Wisconsin Passes “Game Changer” for County Funding

Wisconsin counties will receive a 20 percent cut of state sales tax revenues, boosting funding and giving them a more participatory role in their fiscal health.

Wisconsin counties will see a significant boost in funding and a chance to control their destiny under a new state tax policy signed into law this week.

Assembly Bill 245, which Gov. Tony Evers signed June 19, will send 20 percent of the average state’s sales tax revenue to local governments, which will receive a minimum increase of 15 percent in existing county and municipal aid.

“This reform will inject a significant amount of new money into the system,” said Josh Schoemann, Washington County’s executive. “At the same time, it will incentivize us to help sales tax growth, which is an important point.”

According to the National Association of Counties (NACo):

Counties and municipalities currently use the percentage of net new construction as a valuation factor in determining the allowable levy, which Wisconsin Counties Association Executive Director Mark O’Connell said has been inadequate.

“That is insufficient to take care of counties’ growing needs, whether it’s employee healthcare or pay raises or increase costs to perform our functions. It’s just not enough,” he said.

Prior to being elected executive, Schoemann was Washington county’s administrator, and in both roles, he has been keenly aware of the budget stresses mounting as revenues stagnated and costs increased across the board.

“The better part of the last 20 years, we have really been doing more with less, and then eventually doing less with less,” he said. “We haven’t significantly added sheriff’s deputies and personnel in the sheriff’s office for many, many years and this will give us the ability to actually do that and the growth capacity in the budget for future years to pay for it continually.”

Upon signing the bill, the Governor said shared revenue “has always been about doing the right thing for Wisconsin.”

“I believe the state should be doing its part to support our local partners and ensure our communities have the resources they need to meet basic and unique needs alike, period, and I’ve always believed that supporting our local communities is an area where we could work to find common ground and bipartisan support, and that’s exactly what we did.”

In Maryland, local governments do not receive any share of sales and use tax revenue. However, Maryland’s county governments must levy a local income tax. Wisconsin counties do not have the authority to impose a local income tax.

Visit the NACo website for more information.