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  • TAXPAYER: How Have Schools Fared? Wisconsin vs. U.S.

    When tax revenues dropped during the 2007-09 recession, Wisconsin school funding suffered; revenues were tightened, spending was cut, staff and compensation were reduced. However, new Census Bureau figures suggest that Wisconsin’s retrenchment was not unique. While many states made cuts during the entire 2008-12 period, Wisconsin’s revenue and spending reductions were concentrated in 2012.

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  • BLOG: On State Law and Fiscal Health

    At the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, we are often asked what the next governor and legislature can do to fix permanently Wisconsin’s state-budget “roller coaster.” The state has flirted with deficits for years. Two actions that would go a long way are already in state law, but legislators and governors have a history of ignoring them.

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  • FOCUS: A look at school fund balances yields surprises

    The fund balances, or financial reserves, of school districts can help assess their fiscal strength. Over the past 20 years, these reserves have grown fastest when state finances and school funding policy were most uncertain. Since 1991, total statewide fund balances have grown 32.2% from $0.73 billion to $2.1 billion last year. Balances in 2013 averaged 21.4% of total school expenditures.

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  • Blog: On Surpluses, Deficits, and Imbalances

    The response to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s (LFB) recent memo about the state’s “structural deficit” has been overwhelming in volume and underwhelming in facts. Straightforward answers to some questions might be helpful.

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  • FOCUS: Candidates for elimination? Property taxes in 2015 (I)

    The property tax is Wisconsin’s oldest, and probably most unpopular tax. Property tax relief has been a campaign promise since statehood. Yet our property taxes remain 11th highest in the US and 25% above average. Special legislative committees are now studying an alternative to temporary relief--permanent elimination of the technical college and personal property tax levies.

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  • TAXPAYER: Issues for Voters, Questions for Candidates

    The November general election is fast approaching. Wisconsin voters will select a new legislature and there's also a race for governor. When these elected officials take office in January, they will have to tackle some pressing issues, including transportation finance, a slow-growing economy, and rising fiscal pressure on schools and local governments.

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Navigating the Property Tax

The property tax is Wisconsin’s largest, oldest, and most confusing tax. At least five governments use the tax, and two different methods of valuing property are used to distribute taxes among property owners. One source of confusion arises when tax rates and levies move in opposite directions, a common occurrence over the past 20 years. In addition, property owners are often unaware of how changing property values, both within a municipality and among municipalities, can cause individual property tax bills to rise, even when levies are “frozen.”

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Transportation Amendment Passes But Funding Issues Remain

Voters approved a constitutional amendment November 4 to require gas taxes and various driver and vehicle registration fees be held in a segregated transportation fund and be used solely for transportation purposes. The amendment aims to prevent the transfer of transportation monies to other funds, as the state did for much of the prior decade to avoid general fund deficits.  However, it does nothing to address findings by a state commission that over the next ten years, Wisconsin will need an additional $2 billion to $7 billion to pay for its transportation needs. A slow-growing population that reduced its travel combined with more fuel efficient vehicles has led to declines in gas purchases and gas taxes paid. State officials must decide how to fund future transportation needs, or where spending can be scaled back.

The Framework of Your Wisconsin Government textbook: What every civics teacher needs!

The only text on WI state, county, city, village, town and school governments. In paper or digital. Teacher tool kits available.

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