Wisconsin Lutheran Sues City of Milwaukee For Unlawful Property Tax Assessment

WILL represents school in challenge to $105,000 in unlawful taxes

The News: Attorneys with the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed a lawsuit against the City of Milwaukee on behalf of Wisconsin Lutheran High School after the City unlawfully assessed the school for $105,000 in property taxes. The City is trying to tax Wisconsin Lutheran for a campus building that is owned by the school and used for student housing and other educational purposes. The lawsuit was filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.

The Quotes: WILL Deputy Counsel Lucas Vebber, said, “State law provides a property tax exemption for educational and religious institutions like Wisconsin Lutheran. The City of Milwaukee’s attempt to assess the school for more than $100,000 for this property is clearly unlawful.”

Wisconsin Lutheran President, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Fisher, said, “This is an important issue for our school. We have a huge gap between what we receive in vouchers and our actual costs to educate our teens. We would much rather spend the $105,000 educating our students than paying for an improper tax. We are praying that our money can be restored to us so we can use it to further the ministry of our school.”

 

Background: Wisconsin Lutheran High School owns a building called Honey Creek Hall that it uses for student housing and other educational purposes. It is used exclusively by Wisconsin Lutheran and is not available to the general public.

Wisconsin Lutheran is an educational institution and a nonprofit organization substantially and primarily devoted to educational purposes and it uses Honey Creek Hall to support its educational mission. But the City of Milwaukee assessed the property for $105,946.14 in property taxes even though state law exempts from property tax buildings used exclusively by a church or religious association for educational purposes.

Wisconsin Lutheran filed a property tax exemption with the City of Milwaukee in February 2021 and received a denial in October. Wisconsin Lutheran then paid the property tax bill and filed a refund claim. That refund claim was denied.

WILL’s lawsuit, on behalf of Wisconsin Lutheran, asks the court to declare the 2021 tax assessment unlawful and order a refund of the unlawful taxes.

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Lucas Vebber

Lucas Vebber

Deputy Counsel

lucas@will-law.org

Katherine Spitz

Katherine Spitz

Associate Counsel

kate@will-law.org

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