Development in cities, villages hit $5.6 billion in 2016, report shows

Development in Wisconsin’s 600 cities and villages hit $5.6 billion in 2016, marking the largest increase since the Great Recession, according to a recent report from the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

But the benefits of economic development aren’t evenly distributed, report authors found.

This is the third such annual report commissioned by the league, prepared by the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

Smaller communities in the state have struggled more to achieve growth. Half of the state’s cities and villages had new construction rates of less than 0.8 percent in 2016, the report shows.

Report authors found new construction has led to a 1.8 percent increase in property values, the largest increase since 2008 but still below pre-recession levels.

Smaller municipalities have been comparatively sluggish when it comes to new development both in 2016 and in the entire period since the recession, the report shows.

By 2016, over half of municipalities with over 15,000 residents had at least 1.5 percent construction growth; and about 47 percent of those with between 5,000 and 15,000 residents had that level of growth.

In contrast, for the state’s least populous municipalities, only one-fifth had new construction rates of at least 1.5 percent.

The report also found cities and villages raised property taxes by 3.1 percent in 2016, which is the largest increase since 2010. And their overall revenues grew by “a more modest 1.7 percent, because of flat state aid and declining federal aid,” report authors note.

About 15 percent of property tax collections funded tax increment finance districts, a financing method supporting redevelopment and other community improvements. In 2016, the report shows property taxes for TIDs rose 7.3 percent, while they rose 2.4 percent for regular municipal functions. That rise was the largest since 2008.

A continuing “modest downward trend” in street quality was noted in the report, as 67.7 percent were rated good or better in 2017, compared to 72 percent in 2011. Roads rated fair or worse rose from 31.2 percent in 2016 to 32.3 percent last year. The biggest road quality declines were seen in smaller communities.

“The report confirms what we’re being told by elected leaders across Wisconsin: economic recovery is not reaching all of our communities,” said League President Jerry Deschane. “More than half of our cities and villages are still losing economic ground.”

Statewide, cities and villages largely reported increases in health care expenditures. The study shows the median increase in 2017 was 3 percent — 1 percent higher than in 2016, and 1 percent lower than 2015.

About one-third of municipalities reported no increase or decrease in health care costs costs, while 16 percent said they’ve had costs increase by 11 percent or more.

For the third year in a row, the median share of the health insurance premium paid by municipal employees remained at 12 percent, which was the level set for the state health insurance system by Act 10, the report shows.

But some communities’ employees pay more. Just over 45 percent of municipalities report employees pay between 11 percent and 25 percent, and just over 10 percent say employees are responsible for more than a fourth of their premium.

“Those numbers held relatively steady in 2017,” report authors added.

See the full report:

See previous reports from 2016 and 2017:

–By Alex Moe