They say the only thing that is certain in life is death and taxes.
The latter has been source of angst and dismay for many of us. We’re tired of paying them, don’t see the purpose of them and don’t see the value of the services delivered by our , state, , county and utilities.
While I can’t and won’t have anything to say about the politics surrounding our spending habits, I think we have an obligation to understand them. Property taxes (you’ll likely be receiving the bill in the mail tomorrow) are one of the largest sources of angst for us.
Rather than writing a formal news story about your tax bill (which I’ll probably end up doing anyway), I thought I’d go another direction and show you my tax bills.
I could bore you with mill rates, levies and levy limits, but I thought I’d spare you that pain, and show you the bottom line.
The love of my life and I will see our taxes increase by $95.77 or a 3.2 percent over last year, and that’s one of the highest increases in the past five years. The lowest increase was $25.26 back in 2007. Our assessed value hasn’t changed a lick since 2006 despite the fact that our home value has taken a roller coaster ride up and down. But that doesn’t have as much to do with my tax bill because the assessments have remained a constant, but look for a revaluation of those properties next year. So at the moment, the pot of money needing to be raised has increased among all of the taxing entities, but the way we divide up the pot of money has remained the same.
So whom should you credit that increase to?
Well that’s where things get a little complicated and until I get my tax bill (I just looked mine up on the County website, which didn’t have the specifics only the bottom line) I don’t have all of the details.
But suffice to say, my total tax bill is $3,099.02. Of that, we pay the State, Racine County, the Village, the Racine Unified School District, Gateway Technical College, Lake Michigan Storm Water, the Caledonia Water, and Caledonia Sewer Utilities. The state portion of the bill tends to be the smallest amount and last year, mine represented less than one percent of my tax bill. And looking at our bill from last year, the County portion was about 19 percent, the Village got about 26 percent, Racine Unified got 38 percent, Gateway got about 7 percent and the utilities got about 8 percent – but those are rough percentages and likely won’t add up to 100 percent for you math maniacs.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk more specifics and I’ll show you how much they increased by the category. But understand that this one page of numbers called your tax bill is a simplified version of months of work by municipal leaders, school boards, and state Legislators.
I think it’s important to understand our property tax bills because we need to have better conversations about where our property tax dollars are spent. One of the issues I’ve seen over the years is legislators and boards shifting taxes onto other taxing entities. You might see a reduction of state spending, but an increase in school spending or a reduction in state spending and an increase in municipal spending. I’ve seen enterprise funds like utility districts being created because they aren’t subject to levy limits and non-mandated items that used to be included in budgets become user fees. Right or wrong… those are just trends I’ve seen over the past 12 years.
So, what I’m hoping you take away from this commentary is really not my opinion of how taxes are spent, but that you have an understanding of how all of these taxing entities are quite dependent on one another.
With that said, I’m always surprised when people rally for a reduction in state spending when it’s the smallest line item on your property tax bill and the largest portion is paid to the Racine Unified School District, County and Village.
Tax bill: $3,099.02
Increase over 2010: $95.77
Percentage increase: 3.2 percent
Tax bill: $3,003.25
Increase over 2009: $47.49
Percentage increase: 1.61 percent
Tax bill: $2,955.76
Increase over 2008: $94.61
Percentage increase: 3.30 percent
Tax Bill: $2,861.15
Increase over 2007: $83.36
Percentage increase: 3 percent
Tax Bill: $2,777.8
Increase over 2006: $25.65
Percentage increase: .93 percent
Tax bill: $2,752.15