Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

Act Now, Avoid Property Tax Sticker Shock


Many Wisconsinites reserve great disdain for local property taxes. The largest source of combined state and local tax revenue is the heavily relied upon property tax.

Property tax bills that arrive mid-December fuel heated emotions.  Consideration of tax bills should begin months earlier at the time the property tax timetable begins. Keep in mind that state government administers tax laws. Local districts are responsible for valuation and tax collection.

Property assessments are typically completed by the second Monday during May. Local assessors inform property owners in writing at least 15 days prior to the meeting of the Board of Review or Board of Assessors. The written notice includes the amount of the assessment and the time, date, and location of the local Board of Review or Board of Assessors meeting. The notice also includes information about the procedures used to object to the assessment. The Board must meet during the 30-day period beginning with the second Monday during May. 

If you object to your assessment and do not agree with the Board’s decision, you may appeal to the Circuit Court, the state Department of Revenue (DOR), or the municipality. Complete details about the appeal process can be found on the DOR’s website.  

School districts in Wisconsin are classified as common, union high, unified, and first class city (Milwaukee). Common and union high districts are required to hold an annual meeting.  A majority of electors present approve the school district's property tax levy. Typically, annual meetings are held in late summer. The local school board has the authority to adjust the school property tax levy at a later date. Every year on October 15, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) provides school districts an estimate of their general school aid payment for the current school year.

Other units of government including municipalities, counties, technical colleges, and special purpose districts, for example, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District determine their property tax levies during fall. The levies are calculated by budgeting for expenditures and then reducing the total by anticipated revenue. The remainder is the property tax levy. After each unit determines its levy, it provides the information to the municipality that acts as the billing and collection agency.

Three state credits can reduce the total tax levy: a school levy credit, a lottery and gaming credit, and a first dollar credit. DOR informs municipalities about tax credits by December 1, well after most budgets have been adopted and approved. Municipalities prepare their tax bills after receiving tax credit notices from DOR.

Property tax bills must be mailed by the third Monday during December. This year, the bills must be mailed by December 20 and are required to display the assessed and full market values of the property. Also included on the bill are the amount of school taxes, the sum of the tax amounts for each taxing jurisdiction, the lottery and gaming credit, the first dollar credit, the net property tax due, the net tax rate after distribution of the school levy tax credit, a description of the property shown on the tax roll, any delinquent taxes due, any tax credits available, the estimated state aid payments to the various taxing jurisdictions, and an explanation of the tax payment due date and location to pay the taxes.

Property tax bills mailed during December are not payable until the next year. However, for income tax purposes, many homeowners pay their property taxes by December 31.

Your property tax bill arrives and you are not happy about the price tag.  What do you do?   You take action prior to your tax bill arriving in the mail. 

Now is the time to take action by becoming observant and participatory in determining the amount of your tax bill.  Local units of government plan their spending and taxing budgets during fall.  Contact your local government officials including your city, village, or town representative, your county board representative, your school board members, and get involved with your technical college budget process.  To avoid property tax sticker shock during the Christmas Season, take action now. 

This site uses Facebook comments to make it easier for you to contribute. If you see a comment you would like to flag for spam or abuse, click the "x" in the upper right of it. By posting, you agree to our Terms of Use.

Page Tools