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Waukesha School Taxes Going Down Despite Tax Rate Increase

Waukesha School Board approves budget that accounts for a 6 percent decrease in equalized property values. Public hearing on budget is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 2.

Equalized property values in the are expected to drop an estimated 6 percent, triple the 2 percent drop the district had estimated when preparing the 2012-13 budget.

That decrease in equalized property valuations will result in a higher tax rate for homeowners, despite the district reducing expenses by $8.4 million and decreasing the tax levy by $891,000.

“The property valuations came as a pretty big surprise to us," Finance Committee Chairman Joseph Como said. "We had estimated a 2 percent drop in valuations. Last year, we had a drop of 1.5 percent so we thought we were being pretty conservative with two percent.”

Wednesday night, the school board approved the budget for publication. The public hearing of the budget will be held Tuesday, Oct. 2, prior to the curriculum and instruction committee meeting that evening.

A wide swath of Town of Brookfield families attend Waukesha schools.

In the approved budget, the tax levy for the district is $83 million, a decrease of $891,000 from last year’s levy. With a 6 percent decrease in equalized property value throughout the district, the tax rate is projected to be $9.74 per $1,000 of property value, compared to last year’s rate of $9.24 per $1,000. Equalized property valuations are determined by the state and final figures are expected in early October.

With that tax rate, a homeowner of a home valued at $200,000 would pay an estimated $1,948 for school taxes, an increase of $100 over last year, if the home value stays constant. According to preliminary estimates from the state, property values in the City of Waukesha are estimated to drop 7.2 percent. Properties in the Waukesha School District in the Town of Brookfield could see an estimated drop of 8.8 percent. However, properties in the district in the City of Brookfield may see a much small change, estimated at a .59 percent increase.

The $157 million school district budget includes decreases in revenue from state and federal sources – $670,000 less in general, categorical and other types of  and $4 million less in federal grants and aid, according to budget documents.

“In order for us to balance the budget, we had to reduce expenses by 8.4 million," Como said. "Last year, we had to figure out how to reduce $9.92 million. In 2010-11, we reduced $2.2 million.

"Our administrative team, our teachers have worked really hard to reduce the past three year’s expenditures by over $20 million.”

The district has weathered the budget reductions well, according to Como.

“We’ve had no layoffs," he said. "Class sizes have pretty much stayed the same or gone down a bit. We’ve had no program reductions or eliminations.”

Also, the district will be free of long-term debt by the end of the school year, Como said, paying off the 2001 referendum and other expenses.

“I think our constituents should know that our financial house is in good shape,” Como said.

Jason Allen September 14, 2012 at 12:08 PM
While property tax levy and mill rate can be a difficult item to explain and understand, it is more fair to the school board and the readers of the article to emphasize the the real math behind the calculations. Example if my home was worth $200,000 last year I would have seen a tax bill based on the schools levy of $9.24 per thousand or $1848 (200*9.24)as your article reads. The new tax (mill) rate is $9.74 according to your article; and I read if property value stayed constant, however there is an estimated 6% drop on the assessed value..meaning my $200,000 home is now $188,000. Doing the math of the mill rate $9.74 multiplied by the 188 (the mill rate is a rate per thousand assessed value) which equals $1831.12- this is a net decrease from last years tax bill.of course this is based on the estimated reduction in property tax value (6% per the article) for the homeowner. Each homeowner would need to perform this calculation for their specific home.. If you use the $200,000 home as long as your value decreased at least 5% there would be almost no change from the previous years $200,000 @95% = $190,000 190*$9.74 = $1850.60
Randy1949 September 14, 2012 at 11:16 PM
That's a large assumption that assessments will go down enough for the actual tax paid to stay even. In my experience, this has never happened.

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