Special assessments, generally. 66.0703(1)(a)
Except as provided in s. 66.0721
, as a complete alternative to all other methods provided by law, any city, town or village may, by resolution of its governing body, levy and collect special assessments upon property in a limited and determinable area for special benefits conferred upon the property by any municipal work or improvement; and may provide for the payment of all or any part of the cost of the work or improvement out of the proceeds of the special assessments.
The amount assessed against any property for any work or improvement which does not represent an exercise of the police power may not exceed the value of the benefits accruing to the property. If an assessment represents an exercise of the police power, the assessment shall be upon a reasonable basis as determined by the governing body of the city, town or village.
If any property that is benefited is by law exempt from assessment, the assessment shall be computed and shall be paid by the city, town or village.
The cost of any work or improvement to be paid in whole or in part by special assessment on property may include the direct and indirect cost, the resulting damages, the interest on bonds or notes issued in anticipation of the collection of the assessments, a reasonable charge for the services of the administrative staff of the city, town or village and the cost of any architectural, engineering and legal services, and any other item of direct or indirect cost that may reasonably be attributed to the proposed work or improvement. The amount to be assessed against all property for the proposed work or improvement shall be apportioned among the individual parcels in the manner designated by the governing body.
A parcel of land against which a special assessment has been levied for the sanitary sewer or water main laid in one of the streets that the parcel abuts is entitled to a deduction or exemption that the governing body determines to be reasonable and just under the circumstances of each case, when a special assessment is levied for the sanitary sewer or water main laid in the other street that the corner lot abuts. The governing body may allow a similar deduction or exemption from special assessments levied for any other public improvement.
Before the exercise of any powers conferred by this section, the governing body shall declare by preliminary resolution its intention to exercise the powers for a stated municipal purpose. The resolution shall describe generally the contemplated purpose, the limits of the proposed assessment district, the number of installments in which the special assessments may be paid, or that the number of installments will be determined at the hearing required under sub. (7)
, and direct the proper municipal officer or employee to make a report on the proposal. The resolution may limit the proportion of the cost to be assessed.
An estimate of the entire cost of the proposed work or improvement.
Except as provided in par. (d)
, an estimate, as to each parcel of property affected, of:
The damages to be awarded for property taken or damaged.
The net amount of the benefits over damages or the net amount of the damages over benefits.
A statement that the property against which the assessments are proposed is benefited, if the work or improvement constitutes an exercise of the police power. If this paragraph applies, the estimates required under par. (c)
shall be replaced by a schedule of the proposed assessments.
A copy of the report when completed shall be filed with the municipal clerk for public inspection. If property of the state may be subject to assessment under s. 66.0705
, the municipal clerk shall file a copy of the report with the state agency which manages the property. If the assessment to the property of the state for a project, as defined under s. 66.0705 (2)
, is $50,000 or more, the state agency shall submit a request for approval of the assessment, with its recommendation, to the building commission. The building commission shall review the assessment and shall determine within 90 days of the date on which the commission receives the report if the assessment is just and legal and if the proposed improvement is compatible with state plans for the facility which is the subject of the proposed improvement. If the building commission so determines, it shall approve the assessment. No project in which the property of the state is assessed at $50,000 or more may be commenced and no contract on the project may be let without approval of the assessment by the building commission under this subsection. The building commission shall submit a copy of its determination under this subsection to the state agency that manages the property which is the subject of the determination.
Upon the completion and filing of the report required by sub. (4)
, the city, town or village clerk shall prepare a notice stating the nature of the proposed work or improvement, the general boundary lines of the proposed assessment district including, in the discretion of the governing body, a small map, the place and time at which the report may be inspected, and the place and time at which all interested persons, or their agents or attorneys, may appear before the governing body, a committee of the governing body or the board of public works and be heard concerning the matters contained in the preliminary resolution and the report. The notice shall be published as a class 1 notice, under ch. 985
, in the city, town or village and a copy of the notice shall be mailed, at least 10 days before the hearing or proceeding, to every interested person whose post-office address is known, or can be ascertained with reasonable diligence. The hearing shall commence not less than 10 nor more than 40 days after publication.
The notice and hearing requirements under par. (a)
do not apply if they are waived, in writing, by all the owners of property affected by the special assessment.
After the hearing upon any proposed work or improvement, the governing body may approve, disapprove or modify, or it may rerefer the report prepared under subs. (4)
to the designated officer or employee with directions to change the plans and specifications and to accomplish a fair and equitable assessment.
