Utility tax to put pressure on owners in TIF
With tax, Kewaskum trustees hope owners will develop land or sell


Nov. 3, 2015

KEWASKUM — Putting together a municipal budget is a complicated task, but as village trustees here found out Monday night, when a key assumption a budget is based on is in jeopardy, the task is made even more difficult.

In order to make up for a $170,000 shortfall from the village’s tax incremental district, a special utility district tax was created to be imposed, according to Village President Kevin Scheunemann, on those who own property in the TIF but have yet to develop it.

Property owners in the TIF, located at the southern end of the village along and behind busy Highway 45 and consisting of 54 commercial and residential parcels, will be assessed a tax of $80.62 per $1,000 of assessed value of their property.

“This special tax was designed to force those who own vacant property in the TIF to develop it or sell it to someone who will,” Scheunemann said. “Developing the property will generate income that will make the TIF solvent.”

Or the TIF property owner can decide to simply pay the new tax — or not — and that’s what troubles the trustees as they contemplate a budget that counts on taxpayers paying up. Washington County collects our taxes and pays the village up front, Scheunemann said.

“If a property owner doesn’t pay their taxes, it is up to the county to go after that person to get the money,” Scheunemann said.

The question the village needs an answer to is: Will the county also collect this special utility tax for the village and if, in case someone doesn’t ante up, will it be the county’s responsibility to deal with the defaulter, as with regular taxes?

“I asked for an answer in writing a couple of weeks ago,” Scheunemann said. “We need to know one way or the other. Our attorney feels they should collect this tax the same way they do our regular taxes. If the county decides not to do it, we may need to take some corrective action.”

As the 2016 budget stands now, the proposed tax rate is $6.40 per $1,000 of assessed value, down from $6.42 last year. Village Administrator Matt Heiser told trustees during the meeting adding that on a $200,000 home means a $4 decrease.

A public hearing on the budget will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Municipal Building, 204 First St.

In other action, the village board adopted an ordinance that increases the compensation for elected officials to take effect following the April 2017 election.

The ordinance increases the annual salary from $1,000 a year to $1,700 for trustees with the village president receiving a salary of $2,200, up from $1,500.

The pay rate per diem was also increased from $30 per meeting to $40.

Heiser said the raises were recommended by the village’s administrative committee after comparing salaries for elected officials of other municipalities.

Scheunemann voted against the raise, with the five trustees voting in favor. Trustee Jim Wright was absent from the village board meeting and excused.

Reach reporter Linda McAlpine at lmcalpine@conleynet.com.