Letters to the Editor: More McMillan residents write on tax levy
The McMillan Public Budget Hearing was held on Nov. 13. The law requires that a budget hearing shall be held to allow the town residents to vote on the levy rate. This meeting was a disaster from start to finish. The following definitions might have helped everyone’s understanding of ‘levy’ and ‘levy rate’, also known as ‘mill rate.’
Property Tax Levy is defined as follows: Property tax is the tax imposed on homeowners owning real estate. The municipal tax authority (in this case the town) sets a percentage rate, called a levy rate or mill rate, which is then calculated against the assessed value of each homeowner’s property.
Calculating the Property Tax Levy is defined as follows: Municipal authorities calculate the total property tax levy by projecting the needs of the municipality for that year, then calculating how large a budget is needed to cover the costs. This amount is then calculated against the total value of all properties combined to determine the percentage rate of the property tax levy. To determine the tax levy for each residence, the municipality applies the percentage rate to the assessed value of the property.
In order to establish the levy, it is imperative that voters understand the proposed 2019 budget.
The budget includes the anticipated revenue (money in) from all sources and the proposed expenditures (money out) necessary to conduct the town’s business for 2019. 2019 revenue and expenditures are shown in comparison with the 2018 budget for actual revenue and expenses to date.
The 2019 budget presented to the voters for review was in ‘summary form’. Presenting the budget in summary form was a clear deviation from what was approved by the voters at last year’s budget hearing; at that time they voted to have the budget presented in ‘line item’ format. After much objection by the chairperson and others, a ‘line item’ budget was hastily displayed. Valuable time was wasted debating if and how to display a line item budget; suddenly what should have been a serious study of town revenue and expenses became a hostile challenging confrontation. Clearly the chairperson and town officials had no intention of having an open review and discussion of the budget.
The Town of McMillan 2019 budget is over a million dollars – revenue and expenses – these total amounts are shown at the bottom for each column of figures. Part of the revenue comes from the property taxes paid by town residents. This year the board proposed to increase the levy from $628,584 to $665,815 supposedly to cover expenses. Obviously this levy increase would increase our property taxes. A resident moved instead to lower the levy to $500,000. The motion was seconded and following a ballot vote, the motion passed 51 for and 39 against. The results of this vote were not well received by board members and others.
How does the town board justify raising the levy for 2019, especially when there will be an estimated excess of $114,276 remaining at the end of the year? If time had been taken to carefully explain and review all aspects of the budget, it might have been obvious that the proposed new levy was too high and the increase was not needed. With the levy at the current rate, there is an anticipated surplus of $114,276 in the town budget at the end of this year; what’s to say we wouldn’t end up with a similar surplus in 2019 if the levy were left at the current rate. All expenses would be covered, and we would have extra money available to designate to roads, bridge construction, or other budgeted expense.
Instead, what was accomplished by the way this budget hearing was conducted?
Even though the purpose of a Budget Hearing is to give the voters the opportunity to voice their opinions on how their tax dollars are spent, it is obvious that the board and town officials don’t want to hear a peep from us – just sit quietly and agree with whatever you are being told.
In our effort to be informed and help others learn about the budget process, we are now labeled as irrational! Maybe the folks calling us irrational would do better to inform themselves before they go around making blatantly incorrect statements about the effect lowering the levy would have on snow plowing, road repairs, and property values.
If one Budget Hearing wasn’t enough for one year, now we get to sit through another one. The board wants to try again to raise the levy. So much for the voice of the people! And if you thought the first hearing was contentious, the second hearing will be no less. It would be great if we had leadership with knowledge of the budget that could facilitate a real discussion with input from all sides to enable us to reach a consensus on the levy! (One can dream.)
An expense item in the 2019 budget is for the revision of town ordinances – to bring them up to date and make them specific to McMillan Township. The irony of this is not lost on me. State statutes and town ordinances are the rule books for how the town conducts its business and spends money. Yet over the years we have seen clear violations of these rules, some obvious, and some more manipulative. By their own actions, the board has undermined the trust of the voters – and the end result is the current mess over the levy vote.
McMillan Township is a unique blend of suburban and rural whose needs and priorities are not always the same. We are entrusting the board with over a million dollars to run our township.
The opinions of the voters matter. Attend the next Budget Hearing on Dec. 7 at 6 p.m.; ask questions, make comments, and vote.
Town of McMillan
I am writing about the recent events that have taken place in the Town of McMillan. It seems that a few Board members are not willing to listen to the electors. About two years ago at our budget hearing the electors voted to designate the surplus of the 2016 budget to a specific road project. Again the Board would not do it. Another example at the annual meeting in April 2018 the electors voted to go back to an elected Clerk and Treasurer, again the Board would not do this. Also at the same meeting the electors voted to have a more transparent and accountable detail line items in the budget again the Board would not do this.
Now at the 2018 budget hearing for the electors to vote on the levy, the electors voted to lower the levy with justification. The town document showed, as of Oct 8, that there is over $270,550 surplus with an anticipation of $114,276 surplus at the end of the year! That number could easily be higher, in my opinion we are being overtaxed. The Board again with the help of the town lawyer found a loophole to try to not accept this levy the electors voted on.
It is clear from repeated behavior of some board members they have no respect for the will of the people or their vote, state statutes, or town ordinances. The rights of the citizens of the township to vote on how they want their town managed along with the ordinances is the most basic form of democracy. The will of the people is being denied with methods very close to that of dictatorship.
Town of Lincoln’s levy is $383,207, and Town of Richfield’s levy is $260,000, both townships provide the same services and have their own fire departments.
Also, I have kept track of the surplus from Annual reports, note the following:
2018 194,684.93 Surplus and estimated fund balance as of Dec. 31
Excerpt below taken from the WI State Legislature website:
76 Op. Att’y Gen. 77, 77-78 (1987)
The Wisconsin Supreme Court held that it was not appropriate to levy a tax to enrich the public treasury or to create a surplus, or to accumulate funds in substantial amounts for contingencies which might never occur.
2018’s levy was $628,584 and lowering the level to $500,000 plus the surplus from 2018’s budget of $194,684 equals $694,684 which is a higher levy than we had in 2018. The levy plus all other revenue that comes into the township is well over $1,000,000. I don’t know any neighboring townships that have this amount of money to work with.
Please come and ask questions and form your own opinion, Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. at the fire station.