Frequently Asked Questions by our Towns
Appointed Clerk, Treasurer or Clerk-Treasurer
How is the elective office of clerk, treasurer or clerk-treasurer turned in to an appointive office, the selection of which is vested in the town board?
The procedural options that are available to convert the position(s) to “appointed” vary depending on the size of the town. In a town with a population over 2,500, the electors may vote to have the position(s) become appointed at a town meeting of the electors. See Wis. Stat. § 60.10(1)(b)(2m) & 60.30(1e)(e). Towns with smaller populations, and towns exceeding 2,500 that choose not to use the above procedure, may also convert the office(s) to “appointed” by following a different set of steps. First, the town board must enact an ordinance that provides for the appointment of the position(s). See Wis. Stat. § 60.10(1e)(a). A sample appointment ordinance is available in the Information Library. Next, the town board must call a referendum for the electors to approve the ordinance--the call for the referendum is made a part of our sample ordinance. The referendum must be held not sooner than 70 days after the referendum is called by the town board and the referendum must be held at the next spring or general election. See Wis. Stat. § 60.30(1e)(b). That means that a town board wishing to use this method should adopt such an ordinance at a properly noticed town board in early August in order to have the question go on the ballot at the General Election in November of an even-numbered year. If the town waits to put the question on the Spring Election ballot, the change will not become effective until the start of the next term. If such an ordinance is approved in a referendum or the switch will occur because of a town elector meeting vote, the change from an elective to an appointive office may not take effect until the term of the incumbent expires. For example, if the ordinance is approved at the general election this fall, the ordinance takes effect upon the expiration of the term(s) of the incumbent officer(s). However, if the ordinance were adopted after the August deadline and placed on the spring election ballot at which the office of the town clerk and/or treasurer is filled, the ordinance would take effect upon the expiration of the term or terms of each officer who is elected at that election. That means the town would essentially have to wait 2 more years for the office to become appointive. As a result, any town attempting to make the switch by referendum needs to be sure to get the ordinance passed at least 70 days in advance of a General Election in an even numbered year, if it wants the switch to become effective in April of an odd numbered year. NOTE: Not sooner than 2 years after the position becomes appointive, the town board may enact an ordinance to return the office to an elective position, without a referendum or a town elector meeting vote. See Wis. Stat. § 60.30(1e)(d) & 60.30(1e)(g).
How many appointed and elected town clerks and treasurers are there in Wisconsin? How many hold the combined office?
Out of 1,249 towns, there are currently: 240 appointed clerks and 800 elected clerks; 165 appointed treasurers and 875 elected treasurers; 126 appointed clerk-treasurers and 102 elected clerk-treasurers.
Why do towns switch to having an appointed clerk or treasurer?
The positives or negatives often depend on one’s perspective. But some of the key differences are as follows: Appointed clerks and treasurers: 1. Do not have to be town residents. 2. Have their qualifications, job descriptions, and wages/benefits set by the town board as they are essentially town employees hired by the board. 3. Cannot be removed by the board during their term of office, unless there is “cause” for removal (misconduct in office or neglect of duties). The board can simply choose not to re-appoint an official at the end of his or her term without having to establish cause. 4. Can be appointed for a term not to exceed 3 years at one time. Can be appointed for a shorter term such as six months or one year or whatever the board deems appropriate. Elected clerks and treasurers: 1. Do have to be town residents. 2. Are answerable to the electorate and cannot be required by the board to hold specific qualifications or obtain training (unless required by state law-such as election training for clerks). 3. Can be recalled from office like other elected officials, but cannot be removed from office by a board vote. 4. Are elected for two year terms at the spring election in odd-numbered years.
How does a town determine its tax rate? For example, we want to show our taxpayers how many dollars per thousand of assessed value they would pay if we stay with our allowable tax levy and how much that amount would go up if they approve our proposed town levy limit increase. How can we show that to them?
The calculation to figure out the tax rate is pretty simple. The town tax rate is determined by dividing the town tax levy by the total assessed value of the town. See the sample below: Town Tax Levy ÷ Assessed Value of Town = Town Tax Rate. So, if the amount of the town's allowable tax levy for this year is $100,000 and the town's total assessed value is $ 20,000,000, the equation to determine the tax rate would be: $100,000 ÷ $20,000,000 = .005. To figure out the tax rate per thousand of assessed value, multiply .005 x $1,000 which equals $5.00. That means if the electors only approve the maximum allowable tax levy, the tax rate will equate to a tax bill of $5.00 per thousand of assessed value and someone with a home assessed at $150,000 would have to pay a town tax of $750. To show how much the town tax will go up if the electors are asked to exceed the levy limit by 20%, for example, the same equation must be re-calculated with the proposed levy increase. Therefore, if the board is proposing that the levy be increased to $120,000, the calculation would be $120,000 ÷ $20,000,000 = .006 which equals a town tax of $6.00 dollars per thousand of assessed value and someone with a home assessed at $150,000 would have to pay a town tax bill of $900.
Combining the offices of Clerk & Treasurer
How are the offices of town clerk and town treasurer combined?
The town electors may combine the offices of town clerk and town treasurer by a vote at an annual meeting or another town meeting of the electors where that item specifically appears on the agenda for the meeting. The procedure to combine offices is the same for all towns, regardless of size. See Wis. Stat. § 60.305(1)(a). A combination of offices under this provision also takes effect after the current terms of office expire. See Wis. Stat. § 60.305(4)(a). The combination of town offices may be revoked in the same way they were combined, by a vote at a proper town elector meeting. See Wis. Stat. § 60.305(4)(c). If the town wishes to try and accomplish this change, it is recommended that an elector meeting be scheduled no later than mid November. This is because the clerk is required to provide notice of what offices are up for election in the spring by the fourth Tuesday in November. In order for this notice to be accurate, the town needs to resolve the issue before then.
Someone has called the town asking for a fireworks permit. Why do they need a permit from the town?
Under state law, fireworks may generally only be sold to members of the public for recreational use if they are the holder of a valid user’s permit meeting the requirements of s. 167.10(3), Wis. Stat. As a result, people wishing to use or possess fireworks within the town must get a permit from the town. Permits are not required to transport fireworks through the town on the way to another location, as long as the person transporting the fireworks remains in the town for less than 12 hours. See s. 167.10(3)(bm), Wis. Stat. Likewise, people who are not state residents can buy fireworks without a permit and transport them out of state as long as they don't stay in any municipality for more than 12 hours. If they intend to use the fireworks in Wisconsin or plan to stay in any Wisconsin municipality with the fireworks for 12 or more hours, they need a valid permit.
What information should town board meeting minutes contain?The minutes of a governmental body should be a true and accurate record of the proceedings. The minutes should contain the name of the body; the names of the members of the body who are present or absent; the time, date, and location of the meeting; and a record of any action taken by the body. The minutes are not meant to be a transcript of every word that is said during the meeting. Rather, particular attention should be taken to record the exact wording of any motions made and seconded. Other matters should be of a general nature, stating the topic of discussion and who spoke on the topic. For example, “Resident Mary Smith spoke in favor of reducing the speed limit on Smith Road.” Minutes should not include the opinions or editorial comments of the minute taker. At times when the board is being asked to grant a permit, license, rezone, etc., care must also be taken to record the reasoning for the board’s decision in case there is an appeal.