Know Your Wisconsin:
Municipal Budgets in Wisconsin's Cities & Villages

Budgets across the state are tighter than ever and communities in Wisconsin have been feeling the pressure. The ever-tightening state-imposed budget limits are in part due to state aids that have not increased, and limitations on property tax increases. State levy limits prevent local property taxes from growing beyond the percentage of new buildings built in that community the year before. This creates a problem, particularly for small rural communities compared to larger metropolitan areas. These communities tend to struggle to attract new residents which in turn means tighter budgets and cutbacks in areas like snow plowing, police, and fire protection. 

In many ways, this problem is unique to the state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin is unlike any other state when it comes to reliance on property taxes as the sole source of locally-generated revenues. Sharon Eveland the City Administrator in Clintonville notes that local governments need a more balanced way to fund local services and more local control.

Additional Resources:

  • "Dollars and Sense"- WI Municipality's Dependence on the Property Tax. Learn More...

  • "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. 
Did you know?

The median size city/village in Wisconsin has a population of 1,450! Small communities are central to Wisconsin's vitality!
Additional Resources - Villages:

Powers of Municipalities - League's Legal FAQs
Does a village have the power to create a Tax Incremental Financing District under Wis. Stat. sec. 66.1105?
What are the differences between cities and villages?

Why Small Towns are Buzzing About Rural Creative Placemaking
"Over 300 people from 38 states gathered in Iowa last month under the banner of the first Next Generation Rural Creative Placemaking Summit. What generated all that excitement? And what does it mean for your town?

First, let’s tackle placemaking. It’s a bit of a buzzword itself. Placemaking means..." Read the article...
Cybersecurity Month
October, The Municipality, pg. 12

"It's not a matter of if it will happen to you, it's when."

Want to know if your data is secure?
Check out WisconsinEye's data partner 5Nines's Security Quiz to find out! (Yes, the fact that you are clicking through to this site, is not lost on us.)

Cybersecurity Guide by the National League of Cities

In recognition of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, NLC just released our newest guide, " Protecting Our Data: What Cities (& Villages) Should Know About Cybersecurity." Many of you have heard me talk about this guide – it's been a much-awaited research project for the last several months here at NLC. We wrote this report for local elected and appointed officials, especially those who may not have a background in cybersecurity or network management. It was completed in collaboration with the Public Technology Institute.
The guide outlines ten recommended first steps for city officials hoping to improve cybersecurity, includes a few really interesting case studies of local security breaches (including the time NLC itself was hit by ransomware!), and a checklist local IT directors can use to get started. We'll be doing more work and programming on local cybersecurity over the next year and beyond.
HR Matters
Employee v. Independent Contractor
By Lisa Bergersen, Principal Attorney at EngageHR Law , Of Counsel at Buelow Vetter , Former HR Director, City of Pewaukee 
October, The Municipality , pg. 22
"One potential area of cost savings for local governments is using independent contractors to perform municipal functions, often in areas like engineering, planning, assessing, human resources, and legal assistance. Contracting these services may be less expensive than hiring employees to perform the same work.
However, municipal employers must ensure that the worker is legally classified as an independent contractor." 

Additional Resources:

All HR Matters columns are posted to their own page on the League's website for reference.
#LeagueWI2019 Enthusiasm You Can Take Home With You!

Big picture inspiration, valuable workshops and networking plus the perfect place to brag about your community! Ryan Sorenson, Sheboygan City Council and Trevor Jung, Racine City Council talk about their experience at the League's 121st Annual Conference in Green Bay October 23-25, 2019. It was Trevor's first League Conference! 

Learn more about League Conferences
Save the Date for the League's 122nd Conference!
October 7-9, 2020 in La Crosse.
The Local Perspective - The Librarian Mayor

Why the Green Bay Mayor's Masters in Library Science is applicable to local government, the strength of local impact, the Packers, Economic Development and the League's Annual Conference are all among the topics discussed in the latest League Local Perspective. Jerry sits down with Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich in his office.  

Thanks to Shelby Hearley, Multimedia Communication Specialist for hosting us!

