Property taxes: Why so high in Wisconsin?

Posted at 4:55 p.m. on December 19, 2017

The Brillion News

MADISON – As property tax bills arrive this month, Wisconsin property owners wonder “Why is my bill so high?”

A new report from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WTA), “Investigating Residential Property Taxes” answers this and other property tax-related questions.

The WTA is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to public policy research and citizen education.

According to a new report issued by the TWA, several factors are responsible for Wisconsin’s relatively high residential property taxes: greater reliance on local service delivery here than in other states; more units of government using the property tax; few local alternatives to the property tax; and the state’s constitutional “uniformity clause” that requires most property to be taxed the same.

Other states with local spending like Wisconsin use other taxes, particularly the sales tax, to help pay for services. Wisconsin also has more units of government using the property tax than many other states.

Until this year, property tax bills included levies from at least five taxing entities: K-12 schools, municipalities, counties, technical colleges, and the state.

The state is eliminating its portion of the property tax bill beginning this year.

In 2015, Wisconsin was one of 32 states with all five units on the tax bill; 18 had fewer “fingers in the pie.”

Finally, the Wisconsin state constitution, which requires all property to be taxed uniformly, effectively prohibits the state from targeting tax relief to certain property types, such as residences. Many states give homeowners breaks by shifting the burden onto other types of property owners.

The WTA report, “Investigating Residential Property Taxes,” is available now by visiting www.wistax.org; emailing wistax@wistax.org; calling 608.241.9789; or writing Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance at 401 North Lawn Ave., Madison, WI 53704-5033.

See a complete story on this topic in the Dec. 28 print edition of The Brillion News. 

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