Property Taxpayers United for Fairness and Reform Since 1985
3rd Quarter 2014
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I recently was called by Terry Mulville representing Wisconsin Property Taxpayers. I am delighted to say Terry is the most professional person I have ever had visit me for this organization.
Well read, well informed, easy to talk “with” always listening when he should be and staying on track. Very much a businessman and pleasant to converse with. Hope he stays on.
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Property Tax Bill Estimates Under January 2014 Special Session Proposal Read Here
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Wisconsin in U.S. Congress
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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.
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Independence day celebration at Governor Walker's residence on Lake Mendota.
Thank you for joining us
at the Wisconsin
Farm Technology Days!
James Borchardt of Edgar
David Dorn of Kewaskum
John Guzek of Green Bay
Joe Koshler of Chilton
Mark Nellessen of Rosholt
Cheri Zimmerman of Grand Marsh
Congratulations! We are excited
to have you all on board!
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.
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
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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around the state who support
and rely on us to protect their
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Wiseye.org Live Webcast AIR click here
10/21/14 News Conference: Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) Outlines Legislative Agenda
Speaker Robin Vos held a news conference with Republican colleagues to discuss the upcoming legislative agenda at the Wisconsin State Capitol. Watch
10/20/14 Newsmakers: Transportation Fund Constitutional Change
On October 20, 2014 Senior Producer Steve Walters hosted a Newsmakers show on Transportation Fund Constitutional Change with Todd Berry and Craig Thompson. Watch
WisPolitics editor JR Ross and WisconsinEye President and CEO Jon Henkes recapped Wisconsin politics for the week of October 13-17 at the WisconsinEye Studios in Madison. Watch
9/3/2014 Legislative Council Steering Committee for Personal Property Tax Watch
10/4/2014 Scott Walker Proposes Income,
Property Tax Cuts Without Sales Tax Hike Watch
Fall 2014 General Election
General Election -- Tuesday, November 4, 2014.
Partisan Primary -- Complete Results of the August 12th Primary
The most current lists are linked here. These lists reflect the ballot access decisions of the Government Accountability Board at its June 10, 2014 meeting.
PolitiFact Wisconsin is a partnership of the
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and PolitiFact.com, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Web site of the Tampa Bay Times, to help you find the truth in politics.
Every day, reporters and researchers from the Journal Sentinel examine statements by Wisconsin elected officials and candidates and anyone else who speaks up on matters of public importance. We research their statements and then rate the accuracy on our Truth-O-Meter
Across Wisconsin, uneven property assessments fly in the face of fairness
In dozens of communities, 20% or more of property taxes are being paid by the wrong people, analysis shows
By Raquel Rutledge and Kevin Crowe of the Journal Sentinel staff Oct. 18, 2014 4:00 p.m.
James Fleischman and his wife, Barbara, have lived in their five-bedroom ranch on Applewood Drive in Glendale for about three decades.
In recent years, the assessed value of their house hovered around $331,400, and they paid about the same in property taxes as their next-door neighbor.
But when the four-bedroom Cape Cod next door sold last year, all that changed. The assessor slashed the value from $319,400 to $249,900, a drop of nearly 22%.
That cut shaved $1,642 off the new owners' tax bill.
When the Fleischmans opened their bill, they owed $640 more. In fact, all the residents of Glendale whose property values didn't go down paid more.
That change in their neighbor's value didn't account for all of the Fleischmans' tax increase. Glendale officials had increased the overall tax levy, and the assessor had lowered a smattering of other residential properties.
But the change violated the state constitution, which was crafted to make the tax burden fair. Assessors are not supposed to modify values of individual properties based on market conditions unless they are revaluing entire neighborhoods or communities.
Yet assessors are doing it.
By measure after measure, in cities, towns and villages across Wisconsin, property assessors are discounting uniformity and trampling on fairness, while officials with the state Department of Revenue do little to rectify the disparities, an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has found.
In dozens of communities, 20% or more of residential property taxes are being paid by the wrong people, according to the Journal Sentinel's analysis of Department of Revenue records for each of the state's 1,852 municipalities. The analysis considered communities that had at least 20 sales last year; it did not include commercial property.
Assessors in 15% of municipalities statewide are doing "poor" work when it comes to residential property, as defined by the department's own standards, the analysis found.
