Special Assessments FAQ 1

Can a municipality specially assess property owned by other governmental entities such as the state, a county, or a town?

Yes. With a few limited exceptions practically all private and public properties are subject to special assessments for local public improvements and works, including property owned by the state, a county, or a town. Wis. Stat. sec. 66.0705(1)(a). Under sec. 66.0705(1), state property held for highway right-of-way purposes or acquired as abandoned railroad property and held for transportation, scenic or recreational purposes is exempt from special assessments. In addition, special assessments cannot be levied against “the right, easement or franchise to operate or maintain railroads, telegraph, telecommunications or electric light or power systems in streets, alleys, parks or highways.” Wis. Stat. sec. 66.0705(1)(b). Any other property held by a railroad or utility company is subject to special assessments as is any other privately held property.

Property of the United States is exempt from special assessments pursuant to Wis. Stat. sec. 1.04.

Also, land in agricultural use located in a farmland preservation zoning district is exempt from special assessments for sanitary sewers or water unless the owner voluntarily pays after being notified of the exemption. Land covered by this exemption may be denied use of an improvement created by the special assessment Wis. Stat. sec. 91.50.

For more information on this topic see League opinions Special Assessments 640 and 642 and the League’s Special Assessments in Wisconsin handbook at page 3.