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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June 4, 2015
Property Tax Bill Estimates Under January 2014 Special Session Proposal Read Here
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Distributional Information on Proposed Individual Income Tax Rate Reduction Read Here
Wisconsin Alternative Minimum Tax and January 2014 Special Session Bills Read Here
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Wisconsin in U.S. Congress
Senate: Ron Johnson
Senate: Tammy Baldwin
District 1: Paul Ryan
District 2: Mark Pocan
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District 7: Sean Duffy
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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.
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.
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.
If you are not a member, but would like to join the thousands of taxpayers
around the state who support
and rely on us to protect their
interests in the Legislature
click on the “Join Us Now!”
to get started.
Wiseye.org Live Webcast AIR click here
10/14/14 Campaign 2014: Candidate Interview with Governor Scott Walker (R-Incumbent)
On October 14, 2014 Senior Producer Steve Walters interviewed Governor Scott Walker on his 2014 campaign. Watch
10/09/14 Legislative Council Study Committee on the Review of Tax Incremental Financing
Senior Producer Steve Walters and WisPolitics Editor JR Ross recapped Wisconsin politics for the week of October 6th through October 10th 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
Wisconsin voter ID law blocked by US supreme court weeks before elections
The US supreme court has blocked a controversial voter ID law in Wisconsin that had theatened to cause chaos at the polls, as a federal court struck down a similar requirement in Texas.
The surprise move by the supreme court on Thursday restored a lower court ruling that postponed the introduction of the Wisconsin new law, pending a full trial. On 12 September, an appeals court had unexpectedly lifted a stay, meaning the law would be implemented with just weeks to go before the November elections.
The court wrote that it based its decision to stop implementation of the law due to the “proximity of the upcoming general election”. The order added: “It is particularly troubling that absentee ballots have been sent out without any notation that proof of photo identification must be submitted.” Three conservative justices – Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas – dissented.
The action means the Wisconsin law, which requires voters to present photo identification when they cast ballots, will not be in effect in the runup to the elections next month.
“Today’s order puts the brakes on the last-minute disruption and voter chaos created by this law going into effect so close to the election,” said Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union voting rights project. The ACLU and other groups said the law would cause confusion at the polls and reduce votes.
The Wisconsin attorney general said he would explore alternatives to address the court’s concerns regarding absentee ballots. “I believe the voter ID law is constitutional and nothing in the court’s order suggests otherwise,” JB Van Hollen said.
In Texas on Thursday, a federal judge struck down a law requiring voters to show identification at polls, saying it was unconstitutional and discriminated against minorities.
The ruling followed a two-week trial in Corpus Christi that challenged the controversial law. The US district judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos also found that it amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax.
Political science professor Katherine J Cramer of the University of Wisconsin-Madison said she was surprised by the supreme court’s decision in the Wisconsin case. It could have national implications, she said, given that Wisconsin is not the only state to have implemented voter ID laws. “If we can step back from the fact that voter ID legislation disadvantages voters, it’s an important statement about how we think about democracy,” Cramer said.
Voter ID rules have become a political and racial flashpoint across the US. Proponents of the laws argue they need such rules to prevent voter fraud. Their opponents say they are designed to suppress and disenfranchise poor and minority communities, who are most likely to vote Democrat.
On Wednesday, the US Government Accountability Office published a report that warned of the deleterious effects on turnout of voter ID laws. It compared turnout in Kentucky and Tennessee, both of which changed their voter ID requirements between the 2008 and 2012 elections, with four other states (Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware and Maine) that did not. “Our analysis suggests that decreases in general election turnout in Kansas and Tennessee from 2008 to 2012 beyond decreases in comparable states are attributable to changes in voter ID requirements.”
“In both Kansas and Tennessee we found that turnout was reduced by larger amounts among African American registrants as compared with Asian American, Hispanic and white registrants.” The GAO stated that turnout among African Americans, in Kansas turnout fell by 3.7% more than among whites while in Tennessee the drop was in Kansas and 1.5% more.
The report also estimated that turnout in Kansas dropped by 3%, while in Tennessee it fell by 2.7% – and these decreases persisted even when controlling for variables for factors such as family income, employment status, marital status and race. The effect on 18-year-olds in Kansas in 2008 was 7.1% larger than on people between the ages of 44 and 53, for example.
While the study found that ID issues led to a relatively small number of provisional ballots being cast in Kansas and Tennessee, it also noted that fewer than half these ballots were counted. In close races such as the Wisconsin gubernatorial race, each ballot makes a difference.
