LETTERS: Seasonal Residents Should Participate in Local Government

In response to Mr. Jackson Parr’s “Commentary: Taxation Without  Representation” (20 July, 2018) our organization is very familiar with the refrain and have dealt with it off and on for almost 25 years. We agree, of course, with the one-man-one-vote rule of law as it applies to elected officials but we do see room for more inclusion in local (read township) issues.

Mr. Parr does seasonal residents a disservice when he conflates personal wealth and democratic principles of majority rule and fairness, and while he twice mentions that he “understands” the plight of the seasonal resident, we would disagree. Our research over the years has validated that the vast majority of Wisconsin’s seasonal residents would not participate in the local vote even if it was offered. The vote is not the issue; it’s being heard. Townships in other areas of the state will include their nonresident taxpayers in meetings and hearings and take a nonbinding straw vote to assess their perspective in order to balance the input from all the property taxpayers. Not only does it open dialogue and influence “locals,” it reduces misunderstandings and conflict.

Further, we take issue with Mr. Parr’s statement that local officials “have created an environment prompting purchase of a second home.” Quite the contrary.  Decades of reassessments and revaluations have resulted in an unfair shifting of the tax base to a point where the major funding of schools, county and local services is borne by the nonresident property tax payer. There is precedent for nonresident voting. Nonresidents can vote on tax levies associated with lake districts; they should be able to participate in the annual meeting on the budget and when the tax levy is established. The budget is for local expenses associated with the needs of all the property owners – all should have a say. We feel there is ample legal argument for changes to be made along these lines for all the approximately 150,000 seasonal households throughout the state of Wisconsin.

Nick Kaufmann, past President, Wisconsin Seasonal Residence Association  

New Lisbon, Wis.

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