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1st Quarter 2015
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By Ag Member Rep
I recently had the privilege of attending the 2014 Farm Technology Days representing WPT (Wisconsin Property Taxpayers) and it was enlightening in many arenas. I had an opportunity to spend some time with Mike Marsch (President of WPT) and Bert Vosters (Sales Manager of WPT Agriculture) and they gave me a greater insight into the importance and value of what we do. This alone was a valuable learning experience. We had many people stop by our booth and they offered up their opinions. While the vast majorities believed in the principals that we believe in, there were a few that disagreed. Just another example of what a democracy is and the importance of freedom of speech. Many of the people that stopped by were already members of WPT, and many that weren’t expressed an interest in becoming supporters.
We handed out many Wisconsin Badger and Green Bay Packer schedules. It was surprising to me that so many people were looking for them and we were the first ones they found.
Overall, I think the event was a huge success. Attendance for the 2014 Farm Technology Days was reported to be just under 60,000 and from what I experienced, everyone enjoyed the event.
It’s great to be a part of an organization that is so positively accepted by it’s members.
WPT Ag Report
AG News Archives and previous news articles that matter to our members.
To learn when and where the open book session and Board of Review meeting will be held in your city, town or village, contact your assessor. Go here this link takes you away from this site
DOR Guides for Property Taxpayers
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Taxes By County
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.
What our members say
Thank you for taking time time to introduce yourself and your organization to Jason and Me.
I look forward to working with WPT, Inc. in the future.
Happy New Year!
Property Tax Bill Estimates Under January 2014 Special Session Proposal Read Here
2013-15 and 2015-17 General Fund Budget Under January 2014 Special Session Bills Read Here
Distributional Information on Proposed Individual Income Tax Rate Reduction Read Here
Wisconsin Alternative Minimum Tax and January 2014 Special Session Bills Read Here
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: Tom Petri
District 7: Sean Duffy
District 8: Reid Ribble
Governor, Executive Branch
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
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Independence day celebration at Governor Walker's residence on Lake Mendota.
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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The Governor’s 2015-17 Budget
Wisconsin judicial elections, 2015
Wisconsin holds judicial elections every year and is one of the few states to do so. In 2015, a supreme court seat will be on the ballot in April, as Justice Ann Walsh Bradley seeks re-election. There is a contested race for an open seat on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals District III. Additionally, there are contested circuit court races in the following counties: Columbia, Green, Jackson, La Crosse, Lafayette, Langlade, Racine, Rock, Sheboygan, Walworth, Waukesha.
Filing deadline: January 6, 2015
Primary: February 17, 2015
General: April 7, 2015
Want to learn more about the judicial elections in Wisconsin? Check out the Wisconsin Supreme Court elections, 2015 page for an in-depth exploration of the candidates, issues, politics and news surrounding the state's high court races. READ MORE
Counties, assessors oppose Walker's proposed shift to county assessing
Trouble With Taxes | Watchdog Update
By Kevin Crowe of the Journal Sentinel Feb. 18, 2015
Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to shift property assessment duties from municipalities to counties is meeting resistance among assessors and county leaders.
The Wisconsin Association of Assessing Officers voted this week to oppose the provision in its current form and the Wisconsin Counties Association issued a list of concerns about the plan. Both groups cited the tight transition timeline and a potential lack of funding for county assessing offices.
Walker's proposal follows a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation that found problems with uniformity and fairness around the state. In dozens of communities, 20% or more of residential taxes were being paid by the wrong people, the investigation found.
"Everybody's looking for higher standards," said Russ Schwandt, president of the Wisconsin Association of Assessing Officers and assessor for the City of Green Bay. "In theory, by doing annual valuations everywhere, you'd be getting better assessments."
But he views the plan, as outlined in Walker's 2015-'17 budget, "unworkable."
Under Walker's plan, all municipalities with populations less than 39,000 would cede assessing duties to county-level offices in the next two years.
"That's a worry for us, because not only have we never done assessments, we've never done other aspects of the assessments like the board of review," said Kyle Christianson, the director of government affairs for the Wisconsin Counties Association.
Larger cities, such as Milwaukee, Green Bay, Madison and a dozen others would be allowed to opt out of the county system and keep their own assessing offices.
Counties would be allowed to charge municipalities for the services — up to 95% of what they are currently paying for assessments.
Schwandt said the plan wouldn't give counties nearly enough funding to finance assessing offices. Most municipalities have gotten rid of their in-house assessors in favor of contractors, sometimes going with the lowest bidder.