In the supreme court decision, Alito’s dissenting opinion wrote that although it was “particularly troubling” that absentee ballots had been sent before the election without notifying voters of the identification requirements, there was no legal justification for blocking the law.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Milwaukee borrowing $33 million to cover tax delinquencies
By Don Behm of the Journal Sentinel - Oct. 8, 2014
The City of Milwaukee is borrowing more than $33 million this year just to fill the budget hole created by delinquent property taxes — a number that has been climbing since the financial crisis hit.
The financial cavity created by unpaid property tax bills hovered in the low hundreds of thousands until 2008, when the bottom fell out of the housing market, according to the most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. The hole cratered after that, expanding to more than $33.4 million from December 2013 bills for the 2014 budget, documents show.
There are signs the city has seen the worst of this. As the economy has improved, "delinquent tax borrowings have begun to decrease, reflecting the decline in foreclosures and unemployment in the city," Budget and Management Director Mark Nicolini said.
Still, looking ahead, more than 11% of the City of Milwaukee's projected $279.9 million in debt repayment for 2015 is not paying off street reconstruction, bridge replacements or library renovation. Rather, Milwaukee will spend $31.8 million next year to repay its cumulative borrowing to fill the budget holes made when property tax revenues were not received from delinquent payers, City Comptroller Martin Matson said.
"That is an amazing number," said Dale Knapp, research director at the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. The nonpartisan tax research and education group does not track the impact of delinquent tax financing on subsequent municipal budgets, Knapp said.
The amount overshadows payments in 2015 of $6.2 million for sewer maintenance financing and the $3.1 million for Milwaukee Water Works' debt, according to 2015 budget documents.
Milwaukee collects taxes for itself as well as Milwaukee Public Schools and portions of other taxing authorities within the city: Milwaukee County, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and Milwaukee Area Technical College. As the front-line collector, Milwaukee distributes full tax payments due to the others each year, and then borrows to make up the difference for all of their shares of delinquent payments, city officials said.
The Common Council's Finance and Personnel Committee took a brief look Tuesday at the structure of the city's debt, and its repayment responsibilities, on the first day of its review of Mayor Tom Barrett's proposed 2015 spending plan. The committee wraps up its work Oct. 20 and the deadline for council members to propose budget amendments is Oct. 24. The full council is scheduled to adopt a final 2015 budget on Nov. 7.
Fully 18%, or $279.9 million, of the proposed $1.5 billion in total spending next year by the City of Milwaukee will go to debt repayment, according to budget documents.
Under the proposed budget, $198.1 million would go toward paying off debt accumulated for major construction projects, such as street and bridge work and other building projects as well as major equipment replacement. (Financing of sewer work and Milwaukee Water Works' capital projects is separate.) Interest charges alone take up $45 million of next year's total payment. And then there is the repayment on delinquent taxes.
Though the point might be obvious, Nicolini reminded finance committee members that controlling debt is an important step in budget planning. In general, the higher the debt payment, "the less that is available for service delivery and infrastructure improvements," he said.
But all of the reasons for his caution might not be obvious to the public, he said in a subsequent interview. Private companies evaluate a community's debt burden when deciding whether to relocate. "Firms are reluctant to locate and invest if a community can't finance an acceptable level of infrastructure and public services at an acceptable tax cost," Nicolini said.
The city's total debt now stands at $959.7 million, according to city budget officials. That is 73.5% of its limit under state law.
Barrett's proposed $1.5 billion spending plan for 2015, up $67 million from this year, has three pieces.
The basic $738.7 million general fund budget, up $15.3 million from this year, includes daily operating costs and fringe benefits, such as pension contributions, for most departments, as well as a contingency fund. A $413.1 million capital projects and debt service budget, up $11.8 million from this year, includes borrowing for major construction projects and debt repayment. Spending on capital improvements takes up $133.1 million for 2015.
State Legislators Want to End Business Personal Property Tax
By Matt Crumb | Posted October 1, 2014
Legislative Council finds little to hold onto in "swiss cheese" structured tax
Madison, WI - Multiple members of the Legislative Council's Steering Committee on Personal Property Tax (PPT) have concluded that the time has come to end this tax on Wisconsin businesses.
Eight of nine legislators on the Steering Committee submitted their final statements on the tax earlier this month after hearing from dozens of witnesses in three official meetings over the summer.
Committee Chairman Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) made it plain that the PPT should be repealed completely.
"It has gotten to the point where the personal property tax is now a tax on a handful of business property that affects those unfortunate Wisconsinites who have not been given an exemption," explained Strobel.
The PPT brings in a total of $270 million to municipalities and the state of Wisconsin, which is less than 1 percent of state revenue and about 2 percent of property tax collections.