Wisconsin Villages Come in All Shapes and Sizes - Village Powers
October, The Municipality, pg. 7
By Jerry Deschane, Executive Director and Claire Silverman, Legal Counsel, League of Wisconsin Municipalities

"It’s impossible to characterize the “typical” Wisconsin village. You can measure them by geographic size, by population or by property value, or by their rural or urban setting, but you still can’t put your finger on the one thing they all have in common. Wisconsin villages are uniquely Wisconsin.

The numbers don’t tell everything...." Read the article as a PDF.
Cities Successfully Defend against Dark Store Challenges – You Can Too
October, The Municipality , pg. 14
By Curt Witynski, J.D., League of Wisconsin Municipalities; Attorney Amy Seibel; Assessor Rocco Vita

"The cost of defending an assessment against dark store and Walgreens challenges can, and often does, lead communities to settle with the taxpayer rather than spend limited resources on litigation. The trouble with settling on a compromise assessed value is that big box stores and other commercial property owners often return the next year and claim the compromise value was too high. A community is then asked to agree to even more reductions from the original assessment. 

As the court decisions described ( in the article) show, a community has a good chance of winning when it chooses to defend an assessment in court. Both the Wisconsin Property Assessment Manual and prior case law favor municipalities when they take on dark store and Walgreens arguments, unless the property is a pharmacy. The more often communities choose to litigate, and win, the less inclined big box stores and other commercial properties will be to file excessive assessment claims. Indeed, a Walmart store in West Bend recently dropped its lawsuit after the city refused to settle and instead chose to defend the assessment in court."  Read the article as a pdf.
Putting "Responsible" Back Into "Lowest Responsible Bidder"
October, The Municipality, pg. 18
By Cynthia Buchko, General Counsel, Construction Business Group

"Generally, public construction projects must be competitively bid and awarded to the “lowest responsible bidder.” The statutes and state administrative regulations provide little, if any, meaningful guidance on what constitutes a “responsible” bidder. As a result, many public project owners are reluctant to award the work to anyone other than the lowest bidder, even if there is good reason to believe that the lowest bidder may end up costing the taxpayers more in the long run due to poor work quality, project delays and change orders.  

Public project owners do not want to risk being sued and are concerned about project delays caused by a lawsuit. These risks, however, can be mitigated to a large degree by both understanding the law and creating a proper administrative record of the bid award decision." Read the article as a PDF.

Additional Resource: Want to spread the word about your RFP? Post it on the League's website (we also post employment and for sale and wanted ads at no cost to you if you are a member municipality.) Here's how...
October, The Municipality, pg. 20
By Barry J. Blonien, Attorney, Boardman & Clark, LLP

"Municipal employees may be wondering about the substance, its legality, and whether villages, towns, and cities can and should take any steps to regulate retail sales within their territory. This article provides a big-picture overview" Read the article as a PDF.
Missed the League's 2019 Local Government 101 Workshops? Order the DVDs!

You can order the League's Local Government 101 workshop on video. It is the full day's program on four DVDs for you and your colleagues to watch at your own pace!

It comes with the companion resource book - in your choice of printed workbook or on a USB drive.

Segments include: Organization & Powers of Cities and Villages + Recognizing and Avoiding Conflicts of Interest + Budgeting & Financial Oversight + Procedures for Local Government Meetings + Managing Public Works Activities

Get it hot off the press! Click here to order the League's newly updated Municipal Licensing and Regulation of Alcohol Beverages.
Join Us!
The League's Police & Fire Commission Workshop
November 1, 2019
Holiday Inn Hotel & Convention Center, Stevens Point

You can register now for this popular one-day workshop.

Note! We are updating the League's Police and Fire Commission Handbook and will send the new version to workshop participants as part of your registration fee. In the meantime, if you aren't attending the workshop and order a handbook now, you will be added to the list and will be sent the handbook hot off the press later this fall.
The League's Plumbing Inspectors Institute

November 6 - 8, 2019 
Lake Lawn Resort

Master Plumber, Journeyman Plumber, MP & JP, Restricted Appliance & Service, Commercial Plumbing Inspector, UDC-Plumbing Inspector, Utility Contractors, Cross Connection Control Device Testers.
The agenda lists the credit hours for each session.