By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — The proposed 2019 budget for the city of Wausau shows a projected $4 million decrease in assessed property values for the upcoming year, along with about a 2.5 percent tax increase for homeowners.
That calculates to about $26.51 for a $100,000 home, according to city documents.
While overall real estate values within the city increased, the decline is being blamed on a change in personal property tax assessed to businesses for tools, machinery and equipment, said City Finance Director MaryAnne Groat.
Beginning with tax bills issued in December of 2018, businesses classified as commercial by the DOR will no longer pay tax on machinery and tools, Groat said. This change eliminated $28,254,600 of property value in Wausau. The state is replacing the lost value with a frozen personal property state aid.
“As such this revenue will not grow in future years,” Groat said.
The assessed valuation of each residential and commercial property parcel within the city is determined by the City of Wausau Assessor and was last calculated in 2015.
At the same time, projections show the city’s equalized value of properties will rise by nearly 5 percent. Equalized value is an amount set by the state to reflect how close to market value the assessed values of your town are.
When equalized value rises, that can result in an increase in overall taxes for services shared with other municipalities, such as schools and county expenditures — unless other municipalities see a similar increase.
The proposed budget is considered a “cost to continue” budget, with no additional funding allocated for new programs or positions.
The 2019 capital budget provides for several key projects including the Phase 2 Thomas Street reconstruction, First Avenue reconstruction, expansion of the river walk trail near Riverside park, construction of a new west-side fire station and a police evidence storage facility. These projects will result in new debt of nearly $13 million, the budget states. In 2018, the city will take on an added $18.5 million in debt, the vast majority of which will go to Thomas Street acquisitions along with developer incentives for Wausau Chemical.
“While the amount sounds concerning, a review of debt changes shows that the outstanding general obligation debt will comply with our debt policy and remain affordable,” wrote Mayor Rob Mielke in his introduction to the budget document.
City leaders are studying the budget in a series of meetings at City Hall.