The following client alert is an update to an article authored by Michael Best partner Robert L. Gordon, that appeared in December 2009 on the website of American Property Tax Counsel, the national affiliation of property tax attorneys of which Michael Best is the only Wisconsin member.
Last fall, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue proposed a substantial overhaul of the state’s assessment system, under which all assessment functions for locally assessed property would be transferred from the municipal level to the county level over a five-year period. The goals of the overhaul were to eliminate inefficiency and duplication, and achieve uniformity in the application of statewide assessment standards. Currently there are 1,851 municipal taxation districts in Wisconsin, far more than in any other state.
The Department’s proposal was vehemently opposed by the state’s municipalities, and the Department withdrew the proposal.
The Department has now issued a new proposal under which municipalities would be required to join newly created assessment districts, which would take over all assessment functions for all locally assessed property in the municipalities making up those assessment districts. Under the Department’s proposal, there would be a maximum of 400 assessment districts.
The Department believes that consolidation of assessment functions through this new proposal would still meet the goals of the initial proposal, i.e., creating efficiency and achieving uniformity in assessment practices, while permitting local governments to retain control over all assessment and board of review functions. Ceding such control to county government was one of the main bases for the municipalities’ objections to the Department’s original proposal.
Under the new proposal, as under the original proposal, annual full value assessment of all state property would be mandated. The changes, if enacted by the Legislature, would be phased in over five years. Manufacturing and utility property would continue to be centrally assessed by the Department, as under current law.
The new proposal also creates a Board of Tax Exemptions, which would assist local assessors on property tax exemption issues, in an effort to provide statewide consistency on exemption issues. Information on the Department’s proposal is available at the Wisconsin Department of Revenue website, at http://www.revenue.wi.gov/news/PAR031010.pdf.