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In a report released on December 17th by the Wisconsin Policy Forum states that “school property taxes across Wisconsin are rising by more than $220 million with December 2019 tax bills, which suggests, when combined with increases in county and technical college levies, that Wisconsin residents could see their largest property tax increase in a decade. The higher school levies come as state limits on school revenues are being raised for the first time since 2014-15.”
On tax bills sent out this month, Wisconsin’s school districts together are raising property tax levies by 4.5 percent, the largest year-over-year increase in a decade. The rise reflects changes in the state budget, as well as recent referenda passed by voters in many individual districts to exceed state-imposed revenue limits. In addition, new data show growth in levies for counties (2.2 percent) and technical colleges (3.1 percent), suggesting that the 2019-20 gross property tax levies in Wisconsin might see the highest increase since the last recession.
The tax data comes form the state Department of Revenue (DOR) and include the levies reported by counties, technical colleges, and school districts, which together account for roughly two-thirds of all property taxes in Wisconsin. Statewide figures are not yet available for municipalities, special districts, and tax increment districts, which make up the remaining share of property taxes.
Tracking statewide totals is important because the property tax is the largest state or local tax in Wisconsin, where local governments rely heavily on it to fund public services such as education, police, and fire protection. Despite the overall increase, however, tax bills for individual properties around the state will vary according to local factors and property assessments.
In the recent state budget, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the Republican-controlled legislature increased the revenue limits by $175 per student in 2019-20 and $179 in 2020-21 and also raised the limits for low-spending districts. In addition, the budget increased general school aids by $83 million in 2019-20 and $164 million in 2020-21. In districts where the revenue limit increase exceeded the increase in general aids, school boards can raise property taxes by the remaining amount.
The news released also showed each state school districts change from 2018-19 school year compared to 2019-20 school budget.
The news release stated that Glenwood City School District has a 4.3% increase; Boyceville, 10.3%; Clear Lake, 7.7%: New Richmond, 10%; Colfax, 6.1%; Elk Mound, 6.7%; Baldwin-Woodville, 7.1%; Spring Valley, .4%. The only local school district that showed a decrease was Prairie Farm with a half of a percent decrease, while Frederic showed an increase of 52.1 percent.