If an assessment of benefits is made against any property and an award of compensation or damages is made in favor of the same property, the governing body shall assess against or award in favor of the property only the difference between the assessment of benefits and the award of damages or compensation.
When the governing body finally determines to proceed with the work or improvement, it shall approve the plans and specifications and adopt a resolution directing that the work or improvement be carried out and paid for in accordance with the report as finally approved.
The city, town or village clerk shall publish the final resolution as a class 1 notice, under ch. 985
, in the assessment district and a copy of the resolution shall be mailed to every interested person whose post-office address is known, or can be ascertained with reasonable diligence.
When the final resolution is published, all work or improvements described in the resolution and all awards, compensations and assessments arising from the resolution are then authorized and made, subject to the right of appeal under sub. (12)
If more than a single type of project is undertaken as part of a general improvement affecting any property, the governing body may finally combine the assessments for all purposes as a single assessment on each property affected, if each property owner may object to the assessment for any single purpose or for more than one purpose.
If the actual cost of any project, upon completion or after the receipt of bids, is found to vary materially from the estimates, if any assessment is void or invalid, or if the governing body decides to reconsider and reopen any assessment, it may, after giving notice as provided in sub. (7) (a)
and after a public hearing, amend, cancel or confirm the prior assessment. A notice of the resolution amending, canceling or confirming the prior assessment shall be given by the clerk as provided in sub. (8) (d)
. If the assessments are amended to provide for the refunding of special assessment B bonds under s. 66.0713 (6)
, all direct and indirect costs reasonably attributable to the refunding of the bonds may be included in the cost of the public improvements being financed.
If the cost of the project is less than the special assessments levied, the governing body, without notice or hearing, shall reduce each special assessment proportionately and if any assessments or installments have been paid the excess over cost shall be applied to reduce succeeding unpaid installments, if the property owner has elected to pay in installments, or refunded to the property owner.
A person having an interest in a parcel of land affected by a determination of the governing body, under sub. (8) (c)
, may, within 90 days after the date of the notice or of the publication of the final resolution under sub. (8) (d)
, appeal the determination to the circuit court of the county in which the property is located. The person appealing shall serve a written notice of appeal upon the clerk of the city, town or village and execute a bond to the city, town or village in the sum of $150 with 2 sureties or a bonding company to be approved by the city, town or village clerk, conditioned for the faithful prosecution of the appeal and the payment of all costs that may be adjudged against that person. The clerk, if an appeal is taken, shall prepare a brief statement of the proceedings in the matter before the governing body, with its decision on the matter, and shall transmit the statement with the original or certified copies of all the papers in the matter to the clerk of the circuit court.
The appeal shall be tried and determined in the same manner as cases originally commenced in circuit court, and costs awarded as provided in s. 893.80
If a contract has been made for making the improvement the appeal does not affect the contract, and certificates or bonds may be issued in anticipation of the collection of the entire assessment for the improvement, including the assessment on any property represented in the appeal as if the appeal had not been taken.
Upon appeal under this subsection, the court may, based on the improvement as actually constructed, render a judgment affirming, annulling or modifying and affirming, as modified, the action or decision of the governing body. If the court finds that any assessment or any award of damages is excessive or insufficient, the assessment or award need not be annulled, but the court may reduce or increase the assessment or award of damages and affirm the assessment or award as so modified.
An appeal under this subsection is the sole remedy of any person aggrieved by a determination of the governing body, whether or not the improvement was made according to the plans and specifications, and shall raise any question of law or fact, stated in the notice of appeal, involving the making of the improvement, the assessment of benefits or the award of damages or the levy of any special assessment. The limitation in par. (a)
does not apply to appeals based on fraud or on latent defects in the construction of the improvement discovered after the period of limitation.
It is a condition to the maintenance of an appeal that any assessment appealed from shall be paid when the assessment or any installments become due. If there is a default in making a payment, the appeal shall be dismissed.
Every special assessment levied under this section is a lien on the property against which it is levied on behalf of the municipality levying the assessment or the owner of any certificate, bond or other document issued by public authority, evidencing ownership of or any interest in the special assessment, from the date of the determination of the assessment by the governing body. The governing body shall provide for the collection of the assessments and may establish penalties for payment after the due date. The governing body shall provide that all assessments or installments that are not paid by the date specified shall be extended upon the tax roll as a delinquent special assessment, as defined under s. 74.01 (3)
, against the property and all proceedings in relation to the collection, return and sale of property for delinquent real estate taxes apply to the special assessment, except as otherwise provided by statute.
