WILL can sue town for the transportation price

BUCHANAN – Buchanan City has a lawsuit about their transportation costs.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed a lawsuit against the city last month threatening legal action by September 1.

WILL says the fee is an unlawful tax and therefore exceeds the city’s property tax limit of $ 2.4 million in 2020.

“The city of Buchanan is hoping that by labeling a tax, it can exempt itself from state legislation. That is not the case,” said assistant attorney Luke Berg. “Municipalities cannot charge new fees to bypass these limits without authorization.”

The city has been using the transport cost flat rate since 2019 to bill all land in the city for the use of its roads. The fee will raise $ 854,753 this year.

The city first considered introducing the fee in 2018 when it saw street drainage as the city’s top concern. According to a city circular, reports from city residents about drainage problems more than quadrupled between 2014 and 2018.

According to information about the fee on the city’s website, the city believed the fee would make costs more equitable between owners. Because an increase in property taxes would not burden tax-exempt property owners. It compared the fee to a water or sewer fee, saying that like other public utilities, the transportation fee charges the utility’s users to cover its operating costs.

The city ordinance states that the fee will fund “those transportation facilities and related facilities, operations and activities that are deemed appropriate and reasonably necessary by the city to provide safe and efficient transportation facilities within the city”.

WILL says the difference between roads and a public utility like water is too great for a road improvement charge to be considered legal. In its complaint, the group cited state law that allows utility charges to be levied, pointing out that the only public utilities named in the law are “heat, light, water, or electricity.”

Maggie Mahoney, Buchanan City Administrator, declined to comment on WILL’s complaint.

This year, Buchanan will charge single-family homes from $ 315.29 and non-residential properties from $ 189 to $ 8,400, depending on how much road use the property could generate.

Other Fox Cities parishes have fees or special taxes to pay for road projects. Appleton residents are charged a $ 20 bicycle tax. Neenah homeowners are billed with the city’s transportation fee of $ 23 annually.

WILL criticized Buchanan’s method of collecting the fee by determining how much revenue it wants to generate rather than how much its roads are used.

WILL also fears that the fee will put an unfair financial burden on small businesses as this method assigns higher fees to properties with higher road usage.

Without the transportation fee, the city would have to pass a referendum to raise its property tax, revise its budget to add money for road improvement projects, or use special ratings for them.

In 2019, more than half of the voters in Buchanan voted in an advisory referendum on their preferred means of financing road improvement projects in favor of a traffic usage fee over a special assessment or an increase in property tax.

“Special ratings are not very popular, but I think it would be legal,” said Berg. “And if Buchanan can only pay for his streets like that, so be it.”

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Contact Roshaun Higgins at 920-205-1154 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @row_yr_boat.