Lawsuit filed against Brown County, alleges illegal taxation

Brown County sign, March 23, 2017 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

GREEN BAY (WLUK) – The Brown County Taxpayers Association (BCTA) has filed suit against Brown County, seeking to stop implementation of the half-percent sales tax, which went into effect Monday.

The BCTA asks for a temporary restraining order to stop the tax from being collected. No court dates have been scheduled, however.

Once Brown County is formally served with the suit, it has 45 days to respond.

The lawsuit claims the sales tax is illegal because:

The County Sales Tax is not directly reducing the property tax levy. It is therefore void and unenforceable… Brown County proposes to fund $147,000,000 in new projects over seven years with the County Sales Tax. It could not raise its property tax levy to fund these projects, and for that reason the County Sales Tax will not be used directly and in its entirety to reduce property taxes. Instead, Brown County is using the County Sales Tax to evade its levy limits, increasing the taxes it collects by over 30%.

In an interview with FOX 11, Brown County Corporation Counsel David Hemery said he doesn't believe the suit has merit, "What I believe the Brown County Taxpayers Association is missing here is again, we’re talking about projects that we bonded for. That service is excluded from the levy limits, so even though in 2018 we may have not been able to raise our levy limit past 4 or $500,000, you can bond an unlimited amount and I think that’s the part that they’re missing here."

Brown County supervisor Patrick Evans said, "I don’t understand the reason for the lawsuit. If you look at this as a purely financial aspect, it’s great for the taxpayer. We do not put a +$100 million on the property tax roles, we have non-Brown County residents helping subsidize it, reducing the county’s debt; so when you look at this, what more does the Brown County Taxpayers Association want?”

The state Department of Revenue has been working with retailers to prepare for implementation.

No court dates have been scheduled. It is currently assigned to Judge Kendall Kelley, although it is possible may end up assigned to a judge from outside of Brown County.

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