Lower property assessments responsible for statewide tax levy decreaseGov. Scott Walker, in the midst of a recall signature drive against him, is already coming out swinging, sending out TV campaign ads on Monday Night Football and claiming his methods are "working" for the state.
His latest talking point is that his reforms helped lower state property tax levies by more than $47 million this year. Because of this, many people are likely to see lower tax bills, in effect vindicating Walker's entire plan (in his own mind) to remove bargaining rights for state workers in Wisconsin.
"Our reforms are protecting taxpayers while keeping our schools great," Walker said.
Yet, besides the fact that the $47 million across the state only saves the average property owner $18 per household, there's a serious flaw in Walker's reasoning. When you take a look at the state's average mill rate -- or the rate per $1,000 that assessed property gets taxed at -- you actually see an increase rather than a decrease from last year to this year. In other words, school property taxes, on average, went up under Walker's reforms.
Here's the mill rate for the previous school year:
And here's this school year's mill rate:
Not a huge tax increase, on average, across the state...but hardly the enormous tax cuts that Walker is making them out to be.
"But how can this be?" you might be asking yourself. "How can tax levies go down while tax rates go up?" The answer to that question isn't so difficult to ascertain, especially given that it involves a crisis that's hitting the nation overall: property values are sinking across the state, and tax increases aren't increasing fast enough to keep up with the depreciating value of our homes. As a result, what looks like property tax cuts across the board is actually nothing more than a loss in revenue the effects of property assessments being lower this year than last.
Wisconsin isn't benefiting from any "reforms" Walker put into place; on the contrary, Walker is actually benefiting from lowered values on his constituents' properties. It isn't a reform of any kind that's responsible for the levy decrease, and Walker is hardly the "golden boy" of Wisconsin he'd like you to think he is -- rather, he's just the beneficiary of some amazing dumb luck.