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Property taxes fall locally but rise around the state

Property taxes in Wisconsin are projected to rise 1.8 percent statewide this year, according to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization devoted to public policy research and citizen education.

However, property taxpayers in Superior saw their taxes decline by about 1.7 percent.

Taxes levied by K-12 schools, counties, municipalities, and technical colleges this December and payable in 2018 will total roughly $11 billion, WISTAX estimates.

K-12 school taxes, which comprise 45 percent of the tax bill statewide, increased 1.8 percent, more than the 0.1 percent increase in 2016-17, but less than the 2.0 percent increase in 2015-16. In Superior, K-12 schools dropped by 2.7 percent in the current year.

Counties, which make up another 20 percent of the tax bill, raised levies by 3.0 percent, up from 2.2 percent last year. The increase is the highest since 3.2 percent in 2010. Douglas County's levy rose less than 1 percent.

Municipal levies are still being compiled by the state, but WISTAX estimates they likely increased an average of 3.5 percent, up slightly from last year's increase of 3.1 percent. The total tax levy for all cities, villages, and towns would be almost $2.85 billion, or about 25 percent of the entire bill. Superior's 2018 budget had no levy increase

Taxes for technical colleges, which account for only about 4 percent of the bill, rose 3.0 percent, to $446.6 million. Technical college levies have declined by nearly 50 percent since 2015, when the state provided $406 million to "buy them down" and imposed revenue limits on districts. From 1990 to 2010, "tech college" property tax increases averaged 6.4 percent annually, more than any other type of local government in Wisconsin.

Missing from this year's property tax bill is the state forestry tax. The 2017-19 state budget eliminated it, at a cost of about $90 million annually; forestry programs will be funded from state income and sales taxes in the future.

WISTAX notes there are wide variations in local property tax levies. Of the state's 422 school districts, 263 increased taxes, while 159 reduced them. Overall, 27 had hikes of 10 percent or more, although almost 81 raised taxes by 5 percent or more. The largest increases — 25 percent or more — came in four districts, Abbotsford, Beaver Dam, Mayville and Weyauwega. The last three had voters approve referendums for new building projects.

Among counties, five raised their levies by more than 10 percent: Iron, Monroe, Pierce, Richland and Trempealeau. Twelve others increased taxes by more than 5 percent.

After roughly $1.1 billion in state credits are applied, net property taxes will rise an estimated 1.1 percent, to $9.9 billion statewide.

For a free copy of the WISTAX studies, "Property taxes 2017-18 (I) and (II)," visit www.wistax.org; email wistax@wistax.org; call (608) 241-9789; or write WISTAX at 401 N. Lawn Ave., Madison, WI 53704-5033.

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