Residents face 1.8 percent tax rate hike

Published on: 10/3/2012

The Wauwatosa Budget Committee unanimously approved a 1.3 percent increase in the levy for next year, raising the total property tax collected to above $37 million and increasing the property tax rate for an individual homeowner by almost 1.8 percent.

The estimated tax rate would rise from $7.00 to $7.13 per $1,000 of valuation for residents. All other things being equal, an average Wauwatosa residential property valued at $244,000 that paid $1,708 in the city portion of its property tax bill for this year would pay about $1,740 for 2013, an increase of about $32, or a rounded figure of 1.79 percent.

The total levy would rise from $36,555,123 to $37,030,420.

The budget and levy still need approval from the Common Council.

Schools collect more

City taxes made up about 30 percent of a property tax bill for 2012, according to city figures, with the school district, at 35 percent, billing the largest portion. Other taxing entities that make up a Wauwatosa residential property bill include Milwaukee County, taking 20 percent, Milwaukee Area Technical College, at 8 percent, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, 6 percent, followed by the state, 1 percent.

'It's always tough to put a budget together, it's not like it's very easy, especially with the conditions we have, but at the same time, it shows that (staff) did the work that was necessary upfront, and it was relatively straightforward and something we can be proud of at the council,' said 8th District Alderman Craig Wilson, who chairs the Budget Committee.

'I'm pleased that we can deliver (just) a 1.8 percent increase - actually, less than at, 1.79 percent … and still maintain a high level of service,' said Alderman Peter Donegan, who represents the 1st District.

Last year was exception

A year ago, the levy was flat, with identical collections approved for 2011 and 2012, but that was an exception in recent Wauwatosa taxation history. From 2010 to 2011, the levy rose 2.03 percent, and over the past dozen years, including the 2013 proposal, the average annual increase has been about 2.86 percent, higher than the 1.3 percent put forward for next year.

Before the recession, in 2005 and 2006, city leaders increased the aggregate tax collection by more than 4 percent two years in a row; from 2002 to 2003, it jumped over 8 percent - although in all of those years, with home values rising, the tax rate declined.

Changes made in the last night of the committee's budget deliberations were the addition of a school crossing guard to cover the corner of Center Street and Mayfair Road, where students from Wauwatosa West High School, Whitman Middle School and Eisenhower Elementary converge - a $9,500 cost for morning and afternoon coverage - and the insertion of more accurate figures for Police and Fire department retirement contributions.