If a special assessment levied under this section is held invalid because this section is found to be unconstitutional, the governing body may reassess the special assessment under any applicable law.
Under sub. (15) [now sub. (13)] the assessment lien is effective from the date of the determination of the assessment, not from the date of the publication of the resolution. Dittner v. Town of Spencer, 55 Wis. 2d 707
, 201 N.W.2d 450
A presumption arises that an assessment was made on the basis of benefits actually accrued. In levying a special assessment for benefits to residential property from a public improvement, the benefit to the property as commercial property may be considered only if the assessing authority can prove there is a reasonable probability of rezoning the property in the near future. Molbreak v. Village of Shorewood Hills, 66 Wis. 2d 687
, 225 N.W.2d 894
The plaintiff's failure to comply strictly with the express terms of sub. (12) (a) and (f) deprived the court of subject matter jurisdiction. Bialk v. City of Oak Creek, 98 Wis. 2d 469
, 297 N.W.2d 43
(Ct. App. 1980).
“Special benefits" under sub. (1) (a) is defined as an uncommon advantage accruing to the property owner in addition to the benefit enjoyed by other property owners. Goodger v. City of Delavan, 134 Wis. 2d 348
, 396 N.W.2d 778
(Ct. App. 1986).
Confirmation under sub. (10) permits interest to be collected from the date of the original assessment. Gelhaus & Brost v. City of Medford, 143 Wis. 2d 193
, 420 N.W.2d 775
(Ct. App. 1988).
Sub. (12) (d) does not permit a trial court to correct an assessment that was annulled due to lack of evidence. Because sub. (12) (d) evinces an intent that the municipality will reassess, a trial court may modify an assessment only if there is an adequate record of evidence to make the determination. VTAE District 4 v. Town of Burke, 151 Wis. 2d 392
, 444 N.W.2d 733
(Ct. App. 1989).
Property specially assessed under the police power must be benefitted to some extent, and the method of assessment must be reasonable, not arbitrarily or capriciously burdening any group of property owners. CTI Group v. Village of Germantown, 163 Wis. 2d 426
, 471 N.W.2d 610
(Ct. App. 1991).
Imposition of interest on an assessment from the date of enactment of an ordinance is unreasonable. Village of Egg Harbor v. Sarkis, 166 Wis. 2d 5
, 479 N.W.2d 536
(Ct. App. 1991).
A police power special assessment must benefit the property and be made on a reasonable basis. The degree, effect, and consequences of the benefit must be examined to measure reasonableness. Mere uniformity of treatment does not establish reasonableness; rather uniqueness of a property may be the cause for the assessment being unreasonable. Lac La Belle Golf Club v. Lac La Belle, 187 Wis. 2d 274
, 522 N.W.2d 277
(Ct. App. 1994).
Sub. (12) (a), when read with s. 895.346, allows a cash deposit in lieu of a bond. Aiello v. Village of Pleasant Prairie, 206 Wis. 2d 68
, 556 N.W.2d 67
An assessment that cannot be legally made cannot be validated by reassessment under sub. (10). An assessment that is invalid by reason of a defect or omission, even if material, may be cured by reassessment. Reassessment is not limited to situations when construction has not yet commenced, and may be made after the project is completed. Dittberner v. Windsor Sanitary District, 209 Wis. 2d 478
, 564 N.W.2d 341
(Ct. App. 1997), 98-0877
Appeals brought under sub. (12) (a) are exempt from the notice provisions of s. 893.80 (1). Gamroth v. Village of Jackson, 215 Wis. 2d 251
, 571 N.W.2d 917
(Ct. App. 1997), 96-3396
An appellant's filing under sub. (12) (a) of a notice of appeal and bond with the municipal clerk within the 90-day limit, but not in the circuit court, was a reasonable interpretation of the statute and did not result in the appeal being untimely. Outagamie County v. Town of Greenville, 2000 WI App 65
, 233 Wis. 2d 566
, 608 N.W.2d 414
The filing of an appeal prior to publication of the final resolution required by sub. (8) (d) was not premature under sub. (12) (a). Section 808.04 (8), which provides that a notice of appeal filed prior to the entry of the order appealed from shall be treated as filed after the entry, is applicable to appeals under this section as the result of the application of s. 801.01 (2), which makes chs. 801 to 847 applicable in all special proceedings. Mayek v. Cloverleaf Lakes Sanitary District #1, 2000 WI App 182
, 238 Wis. 2d 261
, 617 N.W.2d 235
Section 60.77 authorizes town sanitary districts to levy special assessments and makes the procedures under this section applicable to those districts. As such, service of a notice of appeal on the district clerk was proper under this section. Mayek v. Cloverleaf Lakes Sanitary District #1, 2000 WI App 182
, 238 Wis. 2d 261
, 617 N.W.2d 235
Legal expenses associated with an appeal of a special assessment may not be added to the assessment under sub. (5). Such legal expenses are not reasonably attributed to the work or improvement as they do not aid in its creation or development. Bender v. Town of Kronenwetter, 2002 WI App 284
, 258 Wis. 2d 321
, 654 N.W.2d 57
