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New law allows Tax Incremental Financing districts for qualified Wisconsin towns


RIB MOUNTAIN, Wis. (WSAU) -- Legislation was signed into law allowing certain townships to use Tax Incremental Financing districts. Governor Scott Walker signed the bill into law at the Rib Mountain Municipal Center Friday. Rib Mountain is one of the Wisconsin towns that meets qualifications, including a minimum population of 3,500, at least $500-million dollars in equalized valuation, and adequate water and sewer utilities. About 30 Wisconsin towns meet that guideline.

Rick Stadelman is the President of the Wisconsin Towns Association. He says this new law helps towns grow with their nearby cities and villages.  “This is an opportunity for towns to be able to compete on economic development. In the past, there tended to be (where) some of the businesses have wanted TIF improvements, and the towns didn’t have the authority, they’d annex so we ended up losing town territory, and even having to have towns incorporate and become cities or villages, so this gives kind of a level playing field.”

Stadelman believes this law is good for a region, by promoting growth while putting qualifying towns on an equal level as villages and cities.  “It’s going to be good for the region. Economic development should be looked upon as an area-wide improvement and not just one community versus another.”

TIF district funding allows municipalities to direct property tax dollars specifically to improvements while deferring tax payments to schools and governmental units. Stadelman says the new law will help towns use this tool to grow.  “What the developers have asked to do in towns in the past is make improvements for which we have to take out of the general fund. With a TIF district, you can create the district, they continue to pay the same property tax, but the improvement then can actually be used, or be paid from that development, and in the end, everyone’s going to have a higher tax base, including the schools and the county.”

Governor Walker says it makes sense to allow towns the ability to use the same tools for growth and development now available to the cities and villages.  “My belief is firmly, that as towns advance, that helps others in the region, so for example here in north central Wisconsin, if the Town of Rib Mountain is doing well and adding new development, it will help other communities from Wausau to Brokaw to Mosinee and others in between. That’s part of the reason why synergy at the regional economic development effort is really so focussed on bringing more jobs, more developers, more businesses to the region.”

This was not the only TIF related bill Governor Walker signed this week. In Oshkosh, Walker signed a change that allows existing TIF districts that are struggling after the recession to use the program for renewing older, struggling developments.  “That helps make sure those cities that did TIF districts earlier before the recession in the mid to early 2000’s where the values have dropped dramatically from where they were originally, adjust those so that they can use the TIF district financing mechanism in cities to do things like taking down industrial sites, cleaning up environmental remediation, putting in new infrastructure.”

Representative Ed Brooks and Senator Jerry Petrowski authored the bill. Petrowski says this development tool will lead to jobs.  “I believe that this bill, when we look down the road or look back, we’re going to see that thousands of jobs were created because the Governor’s going to sign this bill today.”

(Interviews with Senator Jerry Petrowski on the veterans bills and Governor Scott Walker on TIF districts, drug bills, and Badger basketball can be heard on our website, here.)