The 2019 Municipal DataTool is the new way to compare public finances and demographics for all 601 of the state’s cities and villages, the Wisconsin Policy Forum announced last week.
The tool is a digital version of MunicipalFacts, previously published annually by one of the forum’s predecessor organizations, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. It merged in 2018 with the Public Policy Forum to form the Wisconsin Policy Forum, now the state’s leading source for independent, nonpartisan research on state and local public policy.
The Municipal DataTool includes data on every municipality in Wisconsin – from the village of Big Falls (population 57) to the city of Milwaukee. It follows the February release of our School DataTool, which provided a similar range of data on Wisconsin school districts.
The municipal data is grouped into the following areas: property taxes, spending, debt, shared revenue and property values, and income and population. The latest five years of data are provided, enabling users to see trends over time (generally from 2013 to 2017). For each subject, users may choose data from as many as 10 municipalities to compare.
The tool also includes a “Key Findings” section that summarizes statewide findings from the data, such as:
• In all 601 cities and villages, net operating spending per capita remained at $953 in 2017, unchanged from 2016.
• Spending on police was the only major municipal spending category to grow, rising from $270 per capita in 2016 to $274 per capita in 2017.
• Municipal debt rose, reaching $1,688 per capita in 2017 – an increase of nearly 12% since 2013. This came as the Consumer Price Index, a widely used measure of inflation, rose 5.2% during the same span.
• These trends at least in part may reflect policy decisions at the state level that limit key revenues such as property taxes and state aid. Since 2012, property tax growth generally has been limited to the increase in the value of net new construction within a municipality.
• Property tax levies rose modestly each year from 2014 to 2018. But property tax rates declined overall as growth in property value outpaced growth in tax levies.
Forum President Rob Henken said the tool shows how the organization is incorporating advanced new digital tools to sustain its unique mission.
“We’re proud to carry forward a tradition of providing comprehensive fiscal and demographic data on Wisconsin municipalities, while now presenting it in an up-to-date digital format,” Henken said.