Because special assessments can only be levied for local improvements, before the propriety of the assessment can be addressed the circuit court must initially examine whether the improvement is local. The purpose for making the improvements is relevant to resolving the nature of the improvement, but not determinative because the court must also consider the benefits the property receives. The purpose for initiating improvements must be for reasons of accommodation and convenience, and the object of the purpose must be primarily for the people in a particular locality. Genrich v. City of Rice Lake, 2003 WI App 255
, 268 Wis. 2d 233
, 673 N.W.2d 361
Uniformity requires the assessment to be fairly and equitably apportioned among property owners in comparable positions. The municipality must use a method of assessment that produces a uniform and equal value for all affected properties. It is unreasonable to use the same method to assess a group of property owners when it results in an entirely disproportionate result that could easily be remedied by using a different method or to assess one group of property owners by a different method from that used to assess others if the results are entirely disproportionate. There is no per se reasonable method. Genrich v. City of Rice Lake, 2003 WI App 255
, 268 Wis. 2d 233
, 673 N.W.2d 361
An availability charge assessed against each condominium unit served by a sewer extension through a single connection from the condominium lot to the sewer was not levied uniformly and imposed an inequitable cost burden as compared with the benefit accruing to the petitioners and to all benefited properties. The availability charge lacked a reasonable basis because: 1) there was no nexus between the availability charge and the district's recovery of the capital cost to it to provide sanitary sewer service to individual lots; 2) other lots with multiple habitable units and were provided the same sewer service through one stub were assessed only one availability charge; and 3) there was no showing that the condominium owners received a greater benefit than was provided to other lots that were affected by the sewer extension. Steinbach v. Green Lake Sanitary District, 2006 WI 63
, 291 Wis. 2d 11
, 715 N.W.2d 195
Absent an intent to mislead, procedural deficiencies, assuming they exist, do not constitute fraud, which is expressly excluded from the 90-day period of appeal under sub. (12) (e). Rather, procedural deficiencies are precisely the type of allegations that shall be raised in an appeal under sub. (12). Emjay Investment Company v. Village of Germantown, 2011 WI 31
, 333 Wis. 2d 252
, 797 N.W.2d 844
Special assessments can only be levied for local improvements. If the improvement's primary purpose and effect are to benefit the public, it is not a local improvement. While general improvements grant substantially equal benefits and advantages to the property of the whole community or otherwise benefit the public at large, local improvements confer “special benefits" on property in a particular area. A special benefit has the effect of furnishing an “uncommon advantage" that either increases the services provided to the property or enhances its value. An uncommon advantage is a benefit that differs in kind rather than in degree from those benefits enjoyed by the general public. Hildebrand v. Town of Menasha, 2011 WI App 83
, 334 Wis. 2d 259
, 800 N.W.2d 502
Under s. 801.01 (2), chs. 801 to 847 “govern procedure and practice in circuit courts of this state in all civil actions and special proceedings . . . except where different procedure is prescribed by statute or rule." Special assessment appeals under this section are special proceedings. Nothing in this section conflicts with Wisconsin's notice pleading rules under s. 802.02 and there is no reason why the principles of notice pleading should not apply to appeals of special assessments. CED Properties LLC v. City of Oshkosh, 2014 WI 10
, 352 Wis. 2d 613
, 843 N.W.2d 382
Special benefits means an “uncommon advantage" and has the same meaning under both sub. (1) (a) and s. 32.09 (3), the eminent domain statute. Under s. 32.09 (3), only those special benefits that affect the market value of a property because of a planned improvement are considered and used to offset the value of the property taken. In contrast, sub. (1) allows a municipality to levy and collect a special assessment upon property for special benefits conferred on the property by an improvement, regardless of the improvement's effect on the property's market value. Because of this distinction, a municipality's failure to raise the issue of special benefits in an eminent domain action does not foreclose the municipality's ability to levy and collect a special assessment upon a property for special benefits conferred. CED Properties, LLC v. City of Oshkosh, 2018 WI 24
, 380 Wis. 2d 399
, 909 N.W.2d 136
, 66 Wis. 2d 687
, held that “in the absence of evidence to the contrary there is a conclusive presumption that the assessment was on the basis of benefits actually accrued." That presumption of correctness exists only in the absence of evidence to the contrary. CED Properties, LLC v. City of Oshkosh, 2018 WI 24
, 380 Wis. 2d 399
, 909 N.W.2d 136
State property is not subject to assessment of special charges. 69 Atty. Gen. 269.
