MON AM News: Before COVID-19, state property values grew; Wisconsin surpasses 100,000 COVID-19 cases

— The last snapshot before the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic shows Wisconsin’s total taxable property values grew by 5.6 percent in 2020 over 2019, the second-largest increase in more than a decade.

These January 2020 values will be used for this December’s tax bills despite the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and recession.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum’s Property Values & Taxes DataTool examines trends in property values and taxes for the state’s counties and municipalities. The forum used data from the Department of Revenue as of Jan. 1 2020.  

“This updated version of the Property Values and Taxes DataTool represents the last snapshot in time before COVID-19,” said the forum’s President Rob Henken. “It will provide a notable reference point for determining the impacts of the global pandemic on Wisconsin property values, tax rates, and local government revenues in future years.” 

Commercial property grew 7.5 percent this year compared to 5.2 percent in 2019 — the largest growth rate in at least a decade, according to the forum’s report. Notably, commercial properties in the southeast region of the state grew double the 2019 growth rate at 8.6 percent. Racine County led the increase with 18.1 percent. 

Meanwhile, residential and manufacturing property increases slowed compared to 2019. Residential property in the state grew 5.3 percent in 2020 compared to 6.1 percent last year. Manufacturing rose 5 percent in 2020 compared to 5.4 percent last year. 

Wisconsin’s total tax rate declined for 2019 by 1.9 percent, but the amount of money that each taxing jurisdiction expects to receive from property taxes had the largest percentage increase in more than a decade at 3.7 percent. Milwaukee and Dane counties led that increase. 

See the findings: 

— In asking for Caleb Frostman’s resignation as DWD secretary, Gov. Tony Evers says it was clear “that we must have change” if his administration is going to clear up a lingering backlog in the state’s unemployment program.

Evers asked for and received Frostman’s resignation Friday after seeing no significant progress on the backlog despite the state nearly tripling the number of people working to take and process claims. The last update from the agency showed nearly 100,000 people were still awaiting checks.

“People across our state are struggling to make ends meet, and it is unacceptable that Wisconsinites continue to wait for the support they need during these challenging times,” Evers said.

State Rep. John Nygren, who has been a persistent critic of the administration over the backlog, said he was surprised it took Evers this long to make a change in leadership considering the ongoing problems. The Marinette Republican said he wanted to see whether this would prompt a change in how quickly DWD can resolve the backlog.

“I think it’s a good first step,” Nygren said. “But just like the ‘buck stops here,’ it doesn’t stop with Caleb Frostman in my opinion.”

Frostman was the executive director of the Door County Economic Development Corp. before winning a 2018 special election for a state Senate seat in northeastern Wisconsin. He lost the seat in a rematch with GOP Rep. Andre Jacque that November, and Evers tapped him in early January 2019 to lead DWD.

Frostman wrote in his resignation letter, “Of course, I feel like my work is incomplete, but I feel confident that the dedicated, professional team at DWD will continue serving Wisconsin’s workforce through adversity and under immense pressure, including assisting the hundreds of thousands who are out of work through no fault of their own.”

Corrections Deputy Secretary Amy Pechacek will lead the Department of Workforce Development during the transition to a new secretary, the guv’s office said.

Read the full story at 

See Evers’ release: 

See Frostman’s resignation letter: 

— Wisconsin is home to wide hospital price disparities and high prices, according to a recent study — but the Wisconsin Hospital Association warns the study is flawed. 

The RAND Corporation’s study found that prices employers and their employees paid for hospital care in Wisconsin are nearly three times what Medicare would have paid for the same services, and they are in the top ten in regard to most expensive states.

According to RAND’s release, business groups have said the study was notable because it looks at actual prices negotiated by employers and health plans on a regional basis, and not on retail hospital prices that “almost no one pays.”

“Wisconsin’s employer organizations contributed the largest data set of all states participating so RAND could help us identify which Wisconsin providers are delivering the highest value care,” said Jeff Kluever, executive director of Business Health Care Group, one of three organizations cited in the study’s release.

He added that hospital care is a significant component of overall health spending.

“We will all benefit if we can get real cost and quality data out in the open so we can reward high-value health systems by driving our employees to them,” Kluever said.

— The Wisconsin Hospital Association is still reviewing the RAND study in depth, but said that the initial review indicates that there are methodological concerns.

“While WHA is currently reviewing the new Rand study, we caution against drawing sweeping conclusions until a more robust review and analysis can be completed,” said WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding. “In their previous study from 2019, Rand’s conclusions were questionable at best for Wisconsin given the small volume of Wisconsin services represented in the sample.”

Borgerding added that WHA’s initial review shows that this continues to be the case — a sample of 3 percent of commercial payments to Wisconsin hospitals. 

“The Rand bias toward using Medicare rates as a benchmark for comparisons to commercial rates is also faulty based on the way that Medicare sets its rates and that the rates are set at below what it cost to provide care,” he said, noting a recent report from HC Trends that describes important principles to evaluate the health care cost studies.

“That report demonstrates that Wisconsin enjoys high value care, some of the best quality and great access with costs that are on par with the national average.”

In response to RAND’s findings, Chris Reader, senior director of workforce and employment policy at Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, said higher-than-average health costs are a factor in keeping employers from relocating to or expanding in the state. 

“The ever-increasing amount spent on health care by employers reduces other investments made for workers. Higher wages and expanded benefits, training, safety investments, etc. all take a hit because health care costs continue to grow,” he said. “Healthcare is simply becoming unaffordable for many employers and employees in the state of Wisconsin.”

