BCTA legal action against Brown County's new sales tax

Background info on the action taken by the Brown County Taxpayers Association against Brown County related to the County’s new sales tax:

The BCTA has taken this action for the following reasons:

We disagree with the way in which the matter was rushed through the approval process. The County Executive announced his plan for the sales tax on May 2nd, and the County Board rushed to approve it on May 17th. During that approval process, numerous misrepresentations were made regarding how much of the sales tax is paid by non-residents. We asked County leadership to put this matter to a referendum which would have enabled thorough discussion and investigation of the proposal, but County leadership was not willing to permit the citizenry to weigh in on the matter. They were in a hurry to get their arms around that revenue stream of $147 million. We are convinced that if this matter had gone to referendum, it would have been rejected. We want the law followed, and believe that is not happening in this situation. · First, the relevant portion of the state statute (77.70) reads as follows: “the county sales and use taxes may be imposed only for the purpose of directly reducing the property tax levy and only in their entirety”. Over the proposed six-year life of the sales tax, using the County’s own numbers released in May 2017, the property tax cuts amount to less than $20 million while the new sales taxes are $147 million.

· Second, the County’s plan attempts to use the sales tax to evade its property tax levy limit. 2005 Wisconsin Act 25 imposed levy limits on counties beginning in 2006. The amount of sales tax revenue projected is well in excess of the revenue which would be permitted under the property tax levy limit. The legislative intent of the levy limit is to constrain spending. This proposal circumvents that intent. The law provides that Counties may exceed their levy limits, but it requires approval via a referendum. As noted above, County leadership was too anxious to acquire this revenue stream to be bothered with a referendum.