By Wisconsin Policy Forum

Wisconsin’s gross property tax levies saw their largest percentage increase in more than a decade on last December’s bills, but robust growth in property values caused tax rates to decrease statewide for the sixth straight year.

The findings come from the Forum’s new 2020 Property Values and Taxes DataTool, which features data for all of Wisconsin’s 72 counties and 1,852 cities, villages, and towns. This tool uses state Department of Revenue data on property tax levies and tax rates approved late last year for December 2019 tax bills. While this data predates the COVID-19 pandemic, it provides a useful snapshot of where Wisconsin stood heading into the health and economic crisis.

Statewide gross property tax levies on December 2019 tax bills saw the largest percentage increase since 2009: 3.7%, compared to 1.7% in 2019. However, because the growth in values in 2019 exceeded the growth in levies for that year, the statewide gross property tax rate declined 1.9%, from $20.38 per $1,000 of equalized value to $20.00. These figures do not account for state tax credits that lower the net taxes paid by property owners.

In the seven counties in southeast Wisconsin — Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Waukesha, and Washington — the gross property tax levy increased by 3.4% on last year’s bills, the most since 2009. However, the region’s property values grew even more quickly and as a result the overall property tax rate in the region declined for a sixth consecutive year, dropping from $20.79 per $1,000 of equalized value to $20.35.

Gross property tax levies in Dane County increased by 7.0% on last December’s bills, the most in a decade and substantially more than the state as a whole. Due to strong growth in property values in 2019, tax rates in Dane County still decreased by 0.5% compared with a decline of 1.9% statewide.

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