Friday, September 24, 2021

Another Milwaukee fiscal problem - billions in tax-free property!

Since WisGOPs didn't allow Milwaukee to get a sales tax in the last state budget, they rely on property taxes and fees to pay to fix roads and perform services. But there's another complication there, as a recent story in Urban Milwaukee illustrated – a lot of City property isn’t part of the tax rolls, which makes homeowners and other pay higher property taxes.
Christ Church Milwaukee plans to purchase the 22,500-square-foot building, most recently an art gallery, and make it a permanent home for the church. As a result, the property would become tax exempt.

The church has agreed to make an annual “payment in lieu of taxes” (PILOT) for what would be the city share of its property tax bill. With an assessment of $1.05 million, that would be $10,731 under the city’s proposed 2022 tax rate.
That PILOT only happened after alders on the City’s Planning Commission asked why a property worth 7 figures was being taken out of the tax base, and the Department of City Development had to work out this PILOT agree with the church in order to get a change in zoning approved.

And Milwaukee has a disproportionate amount of property that does not get taxed, which makes for a double whammy in a time when shared revenues continue to be taken away from the City. So PILOTs become especially needed, or else property taxes would be even higher on City homeowners.
The city has used PILOTs to address the fact that more than 9,000 properties are property tax exempt. A 2019 treasurer’s office report says $4.6 billion of property is exempt, more than 17% of the city’s total assessed value. The percentage of property that is exempt far outpaces the suburbs, further exacerbating the city’s financial woes given its state-imposed reliance on property tax revenue.

The PILOT program requires participants to only pay what would be the city share of the property tax bill, approximately one third of an average bill.
So the schools, county and other places you send your property taxes still won’t get anything from this, eh? That’s not ideal.

But if Milwaukee is going to start concentrating on tax-exempt properties, may I suggest that there’s the Bradley Foundation’s mansion near the lake that went decades without paying a dime of property taxes.

$0 property taxes for this thing.

Especially since we know their main “charity” is in the form of wingnut welfare orgs like WILL the lawsuit mill, and that the Bradleys have given millions toward efforts to question and overturn the 2020 election.

Seriously, at this point, where’s the harm in the City of Milwaukee throwing a bill to the Bradleys for all the years they've been a fake non-profit? Make them open their books and show what types of “social welfare” they’ve really been doing, along with who is giving them cash (and likely dodging taxes as well).

No one other than Jane Mayer (who revealed the Bradleys’ anti-democracy efforts in the New Yorker) recommended this type of strategy at the federal level, when she spoke in Madison last weekend.
“I think the IRS could play a great role if they had the guts and also the wherewithal,” [Mayer] said, while acknowledging a Republican-led push to slash the agency’s budget. “It could really bring down the hammer on these groups because no group is supposed to get charitable status that is involved in partisan electoral politics ... I would love to see a good suit brought before them.”
There’s also another tax-free property in the City whose original agreement with the state is now over, and could probably chip in a bit more for all the cops that patrol its premises 81 times a year (or more).

OK, it's got a different name now, but you get the idea.

And given the way the Brew Crew is blowing this division and infuriating me, I really don't need to be reminded about that exemption right now.

Remember, the only local sales taxes in Milwaukee go to the county, and a food/beverage tax that pays for the Wisconsin Center District. The City gets nothing revenue-wise, beyond more visitors that might stay at hotels (and pay room tax) and rental car taxes and such. Which makes me wonder why it's Milwaukee cops that are handling traffic control and security inside AmFam Field. Just sayin'.

There are a lot of things that need to be done to reform our system of funding local government, particularly in the way that it treats Wisconsin's largest city and tourism attraction. But one of those reforms should recognize that Milwaukee has a lot of property tax dodges taxation, and that it needs to be made up in some sort of way.

1 comment:

  1. Follow up- Bruce Murphy in Urban Milwaukee estimates that MKE homeowners would save $800 a year on property taxes if all property were taxed.

    In Madison, we at least have UW and other state agencies pay for police, fire and other services (or have their own police). In Milwaukee, there is much less of this, and are private religions/charities (or “charities”).