New LFB memo finds last year’s property tax bill on median-valued state home $27 higher than originally estimated

A new memorandum prepared by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) at the request of state Senator Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) finds that the property tax bill estimate for taxes levied in 2017 and payable in 2018 for the statewide median-valued home is $27 higher than earlier estimated.

The new LFB memo updates an estimate of the property tax bill on the statewide median-valued home for the same tax year that was prepared when the state budget (2017 Wisconsin Act 59) was signed into law in September 2017.  The new memo is based on final property tax levies and property tax credit distributions. Both memos used actual equalized property valuations.

The new memo shows the net tax bill on the median-valued home rose from $2,852 in 2016 to $2,876 in 2017, an increase of $24. The earlier memo had estimated a decrease of $3.

According to the memo:

“The primary factor affecting the reestimate is higher final school district, municipal, county, and tax incremental district (TID) levies than those estimated under Act 59. Compared to levy estimates under Act 59, the final statewide school district levy was 0.9% ($42.8 million) higher; the final statewide municipal levy was 1.1% ($31.8 million) higher; the final statewide county levy was 1.3% ($28.2 million) higher; and the final statewide TlD levy was 1.1% ($5.2 million) higher.”

Gov. Scott Walker has made the property tax bill for the median-valued home in the state a key talking point in his election and re-election bids.  When he introduced his proposed 2017-19 state budget last year, he predicted property tax bills that will go out to property taxpayers in December of this year would be lower than they were in December 2014 and lower than they were when he took office.

Responding to reporters, a  spokesperson for Gov. Walker noted property taxes are still  lower than when Gov. Walker took office, pointing out that property taxes on the media-valued home for tax bills sent out in December 2010 were $2,963.

According to news reports, property tax bills for the hypothetical owner of the median-valued home reached their low point in Gov. Walker’s tenure at $2,831 for tax bills issued in 2014.

In an effort to hold down school property tax levies, lawmakers and the governor have held state-imposed revenue limits at the same level since the 2014-15 school year by not allowing any adjustment in the per pupil amount of the limits.

However, Gov. Walker and lawmakers did enact legislation earlier this year (see previous post) to raise the low-revenue ceiling (see also this previous post). This change will allow districts with the lowest per pupil revenue limits in the state to increase their levies without the need for referendum approval; however, it did not affect last year’s levies or property tax bills as it takes effect, beginning with 2018-19 levies and 2018 property tax bills.