Wisconsin Metropolitan Sewerage Debt Amendment, Question 2 (April 1981)

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The Metropolitan Sewerage Debt was a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment on the April 7, 1981 ballot in Wisconsin, where it was approved.

This amendment modified Article XI, Section 3 to allow sewage districts and counties to issue bonds of up to 50 years in length, from a previous threshold of 20 years.[1]

Election results

Question 2
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 386,792 60.66%
No250,86639.34%

Official results via: The Wisconsin Blue Book 1981-1982

Text of measure

The language that appeared on the ballot:

"Shall section 3 of article XI of the constitution be amended so that sewerage districts and counties over 150,000 population, and all cities, issuing bonds for sewerage collection and treatment systems may retire such indebtedness within 50 years rather than the present limit of 20 years?"[1]

Constitutional changes

[Article XI] Section 3. Cities and villages organized pursuant to state law are hereby empowered, to may determine their local affairs and government, subject only to this constitution and to such enactments of the legislature of state-wide statewide concern as shall with uniformity shall affect every city or every village. The method of such determination shall be prescribed by the legislature.
(2) No county, city, town, village, school district, sewerage distract or other municipal corporation may become indebted in an amount that exceeds an allowable percentage of the taxable property located therein equalized for state purposes as provided by the legislature. In all cases the allowable percentage shall be five per centum 5 percent except as follows specified in pars. (a) and (b):
(a) For any city authorized to issue bonds for school purposes, an additional ten per centum 10 percent shall be permitted for school purposes only, and in such cases the territory attached to the city for school purposes shall be included in the total taxable property supporting the bonds issued for school purposes.
(b) For any school district which offers no less than grades one to twelve 12and which at the time of incurring such debt is eligible for the highest level of school aids, ten per centum 10 percent shall be permitted.
(3) Any county, city, town, village, school district, sewerage district or other municipal corporation incurring any indebtedness as aforesaid, under sub.(2) shall, before or at the time of doing so, provide for the collection of a direct annual tax sufficient to pay the interest on such debt as it falls due, and also to pay and discharge the principal thereof within twenty 20 years from the time of contracting the same; except that when such.
(4) When indebtedness under sub.(2) is incurred in the acquisition of lands by cities, or by counties or sewerage districts having a population of one hundred fifty thousand 150,000 or over, for public, municipal purposes, or for the permanent improvement thereof, or to purchase, acquire, construct, extend, add to or improve a sewage collection or treatment system which services all or a part of such city or county, the city, or county or sewerage district incurring the same indebtedness shall, before or at the time of so doing, provide for the collection of a direct annual tax sufficient to pay the interest on such debt as it falls due, and also to pay and discharge the principal thereof within a period not exceeding fifty 50 years from the time of contracting the same.
(5) An indebtedness created for the purpose of purchasing, acquiring, leasing, constructing, extending, adding to, improving, conducting, controlling, operating or managing a public utility of a town, village, city or special district, and secured solely by the property or income of such public utility, and whereby no municipal liability is created, shall not be considered an indebtedness of such town, village, city or special district, and shall not be included in arriving at such the debt limitation under sub. (2).[1]

Support

Supporters argued:

  • Extending the length of the bond would align indebtedness with the expected life of the sewerage facilities.
  • The change would cushion the burden on current tax payers.[2]
  • The Milwaukee project the amendment was aimed to help would reduce environmental pollution.

Opposition

  • While there was no formal opposition, financial experts warned no one would be willing to finance a 50 year bond.[2]

Path to the ballot

  • First Legislative Approval: SJR 28 & JR 43 (1979)
  • Second Legislative Approval: SJR 5 & JR 7 (1981)[3]
  • The amendment was aimed largely to help ease taxation on construction of a court-ordered $1.65 Billion sewerage project in Milwaukee County.[2]

See also

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