June 14, 2021 | Number 24
JFC Taking up Shared Revenue this Week as it Completes Work on State Budget
The Legislature's Republican controlled budget writing committee will likely finish working on the 2021-2023 state budget this week. JFC is scheduled to meet tomorrow and Thursday. The committee's agenda for Tuesday includes PSC's broadband provisions. On Thursday, JFC turns its attention to funding levels for the Shared Revenue program, the Payment for Municipal Services Program, and the Video Service Provider Fee Payment.
Read the Legislative Fiscal Bureau papers on these three municipal programs here.
JFC Votes to Increase Funding for Transportation Aids and Stewardship Grants for Local Governments
Last week, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) passed on a party line vote Motion #86, the Republican transportation budget plan that includes:
A 2% increase in General Transportation Aids in 2022 and 2023. The GTA funding level for cities, villages and towns is currently $383,503,200. the motion increases that amount to $391,173,300 for 2022 and $398,996,800 for 2023. The motion also increases the per mile aid payment for towns by 2 percent each year from $2,628 to $2,681in 2022 and $2,734 in 2023.
Provides $100 million in 2021-2022 on a onetime basis to be used to fund local road projects under the Local Roads Improvement Program discretionary component to be allocated as follows: $25,386,000 for cities and villages; $35,559,100 for counties; and $39,054,900 for towns.
Reduces mass transit operating assistance by 50% in 2022 for tier A-1 (Milwaukee County Transit System) and tier A2 (Madison Transit System). The reductions to both systems total $41,341,600. Funding levels for Tier B and Tier C transit systems remain unchanged from the current year.
JFC also passed last week a DNR omnibus budget motion reauthorizing the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program for 4 years. The motion increases Local Assistance Grants under the Stewardship program from $6 million to $8 million annually. Municipalities use these grants to improve public access to urban lakes and rivers, construct bike paths, and other green space projects.
The same DNR omnibus budget motion included $1 million in funding for collecting and disposing of PFAS containing firefighting foam. The Governor had recommended the same amount for the same purpose. The Governor had also recommended creating a municipal grant program with ongoing funding of $10,000,000 to help municipalities engage in multiple activities to respond to suspected or known PFAS contamination. The budget being developed by JFC does not include that recommendation.
Interest on Property Tax Refunds Bill Introduced
Last week, Sen. Petrowski (R-Marathon) and Rep. Brooks (R-Saukville) introduced a bill sought by the League that addresses the interest municipalities must pay on property tax refunds. The bill, SB 396, modernizes and makes consistent between similar provisions the interest rate local governments must pay on certain property tax refunds and requires other taxing jurisdictions, like the county and school district, to help pay the cost of interest payments on property tax refunds.
Under current law, all local taxing jurisdictions contribute proportionately to the cost of the tax refund itself, but only the city, village, or town pays the interest on the refund. This bill allows the city, village, or town to collect from each underlying taxing jurisdiction its proportionate share of the interest paid on property tax refunds.
Senate Passes Bill Penalizing Municipalities for reducing Spending on Public Safety
Last week, the Senate passed on a party line vote the following bill the League opposes:
SB 119, Mandating Maintenance of Effort on Public Safety Spending or Number of Employees for Departments with 30 or More Employees. The substitute amendment introduced on June 4 penalizes communities with police and fire departments with 30 or more employees with shared revenue cuts if the community decreases the amount of its municipal budget dedicated to hiring, training, and retaining law enforcement officers, members of the paid fire department, or emergency medical responders so that it is less than the amount dedicated to that purpose in the previous year. Also, under the bill, if in any year a municipality maintains the amount of its budget dedicated to hiring, training, and retaining law enforcement officers, members of the paid fire department, or emergency medical responders but retains fewer officers, fire fighters, or responders than in the previous year, the municipality's shared revenue payment will be reduced by the amount of the compensation that the municipality paid to the officers, fire fighters, and responders that it did not retain. The Assembly has not yet acted on this bill.
In other floor action last week, the Senate passed by voice vote SB 187, a bill the League supports, allowing village board members to be hired as employees of the village and earn up to $15,000 annually. The Assembly will likely vote on this bill in the next couple of weeks.
