As part of his 2015-17 biennial budget proposal Governor Scott Walker has recommended consolidating municipal (town, village and city) property tax assessment into a county wide assessment where, with limited exceptions for 1st and 2nd class cities, counties would administer the system. The proposal would consolidate the state’s 1,851 taxing districts into a single assessment office in each of the state’s 72 counties. In addition, the equalized value system of assessments would be eliminated in favor of annual full market value assessments. Counties could charge municipalities up to 95% of the cost of performing assessments in 2015.

Although this proposal may represent a dramatic shift away from the current property tax assessment system, it is not a new concept, nor is it a partisan one. In 2009, under former democratic Governor Jim Doyle, state revenue Secretary Roger Ervin floated a similar plan. Ervin cited inequity between state and local equalized values; lack of uniformity across jurisdictions; and inefficient administration as rationale for making the shift. Local government groups, especially the Wisconsin Towns Association, objected and cited as a primary concern their inability to control the costs of providing the service if it was moved to the county. Ultimately, the proposal was not adopted.

Just as in 2009, local government groups are once again raising questions about the proposal. Following is a brief summary of some of the concerns raised by each of the three major local government groups, including the Wisconsin Counties Association, the League of Municipalities and the Wisconsin Towns Association as well as individual counties and municipalities.

Wisconsin Counties Association:

  • The proposal represents a new mandate.
  • The 2017 implementation date is not feasible.
  • The funding mechanism is inadequate.
  • Click here for the WCA release.

League of Municipalities:

  • The 2017 implementation date is too ambitious.
  • The cost of the county assessment should not be part of the municipal levy.
  • The cost of assessing all parcels at full market value is more expensive than the current system.
  • Payments to counties from municipalities for the costs of assessments will be inequitable.
  • The opt out provision should be more flexible.
  • The provision could interfere with the long-term contracts between some municipalities and private assessors.
  • Click here for the LWM release.

Wisconsin Towns Association:

  • The proposal erodes local control.
  • Full market value assessments are more expensive than equalized value assessments for taxpayers and municipalities.
  • The proposal reduces competition in the marketplace.
  • Click here for the WTA release.

According to Rick Chandler, the state’s current revenue secretary, the proposal would generate cost savings at the state and local level and result in improved quality of property assessments. Now, it is up to the Legislature to decide whether the alleged benefits outweigh the concerns raised by local governments.

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