"It gets a little frustrating," said James Fleischman. "You just live your quiet life and pay the price."
Under Wisconsin's system, reductions in value don't translate into lost revenue for municipalities. The tax load, or levy, is set by elected officials. It's just a matter of who pays it, much like squeezing the air in a balloon.
In Glendale, more than $17 million in value was knocked off an assortment of residences in 2013 alone, amounting to about 2% of the municipality's overall residential property tax base.
The same goes for St. Francis, where the assessor lopped $2.5 million off a patchwork of houses. And in Rock County's Town of Milton, where the assessor cut chunks from individual residential values when he wasn't reassessing whole neighborhoods.
In Milton, the cut in residential values contributed to a $314 increase in taxes for a homeowner whose assessment remained unchanged at $200,000.
Reductions are warranted only in isolated cases — for instance, if assessors or property owners discover errors were made in calculating the home's size, or if there was a fire or flood damage.
Several assessors with low marks defended their work, blaming a state law they say conflicts with the constitutional requirement that taxes be assessed uniformly. They vowed to continue their methods of assessment, even though the approach erodes communitywide fairness.
The disparities have intensified over the last three decades as more municipalities scrapped their assessment offices in favor of cheaper — and often more cursory — work by outside contractors. While the swap often saves the municipality as a whole tens of thousands of dollars, sloppy work winds up costing most residents far more on their tax bills than they personally saved from the switch.
Pressure from the recession and a real estate market full of properties selling for less than their assessed values have amplified problems in recent years. The state's 935 certified assessors — most facing such a situation for the first time in their careers — have responded in assorted ways, some quickly knocking values down for those who make the request. Others refusing.
State regulators have largely ignored the fairness issue.
"By them not policing assessors, they are screwing over millions of taxpayers across the state," said Shannon Krause, a 27-year veteran assessor who recently joined Wauwatosa's in-house assessing department. "It's a huge disservice."
Local officials have little incentive to fix the inequities. They collect the tax money regardless of what portion each property owner pays. And most local leaders don't realize how skewed the system has become.
Nor do the residents footing the bill.
Since 2008, an average of just 13 people a year have filed complaints with the state's Office of Assessment Practices. There are 3.9 million properties in the state.
"Everybody and their uncle can recognize a pothole when they go over it," said Rocco Vita, assessment administrator for the Village of Pleasant Prairie. "Nobody can recognize a poor assessment job." Read more
Roth Report: What If Scott Walker Had A Great Week and Nobody Noticed?
By Collin Roth Published: 6:00 AM October 17, 2014
You might be hard-pressed to find it in the headlines, but Gov. Scott Walker had a great week. Just look at the news that came out this week
Unemployment Falls to 5.5%: According to the Department of Workforce Development, preliminary estimates for September found Wisconsin’s unemployment rate at 5.5%. The unemployment rate has fallen from 7.7% in January 2011 when Gov. Walker took office and is now at its lowest since October 2008.
8,400 Jobs Added Last Month: The Department of Workforce Development estimated that Wisconsin added 8,400 jobs from August to September. This put the year-over-year increase in jobs at 37,400 and an estimated 124,000 jobs added since December 2010.
$517 Million Surplus for Fiscal Year 2014: The Department of Administration released their annual fiscal report Wednesday that showed Wisconsin ending Fiscal Year 2014 with a $517 million surplus. This is the second largest cash balance Wisconsin has had in the 21st Century (second only to last year’s surplus). Additionally, the state’s rainy day fund sits at a healthy $280 million.
$55 Million In Additional Revenue in the First Quarter: The Wisconsin Department of Revenue announced that tax receipts paced $55 million more than expected in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2015. If duplicated through three quarters, Wisconsin would end Fiscal Year 2015 with a $104 million surplus.
$85.5 Million More in Aid to Schools: The Department of Public Instruction announced on Wednesday that state aid to local schools will increase by $85.5 million this year. Just over half of all school districts will receive more in state aid than they did last year.
With less than three weeks out from the November election, this should have been a juggernaut week for Gov. Scott Walker as he makes his closing argument.
But it wasn’t. And I think there are two reasons for that.
1.It is very hard to get large numbers like these to sink in with the general public. The most tangible, and perhaps most important, number was the drop in the unemployment rate. Otherwise, these numbers are likely to get missed in a very busy news cycle.