An upcoming employer event hosted by WMC, BHCG and The Alliance will highlight the RAND study’s findings and solutions for employers. The two virtual events will be on Sept. 24 at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. 

See RAND’s study: 

See the HC Trends analysis here: 

— Wisconsin now has recorded more than 100,000 COVID-19 cases.

Yesterday brought 1,665 new COVID-19 cases to the cumulative count, which now numbers 101,227. The Department of Health Services reports that 85,824 of those people are recovered.

Only four days in the past two weeks have had cases numbering under 1,000. 

Recent record highs have resulted in a steady increase of the seven-day average for daily confirmed cases. Yesterday, the average rose to a new record of 1,720. 

The daily positivity rate rose to 20 percent from Saturday’s 18.3 percent after the state recorded 8,320 tests. The seven-day positive test average dropped to 16.3 percent from 16.4 percent, which was a record high. That average continues to rise further from state health officials’ preferred rate of 5 percent or less.

Meanwhile, 1.2 percent of patients have died from the virus, a declining percentage. Wisconsin added four new deaths over the weekend, bringing the state’s coronavirus death toll to 1,242.

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (521), Racine (94), Waukesha (85), Kenosha (65), Brown (59), Dane (41), Walworth (34), Rock (32), Washington (32), Outagamie (27), Winnebago (23), Waupaca (20), Grant (19), Ozaukee (19), Marathon (14), Sheboygan (14), Fond du Lac (13), Dodge (9), Clark (8), St. Croix (8), Jefferson (7), Marinette (7), Eau Claire (6) and Pierce (6).

Barron, Forest, Oconto, Portage, Richland and Wood counties report four deaths each, while Adams, Burnett, Door, Sauk and Taylor counties report three deaths each.

Ashland, Buffalo, Calumet, Columbia, Green, Juneau, Kewaunee, La Crosse, Langlade, Manitowoc, Monroe, Oneida, Polk, Trempealeau and Waushara counties report two deaths each.

Bayfield, Iron, Jackson, Lincoln, Marquette, Rusk, Sawyer, Shawano, Vilas and Washburn counties report one death each.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: 

— The CDC website has updated its guidelines for testing people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms. It now reads that anyone who has been in contact with an infected person should be tested.

The new language rolls back changes made last month.

While the recommendations are going back and forth at the federal level, the state’s Department of Health Services has continued to recommend that anyone with symptoms or who has been exposed to COVID-19 should get tested. 

DHS does not recommend testing asymptomatic people with no known exposure at this time.

When testing was limited at the start of the pandemic, DHS recommended only the most vulnerable patients to get tested if they showed symptoms. On May 8, it issued COVID Health Alert #13, which covers asymptomatic individuals who have been instructed by a public health agency or a health care provider to get a COVID-19 test for the purpose of preventing the spread of infection.

Click here for DHS’ testing guidance: 

— The Department of Health Services received $16.7 million in federal grants to reduce drug-related deaths through prevention, treatment and recovery support services.

The money comes from the State Opioid Response Grant Program managed by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. DHS noted that while opioids remain the primary focus, this program now supports services for stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine.  

“We’re experiencing a drug addiction crisis that is affecting every community in our state,” said DHS Secretary Andrea Palm. “This grant funding allows us to target resources to the diverse needs of our communities through partnerships with state, tribal, county, and local agencies to connect people struggling with a drug addiction to the help they need while working to prevent harmful substance use and encouraging long-term recovery.”

Half of the money will be used to fund individual treatment costs. The remainder will support prevention programs, overdose response efforts, an expansion of treatment options and recovery coaches, according to DHS’ release. 

The grant is available through September 2021, and DHS expects an additional $16.7 million to be awarded next fall for the following year.

— DHS is also sponsoring the annual Rally for Recovery hosted by Wisconsin Voices for Recovery on Saturday.

The virtual Zoom event will be held from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

See more information on the event:


# Sailing equipment maker Harken sold to employees 

# Culver’s CEO to retire 

# Wisconsin Department of Tourism promotes outdoor recreation heading into fall season



– Trump: Wisconsin Farmers Headed for Better Days 

– State Milk Production Fell During August 

– Wisconsin Potato Growers Had Better Year in 2019 

– State’s Potato Industry Grows in Acres and Revenue 


– Local teacher’s union leaders push to end in-person classes in Wisconsin 

– UW-River Falls Moves Classes Online, Has Students Shelter In Place After Spike In COVID-19 Cases 

– UW System Antigen Testing Program Behind Weekly Goals, Though Progress Being Made 


– Wisconsin Wolf Population Increased 13 Percent Over 2018-2019 Winter Count 


– Acuity to hire more than 120 employees in 2021 

– American Family Insurance earns top business award from Wisconsin LGBT Chamber 


– After Year of Closure, Paper Mill in Park Falls Reopens with New Name, Ownership  


– Trump says he’ll allow TikTok transfer, keeping social media app alive in the US 

– Fox News sues Brookfield hotel for DNC-lodging refund 


Biden Headed To Manitowoc Day After State Hits 100,000 COVID-19 Cases 


– Housing Authority works on revised $150M mixed-income apartment tower in downtown Milwaukee 


List: Milwaukee approves 200 restaurants, bars to offer on-site service 


– Milwaukee-area small businesses named for GMC’s 2020 Sparc accelerator 


– Milwaukee convention center operator further trims staff to make up for lost business 


– New Bublr Bikes stations planned for these 26 sites 


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

RAND Corporation: New research shows wide hospital price disparities in Wisconsin, high prices

Wisconsin Foundation, Alumni Association: Craft beer tasting with alumni brewers