New Estimate Predicts Slight Jump In Property Taxes on Typical Home

Property taxes on median-valued homes in Wisconsin will likely go up this year, according to revised estimates by the state Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office.

While the increase would be modest, it would negate the property tax cut that Gov. Scott Walker called for when he introduced his budget and touted frequently after he signed it into law.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) estimated in July that property taxes on a typical Wisconsin home would go down by $1 this fiscal year. In a letter to lawmakers late last week, the Fiscal Bureau revised that estimate to a $16 increase.

In the July estimate, the LFB had projected the bill for the hypothetical median-valued state home, estimated at $150,505 in 2014, would go down $1 to $2,830. But the revised projections, released late last week, instead put that bill at $2,847.

LFB Director Bob Lang said most of the increase is due to home values growing faster than values for other properties, like manufacturing plants and commercial real estate. Because of that, homes are going to bear a larger share of the overall property tax burden. The rest of the jump, according to Lang, resulted from two things: 1) higher than expected levies for K-12 schools and tech colleges, with some of the K-12 increase attributed to slightly higher school debt service payments; and 2) proceeds from the lottery available for property tax credits dropped slightly resulting in a lower state lottery credit on taxpayers’ bills.

Bob Lang noted the LFB is waiting for some information from local taxing jurisdictions such as towns and villages. That information won’t be available until spring, when final calculations can be done. But because schools and tech colleges make up such a significant chunk of the typical property tax bill, the projected increase of $16 is not likely to change significantly.

If the new estimate holds, it would represent a property tax increase of 0.6 percent this year.  Overall, property taxes on the typical home would still be 3.9 percent lower than when Gov. Walker took office.

School leaders should note that the new estimates projecting an increase could rekindle property-tax-conscious lawmakers’ interest in restricting when school boards can place school-related referendums on the ballot and in curbing how soon boards can go back to voters following a failed referendum.

See previous post: Sample Letter & Resolution on Referenda Restrictions