In addition, he said, many assessors are doing low-labor maintenance work at an average cost of $6 per parcel. Doing the more labor-intensive work the provision demands — annual revaluations at 100% of market value — would cost around $25 per parcel.
"You're getting $6 per parcel to do $25 per parcel work," Schwandt said. "That's just not feasible.
The proposal calls for the transition to be complete by 2017. Some municipalities have contracts with assessors that span multiple years.
The assessors organization suggested making the changes during the course of 10 years and allowing more municipalities to opt out.
March 2015 The Milkweed www.themilkweed.com
Clear Horizons Controversy Continues amid County's Warning, Town's Settlement
By Jim Eichstadt
There is limited but encouraging progress to report at the disaster-prone Clear Horizons Dane, LLC manure digester located north of Waunakee, Wisconsin. The Dane County Executive has given the Clear Horizons facility's operator 30 days' notice to clean up its very dirty act ... or face stiff penalties, including possible termination of its contracts.
And, in a surprise development, the Town of Vienna -- where the manure digester is sited -- has negotiated a settlement with Clear Horizons to make payments for road work and other local government services. The town board on February 16 approved an agreement to make annual payments in place of tax revenues lost beginning in 2014 after the Wisconsin Legislature passed a law exempting bio-digester from local property taxes.
Dane County: 'comply ... or else'
Dane County ordered Clear Horizons to comply with the terms of its land and equipment leases within 30 days or face remedies including possible eviction. Dane County's legal counsel, in a February 20, 2015 letter to Clear Horizons officials, charged the anaerobic digester is in "default" of both the June 2010 ground lease and equipment lease between with the county and the operator.
"Clear Horzions Dane, LLC has thirty (30) days to cure the default by bringing the leased premises and equipment into compliance with state law. Failure to do so, (sic) will leave the County no choice but to consider that Clear Horizons Dane, LLC is in default of both leases," the letter said. "The County would then elect to invoke a number of contractual remedies set forth in each lease, including but not limited to bringing an action to enforce the leases, recovering any damages caused by the default, and potentially taking possession of he County's equipment."
Dane County's belated clampdown on Clear Horizons came in response to mounting public pressure after a series of scathing news reports (including stories in the Jan. and Feb. 2015 issues of The Milkweed) exposed a string of ongoing violations and management failures at the taxpayer-subsidized facility. Stung by the negative publicity earlier this year, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi defended the concept of trouble-prone manure digester technology, but expressed doubts about the Milwaukee-based contractor that built and operates the facility.
The Clear Horizons contact was approved by Parisi's predecessor, Kathleen Falk, who stepped down as county executive in April 2011, long before the manure hit the fan. Falk went on to lose the Democratic primary for the 2012 recall election against Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker (R) before being appointed District V (Chicago region) director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2013.
A taxpayer-subsidized mess
Dane County provided $3.3 million in taxpayer subsidies to acquire land and equipment for Clear Horizons to reduce agricultural nutrient runoff from three adjacent farms housing 4,000 dairy animals. The Waunakee facility and a second, newer facility located some 10 miles west in the Town of Springfield were intended to reduce the phosphorus runoff responsible for thick, green algae blooms that cloud Madison's lakes. Both digesters are located in an area of northern Dane County that is home to "approximately 45,000 animal units on about 250 livestock operations," according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The Dane County Executive has a lot to be defensive about. Clear Horizons has suffered a long string of disasters and embarrassments during Parisi's tenure -- including"
-- An August 2014 fire and explosion that disabled one of the site's three 1.25 million gallon silos;
-- Pipe ruptures resulting in three major liquid manure spills totaling 430,000 gallons between November 2013 and March 2014;
-- Citation by the Wisconsin DNR in November 2014 for numerous air and water quality violations, including 43 separate hydrogen sulfide gas emissions; and
-- Referral of the DNR's citation to the Wisconsin Department of Justice in November 2014 for enforcement action, with potential fines of up to $24,000 per violation per day.
Most importantly, Clear Horizons has fallen far short of its sole reason for being -- removing 60% of phosphorus from treated manure. "In 2013, just 44 percent of the phosphorus was removed. Through early June of 2014, just 33 percent was removed," Dane County District Supervisor Tim Kiefer charged in an August 10, 2014 letter calling for the removal of Clear Horizons as the sites operator.
