With the delivery of property tax bills upon us, it is a good opportunity to discuss tax levies and to clarify what the residents of the 60th Assembly District might expect on their statements this year.
The 2011-13 state budget included provisions to slow property tax growth. This budget freezes municipal and county property taxes for the next two years. Because your property tax bill contains tax levies from additional taxing bodies, including schools, technical colleges, and other local taxing units, your final property tax bill will not necessarily be frozen. This means that the fiscal responsibility of all taxing entities in your property tax bill can affect the final tax figure.
Additionally, a relative change in property values can cause a tax shift among individual properties, creating another variable in the potential rise or fall of your bill.
The bottom line is that according to a recent report from the non-partisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX), property tax bills across the state fell by one percent this year. This is the first decline in years, and many individual homeowners could see an even larger reduction in their tax bill.
More specifically in regards to schools, for the first time in years Wisconsin’s 2011-12 K-12 tax levy is going down. In total, the K-12 tax levy decreased by $47 million.
To add some perspective to those numbers, think about this: The tax levy has increased by an average of $162 million per year over the last ten years. Over the last five years under the Doyle administration, the levy increased by an average of $182 million per year. Looking at the individual school districts, 269 have a property tax levy lower or the same as last year.
While school district tax levies are decreasing, the quality of education is not. Statewide, new teacher hires outnumber layoffs and non-renewals. Districts that chose to utilize the educational reforms were able to hire more teachers and avoid layoffs at a greater rate than districts that did not. The three districts with the most teacher layoffs—Milwaukee, Kenosha, and Janesville—did not adopt the changes the legislature made via the budget repair bill (Act 10). Those three districts account for 68 percent of teacher layoffs statewide but only 12.8 percent of Wisconsin students.
Recent studies show school districts are already set to save about $155 million as a result of Act 10 reforms. Most of these savings are coming from requiring teachers and educational staff to pay 12.6 percent of their health insurance premium and 5.8 percent of their salary toward their pensions. Studies also show if all school districts adopted the flexibility measures contained in Act 10, it would save taxpayers more than $450 million without reducing class sizes, educational programming, or eliminating teacher jobs.
Furthermore, these figures do not take into account the millions of dollars saved by districts competitively bidding health insurance. Prior to Act 10 and the repeal of collective bargaining, many districts had no ability to seek coverage from other than the state teacher's union's health insurance company. The savings have been HUGE!
Taxes were cut, debts were paid, and the fiscal integrity of the budget was restored without gimmicks--all while instituting meaningful restraints on property tax bills. The quality of our children's education in Wisconsin is being maintained at a more affordable cost for taxpayers. The reforms are working, and the results of prudent and responsible government are evident.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all.