Property tax sticker shock


The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes today about the sticker shock property owners are having when they open their property tax bills. The taxes have gone up in general, but property owners are frosted because their assessments no longer match the real market value of their houses.

The reality is that property values are generally down, and municipalities that use some variation of “market value” for their assessments are treading on thin ice.

The newspaper reports on a property owner whose assessment went from $140,500 to $173,100.  The tax bill went up 27%, or $871. The homeowner says he couldn’t sell his house for $173,100 even if he wanted to.

Last week I was on CNBC’s personal finance show On The Money talking about this issue. I successfully fought my assessment last year, and encourage other homeowners to do the same.

I encourage homeowners to challenge their assessments if they can prove that they are out of line with market values. Local governments are going to have trouble, though, if property owners object in large numbers. The government still wants the same amount of money, so they’ll have to do a large rate increase to keep the cash flowing their way. This would mean that even if you are successful at having your assessment reduced, you might still pay the same amount of property taxes.

And in other “breaking” news: More than a month after a database of Milwaukee Public Schools spending was made public, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is finally reporting it. Why would the Journal Sentinel neglect to make a timely report of an issue so critical to taxpayers?

Here’s an interesting tidbit from the article: “MPS spokeswoman Roseann St. Aubin said MPS officials believe they have adequate controls over spending and they monitor bills to see that they are appropriate.”

I disagree. MPS doe note have adequate controls over spending. The district keeps contending that it has been cut to the bone and there are simply no areas in which to reduce spending. This database proves the exact opposite.  When are taxpayers going to demand that MPS quit wasting their money?