Assembly Bill 915, introduced on January 4, 2024, proposes changes to the recording fees charged by county Register of Deeds (ROD) offices that are used to fund the Wisconsin Land Information Program (WLIP). The WLIP, which is housed in the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA) provides financial aid to counties to support their land information programs.
Currently, the general ROD filing fee is $30, of which $15 is submitted to the DOA to support the WLIP. However, the county may retain $8 of the amount it would have submitted to the DOA if the county meets certain requirements. The remaining $15 of the $30 filing fee is retained by the county in its general fund, and may be at the county’s discretion.
Bill 915 proposes increasing the recording fee to $45. The amount a county must submit to DOA would increase to $30 and the amount the county may retain of this $30 (if requirements are met) would increase to $15. As with current law, $15 of the ROD filing fee would be retained by the county in its general fund.
Currently, DOA awards each county an Educational Grant of $1000 per year and a Base Budget Grant up to $100,000 per year. Bill 915 proposes increasing these amounts to $5000 and $175,000 respectively. The DOA also awards Strategic Initiative Grants from fees remaining after other grants are allocated. Strategic Initiative Grant levels would also increase under the proposal.
A fiscal estimate authored by the DOA assumes that all counties would meet the requirements to retain $15 of the $30 to be remitted to the DOA (just as currently, all counties meet the requirements to retain $8 of the $15 to be remitted to the DOA). The fiscal estimate indicates that Base Budget Grant totals would increase from an average of approximately $2.4 million to $3.9 million, Educational Grant totals would increase from $72,000 to $360,000, and Strategic Initiative Grant totals would increase from an average of approximately $4 million to $10.5 million. Increased grant expenditures are anticipated to approximately equal the increased revenue, producing a negligible impact on WLIP fund balances.
Due to the increase in fee retention at the county level (from the current $8 to the proposed $15) it is estimated that an additional $7.3 million would be retained by counties annually.
It is anticipated that the additional revenue would allow counties to accelerate their land information efforts, including “shovel-ready” projects identified in county land information plans, more accurate parcel maps, enhanced emergency response mapping, acquisition of remote sensing imagery and land use mapping.
The bill is supported by Dane County, Jefferson County’s ROD office, The Wisconsin Land Information Officers Network, the Wisconsin County Surveyors Association, the Wisconsin Land Information Association and the Wisconsin Real Property Listers Association.
According to WI Lobbying, the bill is also supported by the Wisconsin Counties Association, the Wisconsin Land Title Association and the Wisconsin Wetlands Association. It is opposed by the Wisconsin Realtors Association, which encourages the legislature to find alternative methods to fund the land information program, such as reallocating the $15 that counties retain in their general funds.
According to Niklas Anderson, Chair of the Wisconsin Land Information Association’s Legislative Committee, the bill is currently in the Assembly Committee on Housing and Real Estate, but at this time it is not known whether there is enough support for it to move to the next step.
The 2023 WLIP Report contains additional information on revenues and grants.