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Municipal league seeks levy limit relief

By Danielle Kaeding Wisconsin Public Radio The Wisconsin League of Municipalities is asking lawmakers to provide more flexibility when it comes to levy limits in the next legislative session. The league's assistant director Curt Witynski said mun...

By Danielle Kaeding

Wisconsin Public Radio

 

The Wisconsin League of Municipalities is asking lawmakers to provide more flexibility when it comes to levy limits in the next legislative session.

The league’s assistant director Curt Witynski said municipalities are finding it more difficult to provide services with limits on what they can levy in property taxes. Witynski said the League would like to see lawmakers allow levy limits to grow with the rate of inflation.

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"We can only increase from one year to the next by the rate of net new construction that has occurred in your community," he said. "If there hasn’t been any new things constructed, which in many communities there haven’t, you’re basically frozen from one year to the next."

Witynski said that six communities across the state sought to exceed levy limits with referendum in the last election. He expects that number to grow. He said municipalities want more flexibility to raise or change property taxes.

According to Witynski, around 87 percent of manufacturing properties and 89 percent of commercial property reside with city or village limits.

"In order for us to serve those properties and make them viable and be able to move their products and get people that work in those places to their locations, we need to be able to plow the streets and provide all the services that local governments do," he said. "To be able to provide all the services that local governments do, we need adequate resources to do that."

Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen said the city has maintained its $27 million budget for the last four years. He said cities need more options.

"As go the cities of Wisconsin, so goes Wisconsin," said Hagen. "You can’t keep nipping and eliminating cooperation and partnership to the cities and expect the cities - which is the driving factor in the state where people actually live and work - you can’t expect cities to survive if they keep cutting."

Hagen said the average property tax bill is $2,400, and that one-third of that goes to city services. He said the city has been able to maintain services through upgrades in technology and equipment.

"Over the years, both the police, fire, public works, park and rec have been decreased in the number of people employed in those departments, but the efficiencies have taken over," said Hagen. "The bad news is that some say we should cut more and I can’t buy that. I believe we’re at a rock bottom right now."

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Gov. Scott Walker said last week that he’s committed to cutting property taxes despite a projected $2.2 billion budget shortfall.

Copyright © 2014 by WPR.org and Wisconsin Public Radio. All rights reserved. Wisconsin Public Radio can be heard locally on 91.3 KUWS-FM and online at www.wpr.org .

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