Property Taxpayers United for Fairness and Reform Since 1985
2nd 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.
State FFA Officer Candidate Applications Due April 27
Agriculture students that have an interest in serving as a state FFA officer have just one more week to submit their applications for candidacy. The Wisconsin FFA is seeking qualified members to serve as state officers for the coming year.
Applicants must be individuals who have a strong sense of responsibility, know and understand FFA and its programs, communicate well and have the heart and desire to willingly commit a year of service to the organization and its members.
State FFA Director Cheryl Zimmerman says officers receive leadership scholarships and have a year-long resume of experiences that give them a cutting edge for many future opportunities.
"Serving as a Wisconsin State FFA Office is an internship experience like no other," Zimmerman notes. "Students will not only gain confidence and skills in leadership but will receive a variety of experiences to help them expand their knowledge of agriculture, agricultural education and FFA."
Applications are due April 27.
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.
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
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: Glenn Grothman
District 7: Sean Duffy
District 8: Reid Ribble
Governor, Executive Branch
*an interactive almanac
of U.S. politics
What our colleagues 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!
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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Legislative leaders drop property assessment change from Walker budget
By Kevin Crowe of the Journal Sentinel
April 15, 2015
Leaders of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee on Wednesday dropped a provision from Gov. Scott Walker's budget that would have shifted property assessment duties from municipalities to the county level for most cities, villages and towns in the state by 2017.
The proposed shift to county-level assessments had come after a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation found that at least 20% of property taxes are being paid by the wrong people in dozens of communities around the state.
The move was criticized by counties and municipalities alike for its short timetable for implementation, as well as for what counties saw as a lack of funding for increased operations on their part.
The co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee, Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), said they dropped the assessment provisions from the budget because they believed any problems should be ironed out in stand-alone legislation.
The removal is welcome news, said Curt Witynski, assistant director of the Wisconsin League of Municipalities.
"This was too big a step to take in the budget with no prior discussion," he said.
Department of Revenue spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said the provision would have made state and local government more efficient and created a more straightforward assessment process.
"We remain committed to making our assessment system accountable and easier to understand and hope it moves forward in separate legislation," Marquis wrote in an email.
The budget called for county governments to take over assessment duties for all municipalities with populations under 39,000 by Jan. 1, 2017. It left larger cities, such as Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay, with the option to maintain their own assessor's offices.
"Under that proposal, we'd have to go to county assessment," said Allan Land, assessor for the City of Brookfield. "But the City of Brookfield has the third highest equalized value in the state at $3.6 billion."
Land also said there wasn't enough funding in the budget for counties to take over assessments. Municipalities that lost their assessors under the change would pay counties no more than 95% of the cost they paid the previous year for their assessments. Since some municipalities were doing full revaluations that cost $25 per parcel while others did maintenance work for about $5 per parcel, some municipalities would have been paying more than others for the county assessment work.
Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said in an email the governor will continue to work with legislators and stakeholders on reforming property assessments.
Both Witynski and Land said they recognize the need for change in how assessments are done in Wisconsin. Land is part of a group of assessors that meets regularly with the Department of Revenue to talk about how to improve the system.
"Overall, we're in agreement that there needs to be assessment reform," Land said. "It needs to be well thought out."
Journal Sentinel reporter Patrick Marley contributed to this report from Madison.
Walker proposes capping UW System tuition increases
Associated Press 4/14/2015
MADISON—Gov. Scott Walker wants to modify his state budget plan to cap University of Wisconsin System resident undergraduate tuition increases according to inflation, according to a letter his administration sent to the leaders of the Legislature's finance committee on Monday.
The two-year spending plan Walker introduced in early February calls for cutting $300 million from the system and extending an existing freeze on resident undergraduate tuition to July 1, 2017. In exchange Walker would free the system from state oversight in July 2016.
The plan has left students and legislators worried that the Board of Regents, unshackled from state control, could dramatically increase tuition when the freeze ends. The board last week approved raising tuition for out-of-state undergrads and some graduate students at most of the system's four-year schools by hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars beginning this fall.