Settlement reached with Town of Vienna
Clear Horizons had enjoyed a free ride from local government last year, thanks to a generous property tax exemption for bio-digesters passed by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature in 2013. That exemption for Clear Horizon cost the Town of Vienna $7.1 Million in assessed property valuation and reduced 2014 tax payments to local units of government by $107,305.82, according to Shawn Haney, clerk of the Town of Vienna.
Until Frbruary, Clear Horizons had refused to sign a Payment in Liew of Taxes (PILOT) agreement with the Town of Vienna to replace lost revenues. Minutes of Town's December 15, 2014 board meeting stated: "Norm Doll from Clear Horizons called on Friday December 12th. He stated that Clear Horizons was bankrupt and would not be signing the PILOT agreement..."
Something changed during between the first two months of 2015 -- a period when Clear Horizons was exposed to the glare of intense public scrutiny following news reports by The Milkweed, The Capital Times, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and other news media. The results can be seen in the minutes of The Town of Vienna's February 16, 2015 board meeting:
"Atty. Mitby has negotiated a settlement with Clear Horizons Atty. David Crass. Clear Horizons is offering to pay $36,502.54 within 30 days and $22,000 each year before October 15 from 2015 through 2023. In exchange the town will take over maintenance of Cuba Valley Road. Now that Cuba Valley Road has been reconstructed it will only require crack filling and sealcoating in future years," the board minutes state.
Town Clerk Shawn Haney said the agreement negotiated with Clear Horizons is similar to the PILOT agreement Clear Horizons CEO Norm Doll rejected in December. The agreement requires the facility to make payments to the Town, regardless of whether Clear Horizons' current operator complies with Dane County's 30-day deadline or is replaced with a new operator, he said.
Hanely also noted that the Town retains future leverage over Clear Horizons through it s power to issue or deny permits required for any future expansion or other change of operations at the facility. Haney expressed confidence that the Town would retain its permitting authority regardless of any future actions by the Statte Legislature.
Who's the father?
The political DNA of Wisconsin's 2013 tax exemption for Clear Horzions and other bio-digesters is fairly clear and can be traced directly back to Gov. Scott Walker and State Assemblyman Al Ott (R-Forest Junction). The bio-digester tax exemption is included on page 50 of Assembly Bill 40 -- Walker's biennial budget bill -- introduced February 20, 2013 by the State Legislature's powerful Joint Finance Committee. Walker, who has long been friendly to big agri-business interest, is actively if unofficially campaigning for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
One veteran state capital source confirmed Rep. Ott as a long-time backer of the bio-digester tax exemption, with strong support also provided by business interests tied to the manufacturing, installation and operation of these facilities. Ott is well placed to do big favors for the industry as a member of the Assembly Committee on Agriculture. Translation: state politicians bribed by generous campaign contributions pushed the bio-digester property tax exemption through at the expense of local governments -- while simultaneously cutting state school aid and effectively freezing local tax government's ability to raise taxes.
The genetic source of the new ban on federal enforcement of greenhouse emissions standards on bio-digesters is much harder to trace, but the family resemblance is clear. Section 419 of the Consollidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 bans federal funding to enforce Clear Air Act regulations "for carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, water vapor, or methane emissions resulting from biological processes associated with livestock production." This provision effectively deregulates Clear Horizons and other manure digesters across the nation by making it impossible to monitor compliance.
A source at Friends of the Earth, an international group tracking environmental legislation and regulations in Washington, D.C., said the specific language, buried on page 790 of the 1,603 page bill, has "murky origins" tracing back to the U.S. Senate and House appropriations committees. While the identity of the sponsor(s) is difficult to trace, the legislative language is taken straight from the playbook of Republican "climate change deniers" with close ties to big agri-business and the fossil fuel industry, the source said.
We'll be watching...
Some observers seriously doubt Clear Horizons can meet the 30-day compliance deadline laid down last month by the Dane County Executive. Failure could result in major penalties, most likely the replacement of the current operator, the preferred out come sought by some county officials. The Milkweed will be watching this tempest in a manure silo closely as events unfold in coming months.
Jim Eichstadt, a dairy consultant from DeForest, Wis., served 18+ years in communications and senior management positions at a large Midwest dairy bargaining co-op. He also represented U.S. dairy farmers at World Trade Organization negotiations in Singapore, Geneva, and Seattle.
The Milkweed P.O. Box 10, Brooklyn, WI 53521-0010
Farm Bill Cheat Sheet
Printable PDF that breaks down the farm bill choices.
Capitol Report 2015
1st Quarter | March
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Our own Ag Member Representative Donovan Dolph - July 4th, 2014
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
Read it online!
News updates March 18, 2015