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Wisconsin Supreme Court rules Buchanan's transportation fee unlawful


The Buchanan town hall is seen Sept. 7, 2021. (WLUK image)
The Buchanan town hall is seen Sept. 7, 2021. (WLUK image)
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MADISON (WLUK) – Buchanan’s transportation fee is illegal, a unanimous Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The Outagamie County town instituted a transportation fee to projects including roads, sidewalks, street lights and storm water management. However, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) sued, arguing the fee amounted to a tax not allowed under state law. An Outagamie County judge ruled against the town. The appeals court did not rule on the case, selecting to send it directly to the Supreme Court.

"Today the Court made clear that the Town of Buchanan was illegally taxing its residents. This case will set an important precedent for municipalities across Wisconsin who have increasingly looked for ways to raise taxes on their citizens," said Lucas Vebber, WILL Deputy Counsel.

In a 19-page ruling issued Thursday, the justices upheld the circuit court’s decision.

“We reach only the first two arguments, with which we agree and hold that funds raised for utility districts under Wis. Stat. 66.0827 are property taxes subject to municipal levy limits. Accordingly, we affirm the decision of the circuit court,” Justice Rebecca Grassl Bradley wrote.

“Wisconsin law prescribes certain procedures a municipality must follow for funding public improvements. In this case, the Town did not follow them. The imposition of property taxes over and above the Town's levy limits requires the consent of the voters within the municipality. Nothing in the statutes permits the Town to bypass levy limits for the purpose of imposing a TUF on property owners in the municipality,” the decision states.

"Today the Court made clear that the Town of Buchanan was illegally taxing its residents. This case will set an important precedent for municipalities across Wisconsin who have increasingly looked for ways to raise taxes on their citizens," said Lucas Vebber, WILL Deputy Counsel.

"While the Town of Buchanan is disappointed with the ruling, it provides the opportunity to evaluate other funding options to continue to improve town roads and create a transportation system that is safe for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists," town administrator Michael J. D. Brown said in a statement.


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