RECENTLY INTRODUCED LEGISLATION
AB 392, PFAS Municipal Loan Program. This bill creates a municipal grant program, administered by the Department of Natural Resources, to address perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Under the program, DNR must provide grants to cities, towns, villages, counties, utility districts, lake protection districts, sewerage districts, and municipal airports. However, there is more to this bill than a grant program like the one offered in the Governor's budget. Several caveats are placed on receiving a grant.
For example, DNR may only award a grant if:
- the applicant tested or trained with a PFAS-containing firefighting foam in accordance with applicable state and federal law, or
- a third party tested or trained with PFAS-containing firefighting foam within the boundaries of the municipality;
- the applicant applied biosolids to land under a water pollution permit issued by DNR; or
- PFAS are impacting the applicant's drinking water supply or surface water or groundwater within the municipality and the responsible party is unknown or is unwilling or unable to take the necessary response actions.
The bill also imposes restrictions after a grant is awarded including:
- an applicant that receives a grant under this program waives the right to bring or maintain an action or claim against any person alleged to be responsible for the PFAS contamination that is the basis for the grant and
- no action or claim may be brought against any person alleged to be responsible for the PFAS contamination that is the basis for a grant under this program by any person or with respect to any property that benefitted from the expenditure of such a grant.
In addition, the DNR may not issue a grant to an applicant that has received a monetary award from an action or claim brought against such a person.
The funding is from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and therefore not a sustainable state commitment. By Represenative Behnke (R-Oconto). The League is further evaluating how the bill will impact municipalities.
SB 396, Interest of Claims of Excessive Assessment and for Recovery of Unlawful Property Taxes. This bill cleans up two inconsistencies in state law dealing with the interest municipalities must pay on property tax refunds. The inconsistencies in current law have negative financial consequences for city and village taxpayers.
The bill modernizes and makes consistent between similar provisions the interest rate local governments must pay on certain property tax refunds and requires other taxing jurisdiction, like the county and school district, to help pay the cost of interest payments on property tax refunds. Under current law, all local taxing jurisdictions contribute proportionately to the cost of the tax refund itself, but only the city, village, or town pays the interest on the refund. This bill allows the city, village, or town to collect from each underlying taxing jurisdiction its proportionate share of the interest paid on property tax refunds. By Senator Petrowski (R-Marathon) and Representative Brooks (R-Suakville). This is a League initiated bill.
PUBLIC HEARINGS THIS WEEK
IN THE NEWS
(Paywalls may apply)
'Unprecedented': Wisconsin to take in $4.4B more in tax revenue than expected over three years Read the article.
Budget committee reduces borrowing for road projects, cuts transit aid to Madison, Milwaukee Read the article.
Republicans eliminate proposed DNR programs from budget, including several measures to fight 'forever chemical' contaminations Read the article.
Wisconsin’s Local Funding Model Is Broken: Why Milwaukee Struggles to Keep Public Services Running Read the article.
Wisconsin Focusing On Hesitant Populations, Teens As COVID-19 Vaccination Rate Slows: 43 Percent Of Wisconsinites Are Fully Vaccinated Read the article.
Downtown Mainstreet promoting economic growth through national accreditation Read the article.
In southwestern Wisconsin, the bucolic Driftless Area is an overlooked gem Read the article.
Development company looks to Sturgeon Bay's West Side waterfront for public plaza Read the article.
League's next Member Roundtable via Zoom
July 13, 2021, 12:00-1:00
Getting the Best R.O.I. on the Investment Made with The American Rescue Plan Act Fund Entrusted to Local Elected Officials
Wed, June 23, 2021, 8:00 AM – 12:30 PM - Free Webinar
Provided by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, Wisconsin Counties and Towns Associations and the UW-Wisconsin System
Chief Executives Summer Workshop
August 19 & 20, 2021 – Hotel Retlaw, Fond du Lac
Please thank our sponsor! MPIC
2021 Municipal Attorneys Institute
August 30 – September 1, 2021
Osthoff Resort, Elkhart Lake
Please thank our sponsors!
Local Government 101
For New & Experienced Local Officials and Staff
Sept. 10 in Waupaca in person (capped at 65)
Please thank our sponsors!
The League's 123rd Annual Conference
Pre-conference Webinars October 12-14 Via Zoom
Annual Conference October 20-22
K-I Center, Green Bay