2.According to the Center for Public Integrity, Mary Burke and her allies have spent around $4.5 million this year on negative ads - almost all of which are meant to create the image that Wisconsin’s economy and finances are in bad shape. Polls suggest that this narrative has sunk in with a significant number of voters. That is just a lot of negative ads to overcome.
Gov. Walker’s campaign may make the effort to get some of these numbers in front of voters in the final two weeks. But the fact of the matter is that at this point in the campaign, the value of TV advertisements becomes smaller and smaller as voters make up their minds and tune out the messages.
These are really remarkable numbers and show a combination of good stewardship and good policy. Lets hope they didn’t come out too late.
Dairy Farmers Face HUGE 2014 Income Tax Obligations Unless Congress Boosts Section 179 Elected Depreciation
by Pete Hardin | The Milkweed P.O. Box 10, Brooklyn, WI 53521 608-455-2400
If dairy and general farm organizations want to do something important (instead of flapping their guns about animal rights nuts), they ought to heavily lobby Congress to pass by the end of 2014 an extension of the depreciation allowances that expired in 2013. Otherwise, Uncle Sam could be the prime beneficiary of 2014's dairy farm profits.
For several years up through 2013, Congress authorized expanded Section 179 elected depreciation for farmers from $25,000 to $500,000 annually. In those years, grain producers enjoyed good profits. Grain farmers undoubtedly heavily used that expanded depreciation option to upgrade equipment and facilities. But that $500,000 Section 179 elected depreciation option expired with the 2013 tax year.
Thus, dairy farmers face what's admittedly their most profitable year in modern history with a set of IRS rules that remove tax incentives to upgrade their equipment, buildings and operations. Goodness knows, what dairy farmers have been through during the cash flow squeeze that lasted from 2009 through much of 2012, there's been a lot of deferred upgrading of equipment due to basically non-existing profits.
So... where's the leadership on this issue? Word is that small, separate efforts are underway to lobby Congress to extend allowable Section 179 depreciation for 2014. But there seems to be no coordinated effort. Of the various issues facing dairy farmers right now, extending the 2014 depreciation option back to the 2013's level of $500,000 would seem to be most pressing.
What are your dairy cooperatives doing? What are your general farm organizations doing? Heck of a note... what with all the investments needed to upgrade dairy farming operations, that the profits from dairy's best-ever year should unduly flow to Uncle Sam's pockets.
Vilsack Moving to Impose New Tax for Second Beef Promotion Program
by Jim Eichstadt | The Milkweed P.O. Box 10, Brooklyn, WI 53521 608-455-2400
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is moving forward with controversial plans to create a second, parallel national beef checkoff promotion program funded by a new $1 per head promotion tax on all cattle sales, industry sources confirm. Vilsack's new supplemental program would double the mandatory checkoff to $2 per head and duplicate many of the functions of the existing producer-funded beef promotion program created by Congress in 1985.
On September 30, 2014, Vilsack announced the supplemental checkoff scheme, after a panel of invited industry groups failed to agree on a package of changes to the existing beef checkoff. Vilsack's changes were made under the authority of the 1996 Generic Commodity Research and Information Act. The proposal parallel beef checkoff program would be open for public comments and could take effect in 2015 or 2016. The program would be subject to a review referendum after three years, news reports said.
USDA's secretive discussions with the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group -- an exclusive, invitation-only club now down to ten members -- had been going on below the radar of public scrutiny since September 2011. National Mike Producers Federation is the only dairy member of the group.
Current members of the checkoff "working group" are:
- American Farm Bureau Federation
- American National Cattlewomen
- Cattlemen's Beef Board
- Federation of State Beef Councils
- Livestock Marketing Association
- Meat Importers Council of America
- National Cattlemen's Beef Association
- National Livestock Producers Association
- National Milk Producers Federation
- U.S. Cattlemen's Association
The industry working group deadlocked on a proposed "memorandum of understanding," which called for an increase in the checkoff rate (currently fixed by law at $1 per head) and governance changes, including a periodic review referendum and provisions for a partial refund.
Two beef industry groups -- R-CALF USA and national Cattelmen's Beef Association (NCBA) -- oppose Vilsack's proposal for starkly different reasons.
