & Bert Vosters (R) WPT's AG Members Representative
WPT was quite busy at Farm Tech Days! We had tons of members stop by to say hello, and many new people interested in the mission of our organization stopped by to explain their flawed property assessment stories, or share their ideas on how to grow small business. Also, a few lucky names were drawn from our membership raffle and will be joining the WPT family for the next year!
Farm Tech Days Drawing Winners
Congratulations to our winners! You won a complimentary one year membership with WPT valued at $100!
Tuesday, August 25th
Eric Speckher of Sparta
Sam Stressep Sr. of
Wednesday, August 26th
Roxanne Lots of Chetek
John Shefer of Bark Road
Thursday, August 27th
Gerald Boelter of Markesan
Jim Becker of Cty Rd Q
Please call John with your questions regarding your one year membership at 608-255-7473 or drop him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Official Web sites of various state offices and agencies
Wisconsin in U.S. Congress
Senate: Ron Johnson
Senate: Tammy Baldwin
District 1: Paul Ryan
District 2: Mark Pocan
District 3: Ron Kind
District 4: Gwen Moore
District 5: Jim Sensenbrenner
District 6: Glenn Grothman
District 7: Sean Duffy
District 8: Reid Ribble
Governor, Executive Branch
On February 3, 2015, Governor Walker delivered his budget address.
• Budget in Brief READ
• 2015-17 Executive Budget (Complete Document) READ
• About the Budget Documents READ
• How to Read the 2015-17 Executive Budget READ
• Statewide Budget and Position Summaries READ
Although Wisconsin finished its budget on July 12, it was one of six states that had not enacted a budget by July 1. As of July 20, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania were still awaiting budgets for FY 2016. Of states with budgets in place, three enacted biennial budgets during 2014. (source: NCSL)
*an interactive almanac
of U.S. politics
Who We Are
and What We Do
Wisconsin Property Taxpayers, Inc. (WPT)
is the voice of Wisconsin’s property taxpayers in the State Capitol, working to reduce the statewide property tax burden and reform Wisconsin’s antiquated and regressive property tax system.
Founded in 1985, WPT represents the interests of thousands of commercial, agricultural and residential property taxpayers throughout the state who volunteer their financial support and personal commitment to the organization and its objectives.
WPT is the only statewide taxpayers’ organization registered with the Ethics Division of the State’s Government Accountability Board to lobby exclusively for property tax relief and reform.
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WPT’s experienced government relations specialists, field representatives and technical support staff conduct a variety of activities including legislative analysis, policy and opinion research, media relations, public information and legislative liaison service, to increase public and legislative support for the organization’s public policy objectives.
WPT regularly communicates with members through personal contact, newsletters, member surveys, policy briefs and legislative action alerts.
WPT assists members in dealing with local property tax issues and answers members’ questions related to assessments, property tax exemptions, state laws and administrative rules, and provides information useful in appealing and reducing their property tax liability.
For more information about who we are, what we do, and what we have helped to accomplish over the years, go here
Sign up here to receive the weekly
Capitol Report along with other
WPT is the voice of Wisconsin’s Property Taxpayers, your voice, in the Wisconsin State Legislature. Whether you have a comment, a thought to share, a question about your assessment or property tax bill, how your property tax dollars are spent, what’s going on in the Legislature, or any of a thousand property tax related questions we answer for our members, WPT wants to hear from you.
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and rely on us to protect their
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Read the 2016
1st QTR Newsletter!
Read the 2016
1st QTR Newsletter online.
WPT Newsletters are published
4 times a year, and are mailed directly to our members. To view previous editions and other publications in our Media archive click the link below.
How Property Taxes Work
August 1, 2011 04:18 PM ITEP
The property tax is the oldest major revenue source for state and local governments. At the beginning of the twentieth century, property taxes represented more than eighty percent of state and local tax revenue. While this share has diminished over time as states have introduced sales and income taxes, the property tax remains an important mechanism for funding education and other local services. This policy brief discusses why property is taxed and how property taxes are calculated.
Why Tax Property?
The property tax is rooted largely in the “benefits principle” of taxation. Under this view, the property tax essentially functions as a user-charge on local residents for the benefits they receive from the local policies funded by property taxes. These policies benefit local residents directly in the form of better schools and fire protection, and indirectly in the form of increased housing values.
