Wrightstown village board keeps tax rate intact at emergency meeting

By Brian Roebke
After sending 2023 tax information to Brown County, the village of Wrightstown was informed it made a mistake in calculating the village’s equated assessed value.
Village staff had used the preliminary value from the state but didn’t update the actual value when it became known. Thus, the combined mill rates for both Brown and Outagamie counties were significantly higher than was discussed and approved during budget meetings.
However, the board made a last-minute change to eliminate $84,682 from the budget, taking that money out of the economic development fund, leaving very little money in that account for 2023.
The error may have been a blessing in disguise because it brought to the forefront an issue the village has been dealing with for several years.
Because the village is concerned with the total taxes village residents pay, it waits until all other taxing entities approve their budget and tax levy before approving its own.
As more money becomes available for tax entities, they tend to take at least some of it, but because of conservative taxing practices, the village government has been leaving money “on the table” while their costs increase.
One entity in particular, the Wrightstown Community School District, has been taking money that’s available, but that money is in a roundabout way essentially taken from the village government.
Village Administrator Travis Coenen said if the village kept its budget intact after discovering the error, it would have needed to increase the tax rate by nearly $1 for Brown County taxpayers.
In the end, the board approved village tax rates of $9.04 in Brown County and $8.33 in Outagamie County. That rate is the same as previously approved in Brown County and three cents less than was approved in Outagamie County.
The total tax rate for Brown County residents was originally $24.26 but could have been $25.13 and the Outagamie County resident rate originally approved was $23.54 but could have increased to $23.78.
How it ended was $24.81 for Brown County and $23.48 for Outagamie County.
An easy fix would have been to take out money for an additional police officer, but trustees are committed to increasing the size of the police department as the number of residents increase.
Toward the end of the meeting, trustees believe they have an excellent understanding of the taxing process but aren’t sure the school district has the same understanding.
“I don’t know if the school board is informed,” Trustee Mark Leonard said.
Discussion was made about having both boards meet. Individual members have met in the past but village board members don’t think their counterparts on the board of education understand the big picture.
“I’m sure they’re given the information but not as in-depth,” Coenen said.
Trustee Andy Lundt said he talked to several members who believe they didn’t raise taxes because the tax rate remained the same. “It’s clear to me they don’t understand.”
Trustee Sue Byers said she’s sent letters to the school district but based on their responses to her, she doesn’t think they understand.
Trustee Keith Wendlandt said he doesn’t know if the school really needs the extra money and said that’s their decision, but he doesn’t think the school board members understand the impact their budget has on the village. Others agreed with him.
The adjusted village tax levy for 2023 was approved for $2,353,211.51.