COMMENTARY: I Give A Little Primer On Property Taxes

And look at it from a personal view.

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.

Taxes 2011

Tax bill: $3,099.02

Increase over 2010: $95.77

Percentage increase: 3.2 percent

Taxes 2010

Tax bill: $3,003.25

Increase over 2009: $47.49

Percentage increase: 1.61 percent

Taxes 2009

Tax bill: $2,955.76

Increase over 2008: $94.61

Percentage increase: 3.30 percent

Taxes 2008

Tax Bill: $2,861.15

Increase over 2007: $83.36

Percentage increase: 3 percent

Taxes 2007

Tax Bill: $2,777.8

Increase over 2006: $25.65

Percentage increase: .93 percent

Taxes 2006

Tax bill: $2,752.15

mau December 15, 2011 at 02:13 AM
I'm not a fan of property taxes but after all these years it's nothing to get excited about. Since 1981, other than the first year we lived here, our taxes have never gone down. Between the time we put in the bid and actually closed, they had reassessed our property. We fought that and they dropped the assessment back to the purchase price. But since then our property value has not increased in proportion to the tax increase. Our taxes have over quadrupled in all those years but our assessment has maybe tripled. But even the value of our land didn't go up in proportion to the value of the buildings. I would still prefer our taxes to say Milwaukee or some other urban area.
James R Hoffa December 15, 2011 at 09:15 AM
Facts about Wisconsin taxes: 8th highest property tax burden in the nation. 10th highest individual income tax burden in the nation. 6th highest corporate tax burden in the nation. 8th largest use/excise/vice tax burden in the nation. 1 of only six states to have the trifecta of property, income and sales taxes. Put this all together and compare on a per capita basis and Wisconsin is the fourth most heavily taxed state in the country!
Brian Dey December 15, 2011 at 12:44 PM
The Governor and legislature is only and can only be responsible for the state taxes. The County Exec and County Board is and can only be responsible for county taxes. The Village board is only and can only be responsible for the village taxes. The School Board is only and can only be responsible for the RUSD taxes. When comparing your taxes from year to year, this is the important information you need to know when deciding on who you should have issue with. And the same can be said of Gateway and the utility districts. We already know that the levy is frozen for municipalities and counties. There is also a cap on shcool districts, and after attending school board budget meetings, RUSD levied to th maximum, which would not have had to happen if they would not have rushed to contract and analyze and implement the tools of Act 10. So while the Governor can not raise or lower the school district tax, he can provide mechanisms to help offset the reduction of state aid, which for the Governor and legislature, the state funding of school districts accounted for 50% of their budget.
Sandy December 16, 2011 at 02:17 PM
7.2% tax increase for RUSD...I wouldn't have a problem with that if they would get their butts in gear and stop trying to cram every kid into the same box. It doesn't work! I would like to get my moneys worth out of RUSD for say - forever! quit analyzing the stupid WKCE scores and change the classrooms to reflect productive working environments for all learning styles - THEN you will see the WKCE scores go up and I won't mind when my RUSD taxes do.


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