State school taxes drop for first time since 2006Statewide school property taxes on December tax bills are dropping 1 percent from $4.69 billion last year to $4.65 billion this year. According to a new report from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX), the decline is the first since 2005-06, when levies fell 0.5 percent.
Statewide school property taxes on December tax bills are dropping 1 percent from $4.69 billion last year to $4.65 billion this year. According to a new report from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX), the decline is the first since 2005-06, when levies fell 0.5 percent. WISTAX is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to citizen education and public policy research.
This year’s decline in school levies was driven largely by a 5.5 percent reduction in state-imposed revenue limits, which caps the amount districts can raise from state general aids and local property taxes combined. State lawmakers cut school aids by about 8 percent this year but limited the impact on property taxpayers by also reducing the revenue limit. This was similar to what state officials did in 2009 when school aids were cut for the first time ever and revenue limit increases were lowered.
“It is important to remember the 1 percent figure is a statewide number,” said WISTAX President Todd Berry. “Individual taxpayers may see larger reductions or even increases due to disparate effects of aid reductions and referenda activity at the district level.”
Overall, 269 of the state’s 424 school districts either cut their levies or left them unchanged. Last year, that figure was 82, WISTAX said. Taxes were cut by 5 percent or more in 100 districts, and were either frozen or reduced by smaller amounts in another 169. Only 36 districts hiked their levies by 5 percent or more, compared to 159 last year.
The largest tax reductions were in Rio (-24.7 percent), Glenwood City (-22.1 percent), Rubicon J6 (-21.3 percent), Trevor-Wilmot (-20.4 percent), and Rosendale-Brandon (-20.4 percent). Large increases in Sharon J11 (10.8 percent), Spencer (10.9 percent), Cassville (13.5 percent), and Highland (22.3 percent) were primarily due to voters approving added spending by referendum. Oconto’s 11 percent jump was due to spending over $400,000 on energy-efficiency projects exempt from state revenue limits. A total of 28 districts spent more than $8 million on such efforts.
WISTAX researchers also noted that, while total school levies are down this year, the average rate is higher — $9.84 for every $1,000 of equalized property value vs. $9.76 last year. The rate increase is due to a 1.7 percent decline in the value of property subject to the school tax. Since the rate depends on the tax levy and property value (Rate = Levy / Value), the relatively large decline in property values results in a higher tax rate. School tax rates rose in 217 districts and were flat or down in 206.
Copies of the Focus newsletter titled “School taxes fall for first time since 2006” is available at www.wistax.org or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org; calling 608.241.9789; or writing WISTAX at 401 North Lawn Ave., Madison, WI 53704-5033.