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Vilas County to state lawmakers: Let us tax more

Vilas County Board
Ben Meyer
The Vilas County Board meets on Tuesday, October 26. At the meeting, the board passed a resolution calling on the state to allow it to raise more in taxes.

The Vilas County Board feels it can’t raise the money it needs to operate the county properly.

It’s asking the state legislature to give it more flexibility.

Wisconsin law limits the amount counties can raise through property taxes.

On Tuesday, the county passed a budget raising about $17.5 million in taxes. That’s the maximum allowed for the county.

But County Board Supervisor Jerry Burkett said it’s not enough.

Ben Meyer/WXPR
Vilas County Board Supervisor Jerry Burkett

“We cannot tax accordingly to pay our bills. We have restrictions placed on us by the state. But the state has no restrictions. Or the federal government. We’re not allowed to print money, so it makes us very difficult to pay our bills, let alone raise wages to where we feel, or where you may feel, they appropriately belong,” Burkett said.

The state and federal government have no limits on how much they can raise through taxes.

Burkett introduced a resolution calling for the state legislature to allow counties to raise more money to pay the bills. It passed unanimously, although Burkett admitted its chances of finding success in Madison are slim.

“I feel that it’s probably right up there with throwing something against the oscillating fan and praying it sticks. But we have to start somewhere. And we have to have a hue and cry that we’re being held hostage by our own state. You the citizenry, you the people, you the employees are held hostage also,” Burkett said.

Also, as part of this year’s budget, Vilas County employees will be getting a four percent across-the-board raise.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.