19 Dec

Milwaukee Assessor’s Office and Milwaukee Public Schools screw up on property taxes

Milwaukee’s public school district is crying because $9.1 million that they wanted to squeeze out of taxpayers was erroneously left off property tax bills that were sent earlier this month. They’re pointing the finger at the Assessor’s Office, who is pointing the finger right back at them.

Milwaukee Public Schools initially voted to soak taxpayers with a tax levy of $221.2 million, a 3.5% increase in the levy. On October 24, a letter was faxed to City Clerk Ron Leonhardt, City Assessor Mary Reavey, and City Comptroller W. Martin “Wally” Morics confirming the amount of the assessment.

On that same day, the school board decided that increase wasn’t painful enough for property owners, and decided to increase the levy by another $9.1 million (a 7.7% increase over the prior year’s budget).

News of the increased increase found its way to City Clerk Leonhardt, who added the information to the Common Council budget file. Morics and Leavy did not get copies of the new and improved tax levy. Therefore, Morics relied upon the original October 24 letter regarding the levy.

MPS is defending itself by saying that state rules require that the district only notify the city clerk of the tax levy information. Since Leonhardt was notified, MPS believes it did what it was required.

The $9.1 million error was not discovered until after the bills went out. The impact to property owners is about 35 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Now everyone is trying to figure out the best way to squeeze this additional money out of taxpayers. I say they should find a way to do without.

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