In this chapter:
"Annual town meeting" means the town meeting held under s. 60.11
"Special town meeting" means a town meeting, other than the annual town meeting, held under s. 60.12
"Town meeting" means the annual town meeting or a special town meeting.
History: 1983 a. 532
LEGAL STATUS; ORGANIZATION
Legal status; general powers. 60.01(1)
A town is a body corporate and politic, with those powers granted by law. A town shall be designated in all actions and proceedings by its name, as "Town of ....".
Acquire and hold real and personal property for public use and convey and dispose of the property.
Enter into contracts necessary for the exercise of its corporate powers.
History: 1983 a. 532
Division and dissolution of towns generally. 60.03(1)(1)
Subject to sub. (7)
, a town may be divided or dissolved under subs. (2)
If at least 20% of the residents of a town who have a freehold interest in real property located in the town and who constitute at least one-third of the electors of the town file a petition with the county board, conforming to the requirements of s. 8.40
, requesting division or dissolution of the town and file the petition with the town clerk at least 60 days before the next annual town meeting, a referendum shall be held at the annual town meeting on the question of division or dissolution.
(3) Notice of referendum.
A town clerk who receives a petition under sub. (2)
shall, at least 30 days before the annual town meeting, give notice that a referendum on the question of division or dissolution will be held at the annual town meeting. The notice shall describe any proposed division. Notice of a division or dissolution shall be published as a class 2 notice under ch. 985
. Notice of a division referendum shall also be made by posting the notice in 3 public places in each subdivision of the town proposed by the petition under sub. (2)
. Notice of a dissolution referendum shall also be made by posting the notice in 3 public places in the town.
(4) Ballot question.
In a referendum under this section, the ballot on the question of division shall pose the question as "For Division" and "Against Division" and describe the proposed division. The ballot on the question of dissolution shall pose the question as "For Dissolution" and "Against Dissolution".
(5) Referendum vote; authority of county board. 60.03(5)(a)(a) Division.
The electors of each subdivision proposed under sub. (2)
shall vote separately. If a majority of the electors voting in either subdivision favors division, the town clerk shall certify the result to the county board of the county in which the town is located. Upon receipt of the certified result, the county board may divide the town accordingly. If the county board does not divide the town within 180 days after the board receives the certified result of the referendum, the board's authority to divide the town, based on that referendum, lapses.
If a majority of the electors votes in favor of dissolution, the town clerk shall certify the result to the county board of the county in which the town is located. Upon receipt of the certified result, the county board may dissolve the town. If the county board does not dissolve the town within 180 days after the board receives the certified result of the referendum, the board's authority to dissolve the town, based on that referendum, lapses.
(6) Validity of proceeding.
Any person aggrieved may have the validity of proceedings under this section reviewed by commencing an action in circuit court. An action brought under this subsection shall be brought within the time provided under s. 893.73 (1) (b)
. A town which has exercised the powers and functions of a town for one year is conclusively presumed to have been duly organized.
(7) Division not permitted.
No town may be divided if division results in a town of less than 36 sections in area unless each resulting town of less than 36 sections contains 75 electors and real estate valued, at the last preceding assessment, at at least 40% of the equalized value of real estate in the town before division.
History: 1983 a. 532
; 1989 a. 192
Organization of towns in special cases. 60.05(1)(a)(a)
In this subsection, "area" means any government township or any contiguous territory which is part of one or more towns, which is equal in area to more than one government township but not more than 2 government townships and which is within one county.
Any area which has at least 300 residents who have a freehold interest in real property located in the area, at least 150 of whom are electors who have resided in the area for at least one year prior to verification of the petition under sub. (2)
, and which has an equalized valuation of at least $5,000,000, according to the last preceding assessment, may be organized into a town if the remaining territory of any town of which the newly organized town was formerly a part is not less than 36 square miles and has not less than 75 electors and real estate valued at at least 40% of the equalized value of real estate in the town before division, according to the last preceding assessment.