The property tax also helps differentiate between families of very different means by taxing families with large quantities of wealth more heavily than those without such reserves. But the impact that property taxes can have on low-income families, and particularly the elderly, makes clear that the linkage of the property tax to the ability-to-pay principle is far from perfect.
Finally, the stability and enforceability of the property tax make it among the best options available for providing local governments with a predictable revenue stream that can be used to fund indispensable services like schools, roads, and public safety.
How Property Taxes Work
Historically, property taxes applied to two kinds of property: real property, which includes land and buildings, and personal property,
such as cars, boats,
and the value of
stocks and bonds.
Most states have
moved away from
property and now
primarily on real
In its simplest form, the real property tax is calculated by multiplying the value of land and buildings by the tax rate. Property tax rates are normally expressed in mills. A mill is one-tenth of one percent. In the most basic system, an owner of a property worth $100,000 that is subject to a 25 mill (that is, 2.5 percent) tax rate would pay $2,500 in property taxes. In reality, however, property taxes are often more complicated than this. The first step in the property tax process is determining a property’s value for tax purposes. In most cases, this means estimating the property’s market value, the amount the property would likely sell for.
The second step is determining the property’s assessed value, its value for tax purposes. This is done by multiplying the property’s market value by an assessment ratio, which is a percentage ranging from zero to one hundred. Many states base their taxes upon actual market value—in other words, these states use a 100 percent assessment ratio. A significant number of states, however, assess property at only a fraction of its actual value. New Mexico assesses homes at 33.3 percent of their market value, and Arkansas uses a 20 percent assessment ratio. Some states place a cap on increases in a home’s assessed value in any given year, which in many cases can lead to vastly different assessment ratios among similarly valued homes (For more detail, see ITEP Brief, “Capping Assessed Valuation Growth: A Primer”). And even when the law says properties should be assessed at 100 percent of their value, local assessors at times systematically under-assess property, reporting assessed values that are substantially less than the real market value of the property.
After the assessment ratio has been factored in, many states reduce a property’s assessed value further by allowing exemptions. The most common type of exemption is referred to as a “homestead exemption.” In Ohio, for example, the state allows an exemption for the first $25,000 of home value. Subtracting all exemptions yields the taxable value of a property. (For more on homestead exemptions, see ITEP Brief, “Property Tax Homestead Exemptions”).
The next step in the process is applying a property tax rate, also known as a millage rate, to the property’s taxable value. The millage rate is usually the sum of several tax rates applied by several different jurisdictions: for example, one property might be subject to a municipal tax, a county tax, and a school district tax. This calculation yields the tentative property tax before credits.
Many states allow property tax credits that either directly reduce the property tax bill, or that reimburse part of the property tax bill separately when taxpayers apply for them. Subtracting these credits is the final step in calculating one’s property tax bill—though taxpayers are often required to pay the pre-credit property tax amount, only to later have the amount of the credit refunded to them. (For more detail on one type of property tax credit, see ITEP brief, “Property Tax Circuit Breakers”).
Other Property Tax Issues
While property taxes on owner-occupied homes tend to receive the most attention, the presence (or absence) of tax on other forms of property also has important implications.
Businesses pay property taxes just like local residents. Property taxes on businesses are mostly borne by business owners. Business property taxes generally make the property tax less regressive, since business owners tend to be wealthier than average.
Property taxes also impact taxpayers who rent, rather than own their home. This is because owners of rental real estate pass through some of their tax liability to renters in the form of higher rents. The impact of property taxes on renters is of particular concern because renters tend to be significantly less well-off than their homeowner neighbors.
Non-profit entities are generally exempt from state and local property taxes. While these exemptions can make it easier for these organizations to pursue their missions, it can mean that local governments have difficulty raising the revenue needed to provide quality public services. This issue is most significant in areas with large non-profit hospitals and/or universities. PDF
Wisconsin Property Taxes
You can choose any county from our list of Wisconsin counties for detailed information on that county's property tax, and the contact information for the county tax assessor's office.
DOR Guides for Property Taxpayers
Go here this link takes you away from this site
2015 Assessors Guide for
Go here PDF
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WPT Ag Report
AG News Archives and previous news articles that matter to our members.