Click the link with this story at postcrescent.com to search for the tax cut impact on you and in school districts across the state.
Fox Valley impact
The projected savings this school year for a homeowner whose property is valued at $148,000 in select school districts, based on a new property tax relief law:
• Appleton: $15.62
• Chilton: $15.77
• Clintonville: $15.52
• Hortonville-Greenville: $15.38
• Kaukauna: $15.22
• Kimberly: $15.53
• Little Chute: $15.36
• Menasha: $15.79
• Neenah: $15.48
Source: Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau
Homeowners in about 80 Wisconsin school districts will see little or no difference in their next school tax bills, despite a new law to reduce school taxes by $100 million during the next two years.
Gov. Scott Walker’s property tax relief law will save the average person about $13 in 2013-14 school taxes. But it won’t change the size of tax bills in a number of districts across northeastern Wisconsin and elsewhere in the state, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
In Brown County, the fiscal bureau estimates that the legislation won’t affect taxes in suburban Ashwaubenon. Meanwhile, the owners of average-valued homes in Fox Valley districts would see savings of about $16.
Actual savings generated by Walker's recently approved $100 million property tax relief law will not be known until the school levies are set by individual districts. They decide the size of their levies, determining exactly how property tax bills change under the new law.
The cuts also won’t apply to taxpayers in 20 school districts that receive limited aid from the state because they have tax bases that are significantly stronger than most districts. Those include three Door County districts: Gibraltar, Sevastopol and Washington.
The tax cuts might might help Walker and other Republican leaders at the polls in the next election, but it could leave taxpayers in those districts wondering about fairness, an analyst said.
“For the residents of those districts, the ones that get nothing, the notion of fairness could come up,” said Dale Knapp, research director for the nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.
The money for the tax cuts would come from the state’s growing budget surplus. The budget increases the amount of aid available to many school districts, which results in a tax reduction because a state-imposed cap prevents the districts from increasing the amount they can collect in property taxes.
The governor and his supporters insist that the cuts would help Wisconsinites in all sectors. In a statement last month, Walker called the cuts “meaningful property tax relief for Wisconsin families, farmers, seniors and small businesses.”
Experts say there is no perfect way to spread a cut across the state’s 420-plus districts, especially when the aid package that enables the cut is assembled quickly. Less than two weeks went by from the time the tax cut was proposed to the time Walker signed it into law. By approving it in October, the changes will be included in the tax bills that go out in December.
The greatest impact would be felt in Beloit, where the Fiscal Bureau estimates that the owner of a $148,000 home would save $18.
Observers note that tax reductions aren’t uncommon when a Wisconsin governor expects to seek re-election. Gov. Jim Doyle promoted a tax cut before his last gubernatorial run, Knapp said. And, while no one can say with certainty that a candidate is re-elected strictly because of a tax cut, there is evidence that voters like them.
“The most hated tax in Wisconsin is the property tax, so my guess would be that (cuts) do matter,” Knapp said.
The cuts received support from members of both parties. The Senate voted 28-5 in favor and Democrats voted 10-5. In the Assembly, 26 of 38 Democrats voted in favor of the bill; 12 opposed it.
But some Democrats from northeastern Wisconsin there were better ways to distribute state aid to schools, and noted that the legislation came soon after a Madison-area businesswoman, former state commerce secretary Mary Burke, announced she would run as a Democrat against Walker.
“This might have been the quickest and easiest way to distribute money to school districts, but we don’t think it was the best,” said state Rep. Eric Genrich, D-Green Bay.
He said an alternative offered by his party would have returned, on average, $45 per property owner in its first year. It would have required the state to accept additional federal funding for Medicaid, something Republican leaders in Madison have resisted.
A year from now, the cut will reduce the average school tax bill by $20, the Fiscal Bureau projects.
Actual savings generated by Gov. Scott Walker's recently approved $100 million property tax relief law will not be known until the school levies are set by individual districts. A Post-Crescent Media story included Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates of the differences in tax bills with the state cuts applied. Districts, however, decide the size of their levies, determining exactly how property tax bills change under the new law.
— Doug Schneider writes for the Green Bay Press-Gazette; on Twitter @PGDougSchneider. The Associated Press contributed to this report.