MunicipalFacts Book MunicipalFacts11

June 2011  •  Vol. 2011
$19.95 per issue

Buy this Issue

Get the most out of WISTAX!
Become a contributor today and receive full access to all of our research publications.

Contributor sign-up
  • Summary
  • Press Release
  • MunicipalFacts11 examines patterns and trends in municipal finance for 238 of Wisconsin's most populous cities and villages.

    Included in the analysis are expenditures, property taxes and values, shared revenues, debt, and income for communities with populations between 2,000 and 150,000. Because of their size and unique characteristics, Milwaukee and Madison are excluded.

    This 112-page, 9x12 professionally bound book is published annually. The data is organized in easy to read charts that allow you to review your municipality's expenditures in many categories (police, fire, ambulance, general government, etc.) and compare them with peers. It includes per capita figures for easy comparisons.

    It includes a narrative with clear explanations of what each spending and revenue category means so you'll be able to follow the finances of your local municipality like never before.

  • Kyle C. Christianson or Todd A. Berry

    Facing Fiscal Pressures, Municipal Spending Declines

    General Obligation Debt Up 4.2%, Largest Increases Since 2005

    download press releasee-mail this link to a friend

    MADISON—For the first time in more than a decade, municipal operating expenditures in Wisconsin’s largest cities and villages declined, according to the just-released 2011 edition of MunicipalFacts—an annual publication from the nonprofit, nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX). Total spending in the state’s 238 largest municipalities was down 1.0% from 2008 to 2009. However, municipal general obligation debt rose 4.2%, the largest increase since 2005.

    Faced with property tax limits and little growth in state aid, Wisconsin cities and villages appear to have turned to spending cuts, and possibly increased borrowing, to offset stagnating revenues. However, public safety spending was generally not affected, according to WISTAX researchers.

    Police spending accounted for the largest share of local expenditures in 2009—nearly double street maintenance spending. Cities and villages spent an average of $220 per capita on police, up from $218 the prior year. Since 2005, per capita police spending rose faster than all other major expenditures. Fire-ambulance spending was also up slightly in 2009, from $132 per capita to $134.

    Both general government and street maintenance spending declined in 2009. General government spending averaged $84 per capita in 2009 vs. $86 in 2008, while street spending dropped from $128 to $118. Spending for street maintenance rose faster than all other major spending categories during 2004-08. (Editors: Consult MunicipalFacts11 to insert your local municipality’s exact data. See below for how to get a copy.)

    Although municipal spending fell in 2009, borrowing was up more than in any year since 2005. General obligation debt among the 238 cities and villages studied rose from $4.1 billion to $4.3 billion. Per capita, debt was up from $1,448 to $1,503.

    The 2009 debt increase reflects a trend toward rising debt among Wisconsin municipalities, although debt is limited to 5.0% of total equalized (estimated fair-market) value. Of the communities studied, only four reported no general obligation debt: Saint Francis, Silver Lake, Thiensville, and West Salem. As a percentage of the state-imposed debt limit, nine communities were at 80% or more of their limit, while 33 were at 60% or more of their limit. Over half of the municipalities studied were at less than 40% of the state debt limit.

    Although municipal revenue growth slowed, property taxes remained the largest funding source for most Wisconsin communities. In 2011 (property taxes levied in 2010, collected in 2011), municipal property tax levies among the communities studied totalled $1.51 billion, up 2.1% from $1.48 billion the prior year; this year’s increase was the smallest in more than a decade. From 2007 to 2011, municipal levy increases averaged 3.3% per year.

    The second primary source of municipal revenues is shared revenue payments from the state. After rising less than 1% annually from 2006-08, shared revenues in the cities and villages studied rose 1.4% in 2009. However, most communities received less per capita in 2009 than four years prior. Of the 238 municipalities in the study, 84 received more in 2009 than in 2005. In the remaining 154 cities and villages, shared revenues remained the same or declined.

    MunicipalFacts11 is Wisconsin’s most accessible and comprehensive resource for comparing municipal finances. The 112-page book provides information on spending, property taxes, property values, debt, and state income taxes by municipality. MunicipalFacts11 groups 238 municipalities by population, making it easy to compare taxes and spending in similar-sized cities and villages. Included are virtually all cities and villages with 2009 populations between 2,000 and 150,000. Customized reports showing information for any 10 municipalities are also available.

    For more information or to purchase a copy of MunicipalFacts11, go to; e-mail; write WISTAX at 401 North Lawn Avenue, Madison, WI 53704-5033; or call 608.241.9789. WISTAX is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to public-policy research and citizen education.

    Editor’s Note: An electronic version of this release is available at The book is available to the media at $9.95. Alternatively, customized reports featuring 10 municipalities can also be purchased.

Search Publications

Search Term:


Press Releases: