Gov. Scott Walker’s elimination of the state’s tiny portion of your property tax bill isn’t that big of a deal. The average homeowner in Wisconsin is saving $27 on this year’s bill — roughly the cost of two movie tickets and a bucket of popcorn — because the state will no longer apply a small charge for forestry programs.
More broadly, though, the change is part of a sustained and largely successful effort by Republicans over time to hold down property taxes in a state that has ranked high for burdening homeowners.
Wisconsin had the 8th highest property tax, relative to personal income, in 2011, the year Gov. Walker and a Republican majority won control of the statehouse. By 2015, the state had fallen to 15th highest, based on the same criteria, and pending census data is expected to show further improvement.
Local schools, municipalities, technical colleges and counties impose the property tax, which is affected by the amount of state aid they get.
The governor and his GOP colleagues have appropriately prioritized property tax relief over the last seven years. Besides ending the state’s small charge to property owners for forestry programs, the Republicans have limited local tax levies and required public workers to contribute more to their benefits and pensions.
The state’s median-valued home of $160,000 is projected to receive a $2,832 property tax bill this month, according to a report in Tuesday’s State Journal. That’s down from the $2,963 the same home paid in 2010.
The Republican governor has accomplished this feat, in part, by requiring schools and local governments to restrain their spending. In some cases, that’s hurt public education and services.
But it’s also true that controlling property taxes has been a longtime goal of the Democrats, too. And they failed under the previous administration to deliver this kind of lasting relief.
Not every community has experienced savings, because of differences in home values, school referendums and other factors. While the average property tax bill fell by 4.4 percent in Green Bay over the last five years, for example, the average bill in Madison has gone up 8.2 percent, according to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. Yet overall, the trend is a 1.9 percent drop in property taxes over five years on the median-valued home in the state, according to the Taxpayers Alliance.
We’ve disagreed with many of the GOP’s decisions in recent years, including a huge cut to the University of Wisconsin System, sweetheart tax breaks for manufacturers and poor maintenance of roads.
Nonetheless, with property tax bills hitting mailboxes this month, it’s good to see some restraint.