The proposal is far from final. The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee is about to begin the months-long process of revising Walker's spending plan this week. Walker's administration sent a letter to Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, and Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, the committee's co-chairs, on Monday detailing last-minute modifications the governor wants made to the budget before the committee begins its work.
One of the modifications calls for capping resident undergrad tuition increases to no more than the annual change in inflation beginning in the fall of 2017 "in order to protect students and parents from unreasonable and unpredictable tuition increases."
Walker has been hinting at capping tuition increases at the rate of inflation since mid-February.
UW officials insist another part of Walker's budget that calls for the state to fund the system through a block grant rather than tax dollars that fluctuate every two years would create a more stable financial environment and help make tuition increases more predictable. The Walker administration's letter also calls for increasing that block grant according to inflation beginning a year earlier, in 2017.
UW System President Ray Cross, who has been working to persuade the finance committee to scale back the $300 million cut, issued a carefully worded statement saying limiting tuition increases to inflation isn't compatible with "the agile, market-driven, and competitive entity the state needs us to be."
"We all agree that Wisconsin residents deserve a rational, transparent, and affordable tuition-setting policy based on actual costs, competitive markets, the needs of the state, and affordability," Cross said. "The UW System should be just as responsive and nimble as our peers and competitors when it comes to setting tuition, and we look forward to working with legislators to reach that goal."
A number of key Republican lawmakers, including Nygren and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, have said the $300 million cut is too deep but oppose handing the system more autonomy because they don't believe the regents will use it to make any substantial changes and could raise tuition.
Nygren didn't immediately return a voicemail Monday. Vos' spokeswoman said she was working to get a response from him but he was tied up in a meeting.
A spokesman for Sen. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater, vice chairman of the Senate's universities committee and an outspoken UW critic, didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Derek Field is the vice chair of the Associated Students of Madison, the student government organization at UW-Madison. He called the cap proposal a positive step toward protecting college affordability for Wisconsin students but said it does nothing to address the $300 million cut.
End Wisconsin's prevailing wage law
By Annette Olson 4/5/2015
What if we could build 30 brand new schools?
Or, perhaps, you'd instead prefer to hire 6,000 public school teachers.
Not enough? What about buying 4.2 million brand new textbooks — enough to replace up to four aging textbooks for every Wisconsin public school student.
And what if we could do it all without costing taxpayers a single penny in new taxes?
This isn't some far-off fantasy. With the help of Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature, this could very well be a reality in Wisconsin, and it could be a reality sooner than you think. Truth is, we could do a lot with the $300 million we would save by repealing the state's outdated prevailing wage requirement.
There will be a lot of debate about what to do with the savings, but ending this outdated, unnecessary regulation is a great idea that should receive bipartisan support.
Wisconsin has come a long way in the last few years: standing up for worker's rights, making the Badger State a better place to do business and creating jobs for middle-class families everywhere. But there's still a long way to go, and repealing Wisconsin's outdated construction wage regulation is our next big step forward.
Of course, having a "prevailing wage" requirement sounds agreeable enough, but it's a big burden to school districts and local governments everywhere. It puts a huge stranglehold on local budgets. And studies show this aged law forces officials to pay up to 45% more than average market rates for construction labor.
To put this in a clearer way: imagine your car broke down and one shop says it will cost $1,000 to fix and another says it will cost $1,450. Imagine your heartbreak when you find out some age-old government mandate requires you to go with the more expensive shop, and imagine that, even worse, you find out several smaller shops would have been even cheaper, but were excluded by the government from the bidding process altogether.
You'd be outraged. But that's exactly how the prevailing wage law works.
The prevailing wage requirement came out of a bygone era as America was exiting the wake of the Great Depression. It was supposed to ensure that workers on government projects were paid, well, the "prevailing wage" for the area. Today, however, this is far from the case.
Today, this regulation means that workers on taxpayer-funded construction projects have to be paid significantly more than the "prevailing wage" — even when there are companies and workers both willing and able to do the job for less. That's millions of dollars that could be going back to the taxpayers toward improving education for our students or other critical projects.
