Forum Highlights 2020-06

Following are Vicki Markussen’s notes from the June 2020 Forum featuring the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

Wisconsin Policy Forum

They are a non-partisan group offering

  • Analysis Reports on Fiscal Impacts
  • Municipal datatool
  • Facilitation to help governance work together

 State Fiscal Condition

  • March: State’s readiness for recession.
    • Good: State is far better-prepared vs. Great Recession based on cash vs. long-term ratio
    • Compared to other states, we’re not as equipped.
    • State has been running surpluses in General & Rainy Day Fund Balances of $1.7B = 10% of the state’s general purpose spending
      • State’s average = 13%
      • Coincidentally, state lawmakers we discussing spending this down just before COVID
    • Unemployment Fund
      • Good news = balance is okay. No state could be equipped for what we’re encountering.
      • Bad: WI ranks 30th in terms of the ability to pay a full year of UI based off of average claim years
  • Biq Questions:
    • Federal Aid: $2.3B that can only offset the revenue loss
    • How long will this last
    • More federal aid
  • What might be cut?
    • Likely they will enter the 2nd year of the budget and cut. Largest line items are:



We know we’d like to have other forms of revenue, especially for larger cities that have visitors/rural areas who want to tap into all users to help pay.

  • Property taxes will be the most stable. 40% of revenue is attributed.
  • 36% of the City of La Crosse’s revenue is from property taxes
  • Property taxes will likely decline but it is slow – ex. Reassessments,


Public Service that Provide Revenue

  • Refuse & Garbage Collection
  • Ambulance & Em. Medical
  • Sewage,
  • Etc.

Plus, fines & forfeitures, Licenses & permits

Plus Room & Resort Taxes


Bottom line:

  • heavy reliance on property taxes & state aids now advantageous though delinquent property taxes could create cash flow issues
  • Loss of fee, fine, and permit revenue will have varying impacts
  • Much depends on condition heading into crisis, fed/state help, new expenditure demands
  • Overall, most cities and villages will face diminished revenue streams in 2020 and tougher challenges preparing for 2021



  • 68% of counties levy a sales tax
    • $12.9mil out of 110m = 12% of the budget
  • Prediction, will decline by 20% = 20% = $2 mil shortfall
  • Largest changes in services:
    • Health services
    • Human services
  • Impact:
    • Sales tax declines will hit met with increased demand for additional spending
    • Reliance on property tax = helpful except for unpaid installments



Funding sources

  1. Heavily reliant on state aid, which is a concern
  2. Property taxes

More reliant on state aid and have lower reserves, will be significantly impacted


Shared Services & Consolidated Research

  • MKE North Shore: less equipment, people, fire stations, fire rating is higher, = service levels increased
  • Reduced expenditures by $3.7 mil


When to pursue service sharing:

  • Increased service quality and efficiency they could not achieve alone.
  • Must look at not saving based on current state, but desired high quality state


Best when:

  • Retirement
  • Substantial investments needed
  • Clear duplication


Currently Looking At

  • La Crosse County fire & EMS Study
  • UW-L said to look at a study of broad service sharing
  • Study launched in January, kickoff w/stakeholders Feb. 4, paused, now doing data gathering, virtual stakeholders meeting next month
  • Some communities opted not to participate



  • County Population of 65+ is growing = > call volumes
  • Response times could be improved (want 6-8 minutes) – La Crescent, Farmington, etc. are past this point
  • Growth of Ona and Holmen may required added capacity
  • LaX considering two new stations
  • Sharing/consolidating to approach full-time service – do communities want to get up to this and pay for it? If do, then beneficial to all
  • EMS model may change
  • Mutual aid does not appear to be utilized as often as in other regions they’ve studied



  • Level of tension between communities
  • BUT chiefs are excited


Question: Federal

To what extent will federal govt look to local governments to address this downturn. Will there be funding to help with local aid that is directed to real issues that have emerged to  the pandemic. What is fed. Roll to address?


Other Areas:

  • Fire & EMS (dollar savings for equipment = significant)
  • Parks & Rec
  • Public health
  • Emergency Services


Defunding Police

  • Put into social programs that might be more effective in deterring crime
  • Must be done community by community
  • Wisconsin Act 10 does not apply to police & fire
  • Crime rates
  • Effectiveness of housing, public health and other programs (are they working? Do they merit further investment?)

Post expires at 3:25pm on Sunday November 8th, 2020


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