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The Political Economy of Voter Support for School Property Taxation

Lindsay Amiel, Jared Knowles, and Andrew Reschovsky

June 2016, English

Like a number of other states, Wisconsin places revenue limits on its local school districts. This paper explores the factors that lead school boards to hold referenda to override the limits, and voters to approve the referenda. To account for this two-stage decision process, we estimate a Heckman sample selection model using a panel dataset of Wisconsin’s school districts. We find that some socio-economic characteristics of the median voter are important in the decision of school districts to hold referendum. The fund balances of the school districts and the amount of non-school property taxes that voters must pay also influence school board decisions. The success of neighboring school districts in passing override referenda encourages both school board decisions and the success of override referenda.


Economics, Local Government, Property Taxation, Public Finance, Tax Reform, Tax Revolts, Taxation