Checkoff raises $39 million
The beef checkoff program -- funded by a mandatory $1 per head checkoff on live cattle and the equivalent on imported beef products -- is overseen by the appointed 103-member Cattlemen's Beef Board. The beef checkoff generated $39.5 million in revenues in 2013, and is projected to raise $39 million this year. The CBB contracts a many checkoff funded promotion services to the NCBA, a large industry group that also engages in lobbying on political issues. The Beef Board's contracts with the NCBA have long raised concerns that checkoff funds are being used unlawfully to fund political activity.
The groups that receive funds from the existing promotion program -- NCBA, state beef councils, and affiliated industry organizations -- have agitated for years to double the $1 per head checkoff rate. Some members of the working group who support raising the checkoff rate, however, want the Beef Board to award promotion contracts on a competitive basis, a move that could cut funding to the NCBA and its allies. The funding question was a major point of disagreement withing the working group, sources said.
Promotion revenues have fallen as U.S. cattle numbers have dropped to the lowest level in 60+ years, and program expenses have risen. As U.S. cattle prices reach new record highs, and rising retail prices may have made beef too expensive for some consumers, some observers now question the value of additional generic promotion.
R-CALF USA, National Farmers Union, and others charge that the mandatory program is undemocratic and doesn't represent the interests of smaller beef producers due to the program's domination by the NCBA. They argue that Vilsack's decision to create a parallel checkoff program does not address fundamental flaws in the beef promotion status quo.
Other critics charge that Vilsack has no authority to act under the 1996 generic promotion law, which does not apply to the beef checkoff program. Congress established the current program provisions under the Beef Promotion and Research Act included in The Food Security Act of 1985. Any changes to the program, including an increase in the checkoff rate, reportedly would require new legislation to amend the 1985 law.
Vilsack excludes R-CALF
Vilsack has excluded R-CALF USA, which calls itself the largest producer-only trade association representing the U.S. cattle industry, from the working group. R-CALF has frequently locked horns with USDA in recent years as it has advocated for reforms important to grassroots cattle producers. Vilsack's dislike for R-CALF is understandable. R-CALF's priorities include the sweeping overhaul of the beef checkoff program, mandatory country-of-origin labeling, and prohibition of meat imports from countries infected with Foot-and-Mouth Disease and "Mad Cow" disease.
In an October 1, 2014 letter to Vilsack, R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard gave USDA both barrels" "R-CALF USA's ongoing efforts to trigger meaningful remediation of the glaring operational deficiencies of the Beef Checkoff Program could not possibly have gone unnoticed by your agency, particularly since R-CALF USA unilaterally initiated the formal action that caused your USDA office of Inspector General (OIG), in what may be an unprecedented action, to withdrawal its official Beef Checkoff Program audit report from the public domain and to subsequently issue a corrected report. In its corrected report the OIG concluded that it could not determine that all Beef Checkoff Program funds were spent according to law and it recanted its original claim that the relationship between the beef board and other industry-related organizations complied with legislations." (Emphasis added.)
NFU walks out
National Farmers Union, the second largest U.S. general farm organization, had been part of the working group but pulled out September 6. "After three years of pushing for real reforms in the beef check-off program, NFU had decided that the process has become a bridge to nowhere and a waste of time and resources," NFU President Rodger Johnson said. "Sadly, it has become clear that i reality, there is no willingness from key players within the group to allow real reforms to take place."
Like R-CALF, NFU called for major beef checkoff reforms, including provisions for refunds and a mandatory producer review referendum on continuing the program every five years. NFU also supports great authority for the Cattlemen's Beef Board to operate independently like other checkoff oversight boards, and contract with non-policy groups and private firms to avoid misuse of checkoff funds for political purposes.
No wonder the working group failed to find consensus on the beef checkoff program. The roster of current members includes groups that enjoy very cozy relationships with the Beef Board, and others that don't. The list also has some glaring omissions. If Villack were truly interested in improving beef promotion, he's tackle the real problems in the current checkoff program rather than doing an end run with his duplicative and wasteful "supplemental" program.
Capitol Report 2014
3rd Quarter | October
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WPT Helping You Grow
Wisconsin’s Farm Economy.
Current issues in the headlines.
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Our own Ag Member Representative Donovan Dolph - July 4th, 2014
These are our Farm Technology Days winners! They each will receive a 1 year Membership worth $200!