WISCREPORT.COM (10/2/07) - The Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA) is urging members of the state budget conference committee and legislative leaders to not leave property taxpayers in the cold in light of a proposal to remove an increase in the real estate transfer fee.
The doubling of the fee, as originally proposed by Governor Doyle in his budget, would have provided funding for critical county programs such as youth aids, circuit courts and shared revenue.
“This budget cycle has been long and arduous for all players involved and we recognize that there are compromises on the way to crafting a final document,” said WCA Executive Director Mark D. O’Connell.
“With that said, if this increase is eliminated, then there must be another funding source for counties to operate the state’s circuit court system, as well as provide juvenile correction services and services to our elderly and other vulnerable citizens.”
O’Connell continued, “There must be a correlation between payments made to counties for operating the programs and the actual cost to provide these services,” he said.
“We are urging members of the conference committee and legislative leaders to remember that these programs must be funded or else it will fall on the property taxpayers of Wisconsin.”
For example, current budget proposals contain an $18 million increase in charges to counties for juveniles placed in a state juvenile correctional institution (JCI). If the Legislature does not provide full funding to counties for the proposed JCI rate increases, the onus will be on counties to make up this cost, likely resulting in severe funding shortfalls and an increased reliance on the property tax.
“The needs are still there for counties, regardless of the funding source,” said O’Connell. “As the conference committee and legislative leaders continue their deliberations, it is our hope they look at the big picture.
"A no tax increase pledge is an empty promise if it results in a tax shift. The Wisconsin Counties Association remains committed to working with the legislature to put in place funding sources that meet the needs of all of Wisconsin in a fiscally responsible manner," O'Connell stated.