Strangled by Levy Limits

Levy limits, created by the state legislature, limit a community's ability to make local decisions and pose particularly difficult challenges for chronic low-growth communities.  

Pushing the Limits: Factors Contributing to Success of Municipal Levy Referenda by the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

Issue Brief  Full Report (Spring 2020) 

Algoma, Eden, Horicon, Oostburg, Waupaca... Learn how Wisconsin’s Cities and Villages are impacted by levy limits here.  

Click on the photo to watch the video on YouTube.

Strangled by Levy Limits Panel

“Strangled by Levy Limits: Local Decisions in Cities and Villages Impacted by Levy Limits”.  The panel discussion was led by WisconsinEye’s Steve Walters with South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks, Clintonville City Administrator Sharon Eveland, Howard Village Administrator Paul Evert and League Executive Director Jerry Deschane. The League partnered with WisconsinEye to bring the discussion of levy limits and their impact on local decision-making to Facebook Live. Comment on the League’s Facebook page or watch on YouTube. (5/2018)

Click on the photo to watch the short video on YouTube.

Chippewa Falls Listening Session

From the Village of Stockholm and Granton to St. Croix Falls, Thorp and many more, the League hosted an overflow crowd in Chippewa Falls March 1, 2018 to hear from the city and village officials and staff in communities with unique financial challenges due to state imposed levy limits. Listen to what local officials had to say about the concerns they have in making decisions for their city or village.  This was the third regional listening session the League held – we also had overflow crowds at meetings in Madison and Oconto.  Watch the short video on YouTube. (3/2018)


Creating Wisconsin's Future
"Dollars and Sense: Is it time for a new municipal financing framework in Wisconsin?"  Wisconsin Policy Forum study. 

A Growing Divide: Do levy limits lock in disparities in high- and low-growth municipalities? - Wisconsin Taxpayer, May 2018
Since 2006, the state has imposed levy limits on municipalities to slow the growth of local property taxes. A 2011 law change linked the allowable levy increase almost exclusively to any increases in property values due to new construction. In recent years, this has contributed to a gap in revenues — and spending — between high-growth and low-growth communities in Wisconsin.

Changing Patterns of New Construction - Wisconsin Taxpayer Magazine, March 2018
Since 2006, the state has limited increases in municipal property taxes to the rate of new construction in the community. In recent years, not only has statewide new construction lagged 2006 rates, but fewer cities and villages are growing even modestly. Among those growing the fastest since 2012, 59% are near a major four-lane highway and 42% had created at least one tax incremental finance district since 2011.

Is Municipal Debt Rising Too Fast? - Focus Newsletter, April 2018
Recent Wisconsin Policy Forum research finds stressful levels of capital debt in Milwaukee and Racine that are exacerbating other fiscal pressures. A review of other Wisconsin municipalities shows that debt levels are rising across the board, though few face the debt-related challenges of those two cities.

Local governments turn to “wheel taxes” as other revenues lag - Focus Newsletter, May 2018
In recent years, Wisconsin has seen a sudden increase in local governments establishing new vehicle registration fees. A local vehicle registration fee—otherwise known as a “wheel tax”—is an annual charge in addition to the state $75 registration fee for most vehicles. State law requires local governments to use the funding for local transportation costs.