Municipal Services Payment Program Remains Underfunded
Recently, the Department of Administration announced the amount that each community hosting state buildings and other state facilities will receive in payments in 2020 under the Payment for Municipal Services program. The program, which is designed to reimburse municipalities for the cost of providing police, fire and garbage collection services to state facilities, has been funded at the same level since 2011, $18,584,200. That amount was sufficient to cover only 34.66% of the cost to municipalities of providing police, fire, and garbage collection services to state facilities statewide in 2019.

The highest amount at which the Payment for Municipal Services Program was funded was $21,998,800 from 2003-2008. At that time, the amount was sufficient to cover more than 81% of the cost of providing municipal services to state facilities.

Panel Advances Bill Allowing Communities to Conduct Levy Limit Referendums Earlier than November
Last week, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Revenue, & Financial Institutions voted unanimously to recommend passage of an amended version of SB 291, legislation supported by the League and Counties Association allowing referendums to exceed levy limits to be conducted earlier in the year than November.

The bill is now available for leadership to schedule for a floor vote in January or February in both Senate and the Assembly.
Committee Recommends Passage of Bill Expanding Workers Comp PTSD Coverage for Police and Fire Fighters
Last week, the Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform unanimously recommended passage of SB 511, making changes to the conditions of liability for worker's compensation benefits for a law enforcement officer or a fire fighter who is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. The League has taken a neutral position on this compromise bill. We have recommended some additional changes be made to the bill, including adding language clarifying that the new standards do not apply to duty disability claims. That change has not yet been made to the bill.

The bill is now available for Senate leadership to schedule for a floor vote in January or February.

With the State Going Back on Its Commitment to Communities, Local Governments are Pushed to Consider Regressive Tax and Fee Increases
Local governments are the backbone of successful communities. Local governments plow roads, protect children from neglect and abuse, provide police and fire protection, immunize residents against deadly diseases, provide public transportation that people need to get to work, and perform other vital services that families and communities need to thrive.

Local governments need revenue to make these crucial investments in families and communities. Support from the state makes up one of the major sources of revenues for local governments. Yet state policymakers have starved local governments of state aid in recent years, while severely restricting property tax growth and limiting other options for local revenue. This combination of actions by the state legislature has forced harmful cuts to local services that keep families healthy and communities safe. Read the report by the Wisconsin Budget Project...

Madison Fire Department halts use of fluorinated foam; firefighters to use 2 PFAS-free alternatives
Firefighting foams reduce surface tension, allowing more water to penetrate, while also forming a blanket to smother flames.

“You don’t want to be splashing water on a grease fire,” Schuster said. “That’s why foam is such an essential element to our firefighting process.” Read the story...

Broadband expanding to thousands in rural Wisconsin with $4.6 million from FCC
Broadband connections will expand to nearly 7,800 unserved rural homes and businesses in Wisconsin with new funding from the Federal Communications Commission. 

More than $4.6 million will come to Wisconsin over the next decade to expand broadband access in rural communities. Funding will begin to be distributed this month. The Wisconsin funding is part of $89.2 million in Connect America Fund support approved Monday to expand broadband in 21 states. 

The Connect America Fund is part of an FCC effort to close the digital divide in the United States. Providers who receive funding must build out broadband access to 40% of the assigned homes and businesses in the designated area within three years. Each subsequent year, buildout must increase by 20%.  Read the story...

The League's Local Perspective - Tim Hanna, Local Govt Institute
Jerry talked with Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna about his plans for his new role as Director of the Local Government Institute of Wisconsin. Watch the show on the League's YouTube Channel here...

AB 683, Changes to the Room Tax Law. Expands the applicability of the room tax, makes a number of substantive and technical changes to the room tax in the areas of collections, audits, and the exchange of information between local governments and the Department of Revenue, establishes a common tax base between the sales tax and the room tax, and authorizes a municipality to impose a forfeiture of up to $500 per day on a marketplace provider (a person who facilitates a retail sale by a seller by listing or advertising, to the extent that the marketplace provider facilitates the sale or furnishing of rooms, lodging or other accommodations
to transients) that does not timely file a required room tax return to the municipality or pay the required tax. 

The bill clarifies that persons who are subject to the room tax must file a room tax return in the manner and form, and within the time, prescribed by a municipality. Finally, the bill authorizes a municipality or district performing an audit related to the room tax to conduct joint audits with other such entities and to exchange audit information with DOR and any municipality that took part in the joint audit. By Rep. Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay). The League supports this bill. Comment to the League about this bill.

SB 624, Prohibiting Assessors from Changing Assessments Based on Recent Arms-Length Sale of the Property. Prohibits an assessor from changing the assessed value of a property based solely on the recent arm's-length sale of the property unless the change in assessed value corrects a previous assessment based on incorrect information about the physical characteristics of the property. By Sen. Craig (R-Big Bend). The League and the Wisconsin Association of Assessing Offices oppose this bill. Comment to the League about this bill.

No public hearings on municipal bills are scheduled for this week or next week.