Officials in Racine County have been discussing the possibility of imposing a half-cent sales tax that, according to an estimate, could bring in more than $500,000 annually. That money would be distributed to municipalities throughout the county on a per capita basis.

City council discusses countywide tax, revenue possibilities

By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

Racine County is one of just four counties in Wisconsin that have not adopted a half-cent sales tax increase.

Without adoption, according to Department of Revenue estimates, Racine County is missing out on collecting up to $18 million in revenue with 50% of proceeds disbursed to its 17 municipalities.

The sales tax only applies to retail sales and is separate from property taxes. As such it also generates revenue from visitors to the area rather than simply saddling residents with additional costs.

The Burlington Common Council discussed the possible adoption of the countywide tax at a July 21 Committee of the Whole meeting and did not object to city staff moving forward with a joint municipal resolution petitioning Racine County to enact it.

City Administrator Carina Walters, who presented the proposal to the Common Council, said municipalities do not have the authority to implement the sales tax and it must the approved by the County Board of Supervisors.

“We have no ability to enact or impose a sales tax,” Walters said. “We must rely on an agreement with the county to see if they would willing to share the proceeds.”

Wisconsin State Statute allows counties to enact a half-cent sales tax on retail purchases within the county by a simple action of the County Board of Supervisors without a referendum.

Waters said 68 of 72 counties have adopted the half-cent sales tax increase with Racine, Manitowoc, Waukesha and Winnebago as the lone holdovers.

If Racine County agrees to share revenue and enact the sales tax increase and all parties look to have an equitable distribution of these proceeds, according to Walters, the city could see up to $504,000 in annual revenue based on a per capita calculation.

The revenue would help municipalities pay for expenses such as road projects, services and operating costs.

Walters reports county administrators met in January and in early June to discuss the sales tax. From there, local officials decided to bring the discussion to their respective boards.

As of late June, according to Walters, the City of Racine and Village of Mount Pleasant have shown an interest in the resolution.

However, the villages of Caledonia, Sturtevant and Union Grove previously said they were not in favor of raising the county sales tax.

Union Grove, according to the presentation, could receive an additional $227,000 in revenue from the sales tax.

Elsewhere, the presentation shows the Town of Burlington could garner $300,972, Town of Dover $196,675, Town of Norway $373,591, Village of Raymond $181,638, Village of Rochester $176,641, Town of Waterford $297,442, Village of Waterford $255,402 and Village of Yorkville $144,137.

To read the entire story, see the July 30 edition of the Burlington Standard Press.