To initiate a proceeding to organize a town under this section a petition, signed by a majority of the electors of the proposed town, shall be filed with the circuit court of the county in which the area is located. The petition shall demonstrate that the area is entitled to be organized as a town under sub. (1)
and shall contain an accurate description of the proposed area of the town, the name of the town of which the area is currently a part, the names of the electors of the proposed town and the proposed name of the new town. The petition shall be verified by at least 3 signers. Upon receipt of a petition, the court shall establish the time and place for a hearing on the petition and direct that a copy of the petition and order be served upon the clerk of the town of which the proposed town is currently a part. The petition and order shall be served upon the clerk at least 20 days before the hearing. The court shall order that a notice of the hearing be published in the area of the proposed town as a class 3 notice under ch. 985
The court shall conduct a hearing on the petition and shall permit any elector or taxpayer of the area of the proposed town, or of any town of which the proposed area is currently a part, to be heard. The court may adjourn the hearing from time to time and refer any issue of fact to a referee. The fees and expenses of the referee shall be established and apportioned by the court after the trial of any issue and paid by any town of which the area of the proposed town is a part.
(4) Court order.
If, after the hearing under sub. (3)
, the court finds that the area of the proposed town meets the requirements of sub. (1)
, the court shall enter an order establishing a new town under the name proposed in the petition and shall designate the location of the first town meeting of the new town. The clerk of court shall immediately file certified copies of the order with the secretary of administration and the county clerk.
(5) Apportionment of debts.
Assets and liabilities of the newly organized town and any town or towns of which it was a part shall be apportioned under s. 66.0235
(6) Attachment of remainder of old town.
If the remaining territory of any town from which a new town is organized is divided into 2 detached parts by the organization of the new town, the detached portion with the least number of electors shall be attached to and become part of the new town.
Validity of attachment or detachment.
The town board may bring an action to test the validity of an ordinance attaching or detaching all or part of the territory of the town to or from any town, village or city. Any expense incurred by the town board and its agents, attorneys and representatives in the action shall be paid by the town.
History: 1983 a. 532
No tort liability can attach to the exercise of a town's legal right to challenge an annexation. Whispering Springs Corp. v. Town of Empire, 183 Wis. 2d 396
, 515 N.W.2d 469
(Ct. App. 1994).
Change of town name.
The name of a town shall be changed if a petition designating the new name is signed and filed with the town clerk under the procedures in s. 9.20 (1)
, certified by the town clerk under the procedure in s. 9.20 (3)
, approved by the electors in an election held under the procedures in s. 9.20 (4)
and the result of the election is published in the town's official paper, or posted in the town, and the new name is filed with the secretary of administration.
History: 1993 a. 246
; 2015 a. 55
Delivery of papers to clerk of new town.
If a new town is organized, the town clerk of the town from which the new town was organized shall deliver, if removable, all of his or her official papers and files pertaining to the new town and a certified copy of all relevant official records, papers and files not removable to the office of the clerk of the new town. Any record, paper or file delivered to the office of the clerk of a new town under this section shall have the same effect as if originally filed there.
History: 1983 a. 532
When a county constitutes a town. 60.09(1)
If a county is not divided into towns, it shall, for purposes of town government, be considered one town.
(2) Menominee County.
The county of Menominee consists of one town, known as the town of Menominee.
History: 1983 a. 532
Powers of town meeting. 60.10(1)
The town meeting may:
Raise money, including levying taxes, to pay for expenses of the town, unless the authority has been delegated to the town board under sub. (2) (a)
Fix the compensation of elective town offices under s. 60.32
, unless the authority has been delegated to the town board under sub. (2) (k)
In a town with a population of 2,500 or more, provide for the appointment by the town board of the town clerk, town treasurer, or both, or of the combined office of town clerk and town treasurer under s. 60.305 (1)
, at a level of compensation to be set by the board that may not be reduced during the term to which the person is appointed.
Establish or abolish the office of town constable and establish the number of constables. Abolition of the office is effective at the end of the term of the person serving in the office.
Designate the office of town clerk, town treasurer or the combined office of clerk and treasurer as part-time under s. 60.305 (1) (b)
Designate town board supervisors as full-time officers.
