Case Name: Wisconsin Property Taxpayers Inc. vs. Town of Buchanan
Type of Case: Rule of Law
Court: Outagamie County Circuit Court
Filed On: September 16, 2021
Current Status: SCOWIS granted this petition and accepted to hear the appeal.
SCOWIS TAKES APPEAL IN TRANSPORTATION UTILITY FEE LAWSUIT
December 16, 2022 | The Supreme Court of Wisconsin has granted a joint petition to bypass the court of appeals, and accepted review of the Town of Buchanan’s appeal of WILL’s case against the Town’s transportation utility fee.
JUDGE STRIKES DOWN TOWN OF BUCHANAN’S TRANSPORTATION UTILITY FEE
June 6, 2022 | Outagamie County Circuit Court Judge Mark McGinnis struck down the Town of Buchanan’s transportation utility fee holding that the fee violates strict levy limits imposed on counties and municipalities in state law.
WILL Sues Town of Buchanan for Adopting, Implementing Unlawful Tax
September 16, 2021 | WILL filed a lawsuit against the Town of Buchanan, in Outagamie County, after the municipality adopted and implemented a “transportation utility fee” that violates state law and circumvents strict levy limits.
WILL WARNS TOWN OF BUCHANAN TRANSPORTATION FEE AMOUNTS TO UNLAWFUL TAX
May 4, 2021 | WILL filed a Notice of Claim with the Town of Buchanan, in Outagamie County, that a recently adopted “transportation utility fee” is an unlawful tax and must be eliminated.
The Lawsuit: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed a lawsuit against the Town of Buchanan, in Outagamie County, after the municipality adopted and implemented a “transportation utility fee” that violates state law and circumvents strict levy limits. WILL represents Wisconsin Property Taxpayers, Inc., a non-partisan membership organization consisting of thousands of small business, farm, and property owners, in the lawsuit filed in Outagamie County Circuit Court.
Background: The Town of Buchanan adopted a “transportation utility fee” in late 2019 to generate revenue to pay for its roads. The “transportation utility fee” is charged to “all developed properties” and is used to fund “the cost of utility district highways, stormwater management, sidewalks, street lighting, traffic control” and “any other convenience or public improvement.”
But this fee – despite its name – is really an unlawful tax. Nothing in state law authorizes municipalities to charge a road-use fee; rather, road costs are financed primarily through property taxes, which are subject to strict levy limits and uniformity requirements. The Town of Buchanan appears to be using this fee to circumvent those limits on property taxes.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, Buchanan was at its levy limit of $2.4 million last year. They are using this additional tax to levy $850,000 more from taxpayers—homeowners pay $315 annually and businesses and other properties pay between $200 and $8,000.
WILL filed a notice of claim with the Town of Buchanan in May 2021 warning the town that the transportation utility fee is an unlawful tax and must be eliminated. The town denied the notice of claim in late August and WILL filed a lawsuit in Outagamie County Circuit Court in September 2021.
Current Status: On December 15, 2022, SCOWIS granted this petition and accepted to hear the appeal.
- WILL’s Complaint, September 16, 2021
- Notice of Claim, May 4, 2021
- Summary Judgment Decision, June 6, 2022
- Bypass Order, December 15, 2022