What’s Driving the Wisconsin Property Tax Hike?

Fiscal Facts According to Wisconsin Policy Forum

After a decade of modest increases, Wisconsin property taxes have risen faster in the past two years. Factors contributing to growth include voter-approved school leavers, the increase in state revenue ceilings for schools, and higher levies by municipalities and counties to pay debts.

Local governments and school districts have set strict government caps on local property taxes over the past decade. However, because state aid is also limited and local governments have few other taxes at their disposal, elected officials at the community level have increasingly turned to a small number of exceptions in state law that allow them to increase property taxes – including referendums for school districts for borrowing for municipalities and districts.

Our analysis of government data shows that the December 2020 tax bills alone saw property taxes rise more than $ 1.1 billion across the country.This year, school taxes rose up to $ 136.1 million year over year because of the regulations came into force for referendums.

For 2020-2021 property taxes, billed in December 2020 and paid through 2021, U.S. Treasury Department data shows the statewide gross tax was $ 12.02 billion, up 3.4% from the Corresponds to the previous year. This followed a 3.7% increase in the previous year, with both years outperforming inflation and being the two largest increases since 2009-2010.

While they have risen faster in the past two years, property taxes have largely remained in check and the state has seen its property tax burden (measured as the ratio of property taxes to personal income) drop to its lowest level in at least the past half century. But the limits and exceptions to this can have unintended consequences.

Municipalities and districts in particular are increasingly turning to borrowing, an exception under national borders. From 2010-2011 through 2020-2021, the combined use of this exemption for payments on municipal and county debt issued after July 2005 increased from $ 333.6 million to $ 920 million, an increase of 175.8%.

This finding suggests that government tax caps could result in some local governments using debt for expenses they would have previously paid with cash. That may not be financially sustainable, especially if the current low interest rates are rising.

This information is made available to members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association as a service of the Wisconsin Policy Forum, the state’s premier resource for bipartisan state and local government research and civic education. Learn more at wispolicyforum.org.