Residents contend tax-exempt landowners can be assessed a fee
The Saukville Town Board got some homework from electors attending the April 19 annual meeting.
Town residents approved a motion made by Marvin Hoffmann to look into charging a service fee for fire protection on all tax-exempt land in the township.
At previous town meetings, Hoffmann noted the town has hundreds of acres of land owned by nonprofit entities — including Ozaukee County — that make no payments to support town services.
The most costly of those services, he noted, is the town’s annual contract for fire protection.
Hoffmann said similar charges to nonprofit groups for fire protection have been successfully assessed elsewhere in the state.
“It has been tested in the courts. It might be a good thing for us,” he said.
“I think it would go a long way in helping us as far as the town’s financial woes go.”
Town officials noted such a fire service charge would have to be based on assessed value, meaning the town would have to determine the value of all land not currently subject to property tax.
In addition to several county-owned parks, a quarry and an asphalt plant, tax-exempt land in the town is owned by Riveredge Nature Center, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Without saying he opposed the concept of looking into collecting fire service revenue, Supr. Mike Denzien said the town would have to move cautiously.
“We don’t want to put the town at risk of a lawsuit,” Denzien said of mandating a charge without careful legal review.
“It is going to cost us money to find out if this is workable.”
Officials also stressed that looking into the concept does not bind the town to the policy, if they find out setting up a fire service charge would be too costly or the revenue stream would be insignificant.
Still, town residents at the annual meeting voted 9-2 to look into the possibility of establishing the charge.