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Friday, March 25, 2011

Property Tax Assessment News in WI

Supreme Court finds assessment challenge law unconstitutional

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday ruled that a 2008 law that gave municipalities the option to limit property owners' rights to appeal assessments is unconstitutional.
The 4-3 ruling reversed a Court of Appeals decision on the matter, and reaches the same conclusion originally adopted by Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Jean DiMotto in early 2009, that limiting the options of residents in some cities and not others violated the equal protection clause
"We conclude that the treatment taxpayers in opt out municipalities receive under Act 86 is significantly different than the treatment all other taxpayers receive, and we conclude that this difference in treatment lacks a rational basis," Justice Michael Gableman wrote for the majority.
The court split along familiar lines. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson along with justices Ann Walsh Bradley and N. Patrick Crooks dissented.
Prior to the 2008 law, property owners could challenge a board of review ruling in circuit court one of two ways. The court could either consider the board's record on the matter, called a certiorari review, or it could basically grant a whole new trial over the fairness of the issue, known as de novo review.
The law allowed municipalitiies to opt out of the latter, and instead require taxpayers to use only an enhanced certorari review.
The dissent, written by Abrahamson, found that the 2008 law did adequately address equal protection concerns raised in a 2001 case over assessment appeal procedures.
Metropolitan Associates, which owned 14 apartment buildings in Milwaukee, challenged the 2008 law that limited its appeal options.

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