The tax is self-assessed by businesses on four categories of property: furniture, fixtures, and equipment; machinery, tools, and patterns; boats and other watercraft; and all other personal property.
Once a very broad tax on both residential and business property, the amount and types of property taxed by the PPT has been whittled down through the years to a small number of business items.
There are fifty-seven exemptions to Wisconsin's PPT, including oddities such as equipment owned by youth baseball associations being excluded from the tax, but not equipment of youth soccer associations.
The final committee report identified a list of options to repeal or reform Wisconsin's PPT ranging from complete elimination to changes in the way the tax is administered.
Scott Drenkard, an economist with the non-partisan Tax Foundation, highlighted two PPT reform initiatives in Indiana and Michigan for the committee and in an interview with the MacIver Institute.
In Indiana, where the PPT brings in $1 billion dollars in revenue, the legislature passed a bill that gave counties ultimate authority over the fate of the tax. Counties may choose to exempt new property from the tax, exempt businesses with less than $20,000 in personal property, or give businesses a long-term abatement to ease the tax's burden.
Michigan also changed its PPT by ballot initiative in August, creating an exemption for small businesses with total personal property amounting to less than 80,000 and exempting all new property bought by businesses. Michigan voters approved the measure with 69 percent voting yes.
Senator Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst), Rep. Bob Kulp (R-Stratford) and Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis) agreed with Stroebel that elimination of the PPT in Wisconsin should be a priority for the legislature. Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) also acknowledged that the PPT was harmful to businesses and asked for the legislature to address the issue.
Democrat members of the committee cited concerns over tax shifting and municipal revenue decreases, exhibiting a more cautious approach to the PPT.
For Chairman Stroebel, however, the tax has no appeal for Wisconsin.
"No one seems to be able to defend the Swiss cheese structure of the personal property tax, except by warning that government needs the money."
Farm Bill Program: Dates You Need to Know
With so many changes to Farm Bill programs this year, farmers will need to mind their calendars—or risk missing an important deadline.
To help, we have assembled a calendar of the key Farm Bill dates that have been announced so far. As the USDA has rolled out various programs, they have also begun providing specific time frames for registering to participate.
Farmers and industry-watchers have been talking about the choice between the county-based Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and the more individualized Price Loss Coverage (PLC) for months, but Monday, Sept. 29 is actually the first day that producers will be able to update their yields and acreage with Farm Service Agency offices.
The timeline for finalizing that decision still remains general, though. The USDA says producers won’t receive their final base acreage and yield notices until winter 2014 and will be able to sign contracts for those programs through early spring 2014.
We’ll add those dates and others as they become available.
Nov. 28: Last day to register for the Dairy Margin Projection Program for 2014 and 2015.
July 31: Last day to register for the Cotton Transition Assistance Program for 2015.
Register Now for Local Food Business Planning Seminar
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 10/07/2014
If you want to start, grow or improve your farm or other local food business, make plans now to attend the first in the 2014-2015 Local Food Business Seminar Series - Business Planning. Carl Rainey, economic development consultant with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture will share his knowledge of business planning methods and will offer hands-on planning exercises. Rainey will travel to four sites around the state from October 20-23 to deliver the seminars.
In addition to Rainey's program, each site also will host a panel of regional experts who will address the dos and do nots of starting a local food business or farm. Participants will complete a self-assessment to gauge where their focus would be most valuable as they move through the planning stages. They will learn about the Lean Business Concept, a model designed to teach entrepreneurs how to drive a startup or new product launch by thinking big, but starting small. Attendees will also learn about the Lean Canvas Method, which can help business owners identify target customers, anticipate specific customer problems and focus on their unique marketing positions. Participants who have business plans should bring them for some of the exercises.
Each seminar will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Check-in starts at 8:45 a.m. Lunch is included in the cost of the seminar.
The seminars will be in Waukesha on October 20, Stevens Point on October 21, Gays Mills on October 22 and Madison on October 23. The Madison seminar will be available online as a free webinar.
To request a link for the webinar, or if you have other questions, call 608-224-5112.
Wisconsin’s Land Trust Retreat
Oct 16 - 18, 2014 • Green Lake, WI •
Each year we invite board or staff of our Wisconsin Land Trust members to our annual Land Trust Retreat. This fall, we'll convene at the Green Lake Conference Center for an unparalleled opportunity for learning, networking, and fun among peers and experts from around the state.
Some 25 land trusts, plus partners, will be represented at this year's Retreat!
Registration closed October 1st.
Please contact meg [at] gatheringwaters.org with questions or for information.
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!