Focus

Focus #16

2018

Are “Dark Store” Property Tax Challenges on the Rise?

“Dark store” appeals are made by businesses – often retailers – seeking to lower their property tax assessments and overall tax bill. Our survey suggests they may be rising in Wisconsin. Local officials reported 79 such tax appeals in 2017,Read More
Focus #15

2018

A Tale of Two Cities (and Counties)

For generations, Milwaukee could boast of being Wisconsin’s biggest city and produce the numbers to back up its claim. Even today, the city counts more than twice the residents and economic output of Madison, the next largest city in theRead More
Focus #14

2018

Ruling Triggers Rise in State Sales Taxes, Potential Cut in Income Taxes

Until recently, whether an internet retailer collected state and local sales taxes depended in part on whether it had a physical presence in the state. A new decision by the U.S. Supreme Court has reversed its previous ruling, allowing WisconsinRead More
Focus #13

2018

Wisconsin’s birth rate is falling, but why?

Wisconsin’s birth rate is at its lowest point in at least a generation. Annual births are at a near-low for the time period, and the fertility rate has declined as well over the past decade. Given the state’s recent historyRead More
Focus #12

2018

Municipal Street Quality: A Bumpier Ride?

Street quality in Wisconsin municipalities has declined modestly over the past seven years. From 2010 to 2017, the share of high quality roads has declined while the share of moderate-quality roads has increased, with the trend most pronounced in smallRead More
Focus #11

2018

How should local governments respond to declining transit ridership?

Bus ridership has decreased for most large transit systems in Wisconsin in recent years, following a national trend. So far, local governments have found ways to make up for lost fare revenue and avoid service reductions, though that may becomeRead More
Focus #10

2018

Local governments turn to “wheel taxes” as other revenues lag

In recent years, Wisconsin has seen a sudden increase in local governments establishing new vehicle registration fees. A local vehicle registration fee–otherwise known as a “wheel tax”–is an annual charge in addition to the state $75 registration fee for mostRead More
Focus #9

2018

New CBO report raises concerns for deficit, federal aid

The federal tax cut approved in December and more recent spending legislation could have implications for state and local governments. According to a new Congressional Budget Office report, while both are expected to stimulate the economy, they also will leadRead More
Focus #8

2018

Is Municipal Debt Rising Too Fast?

Recent Wisconsin Policy Forum research finds stressful levels of capital debt in Milwaukee and Racine that are exacerbating other fiscal pressures. A review of other Wisconsin municipalities shows that debt levels are rising across the board, though few face theRead More