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Wisconsin Bills That Could Impact Local Governments

The State of Wisconsin Senate and Assembly recently passed a number of bills that are now before Governor Evers for his consideration. Several of these bills would directly impact local governments, including bills related to election cost reimbursement, tax increment errors, biennial budget procedures, and a new levy limit exception. A brief description of these bills follows. 

AB-193 – Biennial Budget Procedures: Authorizing a Biennial Budget Procedure for Political Subdivisions

AB-193 authorizes political subdivisions (in this case, cities, villages, towns, and counties) to adopt and use a biennial budgetary procedure. If a political subdivision decides to adopt a biennial budget, it must adopt the budget in an odd-numbered year. A political subdivision that adopts a biennial budget procedure may also decide to return to an annual budget procedure.

SB-071 – Election Cost Reimbursement for Counties and Municipalities

SB-071 requires the Elections Commission to reimburse counties and municipalities for certain costs incurred in the administration of special primaries and special elections for state or national office so long as certain conditions are met.

The following types of costs would be reimbursable if SB-071 is signed into law:

  1. Rental payments for polling places.

  2. Election day wages paid to election officials working at the polls.

  3. Costs for the publication of required election notices.

  4. Printing and postage costs for absentee ballots and envelopes.

  5. Costs for the design and printing of ballots and poll books.

  6. Purchase of ballot bags or containers, including ties or seals for chain of custody purposes.

  7. Costs to program electronic voting machines.

  8. Purchase of memory devices for electronic voting machines.

  9. Wages paid to conduct a county canvass.

SB-269 – Tax Increment Errors

Generally under current law, once a tax incremental district ("TID") has been created, the Department of Revenue calculates the "tax incremental base" value of the TID. The "tax incremental base value is the equalized value of all taxable property within the TID at the time of its creation. A "value increment" is created if the development in the TID increases the value of the property in the TID above the base value. The portion of taxes collected on the "value increment" in excess of the base value is called a "tax increment." The tax increment is then placed in a special fund that may be used only to pay back the project costs of the TID.

Under SB-269, for property values reported in 2018, if a city or village erroneously reports a higher value increment for its TIDs by an aggregate amount of at least $50 million, the city's or village's TIDs may transfer the excess tax increment collections resulting from this error to the city's or village's general fund to reimburse taxpayers for the higher property tax rates imposed on them due to this error. Before making any such transfers, the city or village must verify with DOR the amounts involved.

AB-235 – Levy Limit Exception for Utility Aid Payments

AB-235 creates a levy limit exception for political subdivisions that receive certain utility aid payments related to the decommissioning or closure of a power plant. Under current law, if a power plant that is exempt from property taxes is decommissioned or closed, and therefore becomes taxable, the county and municipality where the plant is located receive a utility aid payment from the state for the first five years in which the plant is subject to the property tax in an amount equal to a percentage of the utility aid payment that the county or municipality received for the last year in which the plant was exempt. The percentage decreases by 20 percent each year.

AB-235 creates a levy limit exception with respect to these utility aid payments. The amount of the utility aid payment that is exempt from the levy limit is equal to the full amount of the utility aid in the first year less the amount of the utility aid to be paid to the political subdivision in the year in which the levy is imposed.

©2020 von Briesen & Roper, s.cNational Law Review, Volume IX, Number 294


About this Author

Andrew Phillips, von Briesen Roper Law Firm, Milwaukee, Litigation Law Attorney

Andy Phillips has dedicated his career to assisting local governments, school districts and businesses with their most challenging legal problems. Andy brings innovative solutions to the organizational, operational and personnel problems facing local governments and has been a leader in creating consortiums efficiently in areas such as Medicaid programming, human services and long term care. Andy serves as General Counsel for the Wisconsin Counties Association, a position which he has held for the past decade. 

Andy is also an experienced...

Bennett Conard Finance Attorney

Ben Conard is a member of the Banking and Commercial Finance and Real Estate Sections. Prior to joining von Briesen, he worked in the Office of General Counsel for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Ben has experience in a wide array of transportation related issues, especially those involving freight and infrastructure. He worked with the Department of Transportation’s Freight Advisory Committee, which is a public-private partnership aimed at addressing issues that impact freight mobility, policies, processes and projects. Ben also has significant experience and knowledge in railroad law, including the areas of freight rail, passenger rail, railroad real estate issues, and federal and state compliance. 

During law school, Ben was the Senior Articles Editor of the Wisconsin International Law Journal.

He is a member of the Milwaukee Bar Association, Dane County Bar Association and State Bar of Wisconsin.

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Jacob Curtis government relations lawyer von Briesen

Jake Curtis is a shareholder in the Government Law Group focusing his practice on government relations matters for both public and private sector clients. He brings a unique skill set to clients by drawing on his experience as a lawyer, strategic advisor, and public official to navigate the intersection of law and policy.

Jake has years of practice with the administrative rule and legislative processes and he uses that knowledge to help craft solutions to regulatory hurdles. As outside counsel to dozens of Wisconsin Counties, he has worked closely with administrators and public...

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