WEST BEND — Good news for property owners in the West Bend Joint School District: the budget is balanced and the mill rate — read: taxes — will not increase from last year.
The district’s mill rate will remain $7.97 per $1,000 of assessed value. Thus the owner of a home valued at $203,000, for example, will pay $1,617.91 in taxes to the district.
There are several factors behind the district’s decision not to raise taxes.
West Bend is a low spending district, and was awarded an extra $299 per student in state aid for the coming year. It does have declining enrollment…
This is the game that the school district and other taxing bodies like to play. They try to pretend that the mill rate is equivalent to tax burden. It is not. For several years, after a lot of public discussion, we finally got the West Bend School District to stop doing this. It looks like they have returned to their old ways.
Here’s the deal… taxes are the total money extracted from the taxpayers to pay for the school district. It is a simple calculation. If the district decides that they want to extract $40 million from the taxpayers through a property tax levy. They simply divide that amount into the aggregate property values to derive the tax rate – called the mill rate. When it comes to discussing the tax burden, the mil rate and the property values are irrelevant. The tax levy is everything.
In this case, despite receiving an increase in state aid, the West Bend School District is increasing property taxes by 7.17%.
Last year, the school district levied $39,174,600. This year, they are going to levy $41,983,435. That is a 7.17% increase in taxes no matter how you slice it.
The school district is celebrating that they kept the mill rate flat, but that is only because property values in the district have increased thanks to the good economy. They are simply raising taxes at about the same pace as property values are increasing, thus keeping the rate flat.
Why does this matter?
It matters because, despite the proclamations of the school district, the tax burden is increasing in a school district with declining enrollment. For example, let’s say you are a senior on a fixed income living in a house that was valued at $200,000. Your property taxes for the school district was $1,594 last year. After a reassessment, your house is now valued at $218,000. Even though the school district is keeping the mill rate the same, now your property taxes for the school district will be $1,737.46 – a $143.46 increase. Your income didn’t increase. You don’t derive any value from the increased property value unless you sell your house. But you are paying more. Yes, your taxes went up despite the district maintaining a flat tax rate.
The mill rate in meaningless. The levy is everything. And however they want to spin it, the West Bend School District will increase property taxes 7.17% in a single year.
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