New laws help county treasurers serve residents
Much has been made and reported about the inability of the Legislature in Madison to get anything done this past legislative floor session. Of the more than 1,500 bills introduced, only about 10 percent made it out of committees, received floor votes by both the Senate and Assembly and were presented to the governor to sign into law.
Among bills that got through the divided Legislature and signed into law were 2007 Wisconsin Act 190 and 2007 Wisconsin Act 210, common-sense bills suggested and supported by the Wisconsin County Treasurersí Association.
Act 190, authored by Rep. Gary Sherman, a Bayfield County Democrat, is about improving efficiencies for distributing property tax credits. The credits are the lottery and gaming and the school levy credits, which appear on your property tax bills.
Instead of sending these payments to the 1,850 cities, towns and villages throughout the year, who then redistribute the money to counties, school districts and any other taxing jurisdictions, the state will send the money to the 72 counties. Each county treasurer, who is ultimately responsible for accurately distributing all property tax credits, will then disburse the funds.
For example, by April 15 each year, Blackhawk Technical College receives a check from each of the 29 municipalities in Rock County for its share of the lottery and gaming credit portion of its tax levy. Act 190 allows for Blackhawk Tech to receive one check from the Rock County treasurer, not 29 individual checks. As another example, the Orfordville Parkview School District will receive one check from the Rock County treasurer, not checks from each of the nine municipal treasurers within the district.
The second bill that county treasurers toiled to get onto the governorís desk was authored by Rep. Donna Seidel, D-Wausau, and cosponsored by Rock County representatives. It has to do with agricultural use-value conversion charges.
Because agricultural land is assessed at a much-reduced rate compared to other land, when land is no longer classed as agricultural it might be subject to a one-time conversion charge. County treasurers were previously responsible for calculating and collecting the conversion charge. What we were finding throughout the state was that the first time many property owners heard about this one-time charge was when they received a demand for payment from the county treasurer.
Act 210 requires notification of the possible conversion charge prior to the meeting of the municipal Board of Review. It is at Board of Review where property owners may appeal land classifications and thus the assessment of an agricultural conversion charge.
County treasurers are required to declare a political party when running for office. Yet in proposing, and successfully passing, practical legislation to enhance the duties of the office, we speak as one voice. Did anything get accomplished during the 2007-2008 legislative session? County treasurers think so.
Vicki Brown is Rock County treasurer and legislative committee chairwoman for the Wisconsin County Treasurersí Association. Readers can reach her at (608) 757-5670.