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Chittenden, Alfred K. (Alfred Knight), 1879-1930 / The taxation of forest lands in Wisconsin

Views of lumbermen on taxation,   pp. 44-49 PDF (1.6 MB)

Page 46

limited in amount compared with timbered areas, that should it be
completely exempted from taxation, the actual tax burden on the
forests would not be materially increased. Then, too, the lumberman,
who desires to dispose of his cut-over land for farms, is not slow to
appreciate the influence of low farm assessments as an inducement
to settlement. With scarcely an exception, however, the representa-
tive lumbermen emphatically assert that the fundamental difficulty
against which they, as the heaviest taxpayers, have to contend is
the extravagance of town and county governments, which they say
is the cause of the abnormally high tax rates characteristic of much
of northern Wisconsin. The lumbermen say that this tendency to-
ward needlessly large financial outlays does not necessarily take the
form of dishonest appropriation of funds, although in some instances
evidence points strongly in that direction. In fact several timber-
men did not hesitate to specify certain towns, where they were con-
vinced public funds were being used for personal benefit.  Their
chief contention, howvever, with regard to extravagance was that a
great many towns are straining every nerve to put in all possible
improvements-roads, schoolhouses and bridges-before the timber
is gone. In this manner the timber pays in taxes for improvements
that are made far in advance of the real needs of the community. In-
competency of local officials is another charge made by large tax-
payers, and without doubt it is accountable for a great deal of need-
less expenditure, such as is too often glaringly evident in the in-
efficient construction and repair work of public highways. While the
other extreme-the strict economy and lack of needed improvements,
too often the results where the town is controlled by a large lumber
company-is assuredly of questionable expediency, it is certainly
preferable to a corrupt local government
  In their efforts to end this irresponsibility and undue extravagance
on the part of local officials in the expenditure of public funds, the
larger taxpayers, comprising chiefly the lumber and land companies,
have organized in several of the northern timber counties of the
State taxpayers' associations. These organizations aim to secure in
these northern counties more equal tax assessments and to aid in the
betterment of highways by looking after the money raised by taxes
for road improvements. They believe a reasonable publicity in these
matters will largely correct the present abuses and result in the adop-
tion of a lower tax rate. At present the tax rate throughout the
region studied is exceedingly variable with the different towns, but

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