UW-Madison UW-Madison

Staff Paper No. 552 - Abstract

The Fiscal Health of Wisconsin Counties: An Analysis of Primary and Secondary Data

Steven Deller [scdeller@wisc.edu]
Craig Maher
John Kovari

Staff Paper No. 552, October 2010, 38p.


Wisconsin county government officials are facing an almost perfect “fiscal storm.” Since 1993, county governments have been operating under property tax rate restrictions and over the past few years levy limits as well – a primary source of locally generated revenues. The structural deficits Wisconsin state government officials have been operating under for the past couple of decades have limited their ability to adequately maintain aids to county governments. On top of that, the Great Recession has placed significant downward pressure on the ability of counties to sustain local revenues such as the optional sales tax. Finally, rising poverty rates have increased the demands placed on county provided services. Counties, as the primary providers of state services including health and human services for lower income households and families, highway maintenance and policing, are important indicators of the state’s overall fiscal health. The question then is what is the fiscal condition of Wisconsin counties? Are counties able to maintain adequate service levels based on sustainable sources of revenues? Or are counties experiencing levels of fiscal stress that are threatening their ability to provide services local residents have come to expect?
Last updated on Tue, Oct 12, 2010 3:36pm