Landowners who were not treated in a discriminatory manner and did not avail themselves of the statutory right to appeal the merits of an assessment against land based on a report under sub. (2) [now sub. (4)] were not deprived of due process or equal protection and could not maintain an action under the civil rights act for damages. Kasper v. Larson, 372 F. Supp. 881
Wisconsin special assessments. Klitzke and Edgar. 62 MLR 171 (1978).
Property of public and private entities subject to special assessments. 66.0705(1)(a)
The property of this state, except that held for highway right-of-way purposes or acquired and held for purposes under s. 85.08
, and the property of every county, city, village, town, school district, sewerage district or commission, sanitary or water district or commission, or any public board or commission within this state, and of every corporation, company, or individual operating any railroad, telegraph, telecommunications, electric light, or power system, or doing any of the business mentioned in ch. 76
, and of every other corporation or company is in all respects subject to all special assessments for local improvements.
Certificates and improvement bonds for special assessments may be issued and the lien of the special assessments enforced against property described in par. (a)
, except property of the state, in the same manner and to the same extent as the property of individuals. Special assessments on property described in par. (a)
may not extend to the right, easement or franchise to operate or maintain railroads, telegraph, telecommunications or electric light or power systems in streets, alleys, parks or highways. The amount represented by any certificate or improvement bond issued under this paragraph is a debt due personally from the corporation, company or individual, payable in the case of a certificate when the taxes for the year of its issue are payable, and in the case of a bond according to the terms of the bond.
In this subsection, “assessment" means a special assessment on property of this state and “project" means any continuous improvement within overall project limits regardless of whether small exterior segments are left unimproved. If the assessment of a project is less than $50,000, or if the assessment of a project is $50,000 or more and the building commission approves the assessment under s. 66.0703 (6)
, the state agency which manages the property shall pay the assessment from the revenue source which supports the general operating costs of the agency or program against which the assessment is made.
Assessment or special charge against property in adjacent city, village or town. 66.0707(1)(1)
A city, village or town may levy special assessments for municipal work or improvement under s. 66.0703
on property in an adjacent city, village or town, if the property abuts and benefits from the work or improvement and if the governing body of the municipality where the property is located by resolution approves the levy by resolution. The owner of the property is entitled to the use of the work or improvement on which the assessment is based on the same conditions as the owner of property within the city, village or town.
A city, village or town may impose a special charge under s. 66.0627
against real property in an adjacent city, village or town that is served by current services rendered by the municipality imposing the special charge if the municipality in which the property is located approves the imposition by resolution. The owner of the property is entitled to the use and enjoyment of the service for which the special charge is imposed on the same conditions as the owner of property within the city, village or town.
A special assessment or special charge under this section is a lien against the benefited property and shall be collected by the treasurer in the same manner as the taxes of the municipality and paid over by the treasurer to the treasurer of the municipality levying the assessment.
History: 1991 a. 316
; 1999 a. 150
; Stats. 1999 s. 66.0707.
Preliminary payment of improvements funded by special assessments. 66.0709(2)
If it is determined that the cost of a public improvement is to be paid, in whole or in part, by special assessments against the property to be benefited by the improvement, the resolution authorizing the public improvement shall provide that the whole, or any stated proportion, or no part of the estimated aggregate cost of the public improvement, which is to be levied as special assessments, shall be paid into the treasury of the local governmental unit in cash. The public improvement may not be commenced nor any contract for the improvement let until the payment required by the resolution is paid into the treasury of the local governmental unit by the owner or persons having an interest in the property to be benefited. The payment shall be credited against the amount of the special assessments levied or to be levied against benefited property designated by the payer. If a preliminary payment is required by the resolution, the refusal of one or more owners or persons having an interest in the property to be benefited to pay any preliminary payments does not prevent the making of the improvement if the entire specified sum is obtained from the remaining owners or interested parties.
History: 1999 a. 150
Discount on cash payments for public improvements.