Written by MARK JAEGER
Wednesday, 26 August 2015 21:36
Members of town’s Quarry Committee feel county should be assessed fee for tax-exempt properties
At a time when municipal budgets are tight, a member of the Town of Saukville Quarry Committee suggested at last week’s Town Board meeting that there could be some financial relief by turning to a previously untapped revenue source.
Marvin Hoffmann, who ran for town chairman in April, pointed to a recent attorney general’s opinion that said municipalities can assess counties a special charge for fire protection.
The state’s contention is that such an assessment is a fee, rather than a tax, since counties are exempt from local taxes.
“I think the Town Board needs to look into charging the county for fire protection. There is a lot of county-owned land in the township,” Hoffmann said.
He said such an assessment would help the town cover the cost of one of its largest budget items.
Victor Frank, another member of the Quarry Committee, said it was not unreasonable for the town to expect the county to pay for fire protection for its quarry and asphalt plant operations.
“The county’s asphalt plant is a huge liability, because there are a lot of chemicals stored on the site,” Frank said.
The suggestion got Supr. Mike Denzien to look beyond the prospect of gaining some financial support from the county and tax-exempt properties.
“Maybe we could create an assessment for every resident for fire protection? We are restricted by levy limits, but if we split the fire cost between taxes and a fee we could free up some money to do other things,” Denzien said.
That trial balloon found little support in the board room, with Hoffmann saying his understanding of the state law is that only counties are subject to special charges for fire protection.
Town Chairman Don Hamm said the proposal was worth studying, but stopped short of endorsing the idea.
“I would have a problem singling out the county. If we are going to look into this, it should be a charge for all the tax-exempt properties in the town,” Hamm said.
On a related matter, Hamm said a town resolution asking for reimbursement from the county in the form of free road maintenance services is working its way through the county’s legislative process.
Town officials contend the work would be repayment for sand and gravel taken from the township over a period of decades for use by the Highway Department.
Hamm said the resolution has been reviewed by the county’s Natural Resources Committee.
“There has been discussion with the county, but it hasn’t gotten very far yet. I realize these things take time, and when the county comes back with a proposal I presume we will hold a public hearing on it,” he said.
Frank urged town officials to keep track of the proposal and the county’s response.
“We are talking about reimbursement for natural resources that the county has been taking from the town for 40 years and we haven’t received anything,” he said.