Provide under s. 8.05 (3) (a)
for the nomination of candidates for elective town offices at a nonpartisan primary election.
Approve agreements to employ an administrator for more than 3 years under s. 60.37 (3) (d)
Hourly wage of certain employees.
Establish the hourly wage to be paid under s. 60.37 (4)
to a town employee who is also an elected town officer, unless the authority has been delegated to the town board under sub. (2) (L)
(2) Directives or grants of authority to town board.
Except as provided under par. (c)
, directives or grants of authority to the town board under this subsection may be general and continuing or may be limited as to purpose, effect or duration. A resolution adopted under this subsection shall specify whether the directive or grant is general and continuing or whether it is limited as to purpose, effect or duration. A resolution that is continuing remains in effect until rescinded at a subsequent town meeting by a number of electors equal to or greater than the number of electors who voted for the original resolution. This subsection does not limit any authority otherwise conferred on the town board by law. By resolution, the town meeting may:
Authorize the town board to raise money, including levying taxes, to pay for expenses of the town.
Membership of town board in populous towns.
In a town with a population of 2,500 or more, direct the town board to increase the membership of the board under s. 60.21 (2)
Exercise of village powers.
Authorize the town board to exercise powers of a village board under s. 60.22 (3)
. A resolution adopted under this paragraph is general and continuing.
General obligation bonds.
Authorize the town board to issue general obligation bonds in the manner and for the purposes provided by law.
Purchase of land.
Authorize the town board to purchase any land within the town for present or anticipated town purposes.
Authorize the town board to purchase, lease or construct buildings for the use of the town, to combine for this purpose the town's funds with those of a society or corporation doing business or located in the town and to accept contributions of money, labor or space for this purpose.
Disposal of property.
Authorize the town board to dispose of town real property, other than property donated to and required to be held by the town for a special purpose.
(h) Exercise of certain zoning authority.
In a town located in a county which has enacted a zoning ordinance under s. 59.69
, authorize, under s. 60.62 (2)
, the town board to enact town zoning ordinances under s. 61.35
Watershed protection and soil and water conservation.
Authorize the town board to engage in watershed protection, soil conservation or water conservation activities beneficial to the town.
Authorize the town board to select assessors by appointment under s. 60.307 (2)
Compensation of elective town offices.
Authorize the town board to fix the compensation of elective town offices under s. 60.32 (1) (b)
Hourly wage of certain employees.
Authorize the town board to establish the hourly wage to be paid under s. 60.37 (4)
to a town employee who is also an elected town officer, other than a town board supervisor.
(3) Authorization to town board to appropriate money.
The town meeting may authorize the town board to appropriate money in the next annual budget for:
Conservation of natural resources.
The conservation of natural resources by the town or by a bona fide nonprofit organization under s. 60.23 (6)
Insects, weeds and animal diseases.
The control of insect pests, weeds or plant or animal diseases within the town.
Rural numbering systems.
Posting signs and otherwise cooperating with the county in the establishment of a rural numbering system under s. 59.54 (4)
NOTE: 2003 Wis. Act 214
, which affected this section, contains extensive explanatory notes.
The terms "authorize" and "direct" in sub. (2) are not used interchangeably. A town meeting that "authorize(s)" an act gives the town board permission to do the act within its discretion, but if it "direct(s)" that an act be done, the action is mandatory. Graziano v. Town of Long Lake, 191 Wis. 2d 813
, 530 N.W.2d 55
(Ct. App. 1995).
Section 60.55 does not create an exception to the grant of power to the town meeting to authorize land purchases or construction by the town board. If a town board chooses to meet the requirements of s. 60.55 to provide fire protection by providing housing for fire protection services and also chooses to purchase land and construct that housing, then the town board must proceed with the authorization of the town meeting under sub. (2) (e) and (f) to purchase the land and construct the building. Town of Clayton v. Cardinal Construction Company, Inc. 2009 WI App 54
, 317 Wis. 2d 424
, 767 N.W.2d 605