Repealing the prevailing wage requirement would be an amazing opportunity for Wisconsin. It will save public school districts millions of dollars that can then be used to hire more teachers, build even more schools or invest in better materials with which they can educate our children. Small businesses would be able to create even more jobs when they are finally given the ability to compete and aren't locked out of the bidding process by complicated paperwork and inflated labor costs.
Lawmakers need to continue working for the state in order to make Wisconsin a better place to do business, to attract more companies and create jobs. Wisconsin needs to become a destination for the innovators, the game-changers and those who are willing to do things a little differently.
Repealing Wisconsin's prevailing wage law would be the next great step.
Annette Olson is deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity.
Walker to Use National Guard to Assist in Bird Flu Outbreak
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 04/21/2015
Governor Scott Walker has signed an Executive Order authorizing the Wisconsin National Guard to assist authorities in the response to the avian influenza virus affecting poultry producers Jefferson, Juneau, and Barron Counties. Over the past two weeks, the bird flu virus has been detected in three poultry flocks, affecting tens of thousands of chickens and turkeys.
"We must act quickly and efficiently to contain the outbreak and protect domestic poultry," Governor Walker said. "It is important to note, however, there is no threat to humans with the avian flu outbreak."
Specifically, the Executive Order allows the National Guard to assist in the response and help contain the outbreak, as well as offer assistance in site clean-up. The state veterinarian has also requested up to 14 Guard personnel be made available, on a rotating schedule, for immediate assistance.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture has issued a warning for the public not to touch sick or dead birds if they come across them.
Meanwhile, the governor also signed another Executive Order on Monday, which declares a state of emergency in Wisconsin due to an increased likelihood of wildfires as a result of abnormally dry weather conditions throughout the state. The risk of significant large fires is expected to extend at least through the end of May.
“Citizen input on the board is a perfect example of how democracy should work.” – Andy Diercks
April 17, 2015 5:14 pm • Lynn Grooms LGrooms@madison.com 608-437-2827
MADISON, Wis. -- Governor Walker’s proposal to make the boards of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the Department of Natural Resources only advisory in nature will be coming out of the budget, said Rep. Ed Brooks (R-District 50) late this week.
“There are several changes to the state budget that I’ve been advocating for since the day it was announced,” Brooks said after the Joint Finance Committee met for its first budget executive session this week. “Removing the ill-conceived shift of these boards to advisory is a smart move, and a great first step toward creating a better budget.”
The budget process -- which started with the governor’s introduction in February -- began this week. For the next six weeks, the Joint Finance Committee will decide to keep, alter or delete each item in the budget.
“I’m happy to see that the joint finance committee has made these changes,” Brooks said. “Still, the process is far from over, and many changes will have to be made before we have the kind of balanced and fair budget that we’re all hoping for.
Brooks, who lives on a farm near Reedsburg in Sauk County, is a member of the Assembly Committee on Agriculture.
“I’m very happy to hear the news,” said Andy Diercks, chairman of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection board. “Citizen input on the board is a perfect example of how democracy should work.”
Diercks, along with his father, owns and operates a 2,800-acre potato and vegetable farm in Coloma. Diercks has served on the agency’s board since 2011.
“I am all in favor of both boards remaining as policy-making boards, which I believe is the strength of having citizens serving in these capacities for the betterment of the state,” said Dean Strauss, managing partner of Majestic Crossing Dairy in Sheboygan Falls.
Strauss and his family and partners milk 1,900 cows and farm about 3,000 acres of alfalfa, corn, soybeans and wheat. He has served on the Department of Agriculture’s board since 2013.
The Joint Finance Committee will continue to look at each item in the governor’s budget. Diercks expressed concerns about cuts in funding for the University of Wisconsin Discovery Farms, which, he says is an excellent source of on-farm research. A significant amount of funding for core staffing at Discovery Farms comes from the state, Diercks added.
The governor’s proposal to cut $200 million from the UW system also concerns Diercks.
“The system is not ready to handle that level of cut yet, and it could adversely affect agricultural research,” Diercks said.
Capitol Report 2015
2nd Quarter | April
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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
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News updates April 21, 2015