Property taxes in Wisconsin are projected to rise 1.8% statewide this year, according to the
Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization devoted to public policy research and citizen education. After roughly $1.1 billion in state credits are applied, net property taxes will rise an estimated 1.1%, to $9.9 billion statewide.
K-12 school taxes, which comprise 45% of the tax bill statewide, increased 1.8%, more than the 0.1% increase in 2016-17, but less than the 2.0% increase in 2015-16.
Counties, which make up another 20% of the tax bill, raised levies by 3.0%, up from 2.2% last year. The increase is the highest since 3.2% in 2010.
Municipal levies are still being compiled by the state, but WISTAX estimates they likely increased an average of 3.5%, up slightly from last year’s increase of 3.1%. The total tax levy for all cities, villages, and towns would be almost $2.85 billion, or about 25% of the entire bill.
Taxes for technical colleges, which account for only about 4% of the bill, rose 3.0%, to $446.6 million. Technical college levies have declined by nearly 50% since 2015, when the state provided $406 million to “buy them down” and imposed revenue limits on districts. From 1990 to 2010, “tech college” property tax increases averaged 6.4% annually, more than any other type of local government in Wisconsin.
Missing from this year’s property tax bill is the state forestry tax. The 2017-19 state budget eliminated it, at a cost of about $90 million annually; forestry programs will be funded from state income and sales taxes in the future.
The penalty for not having health insurance — the most controversial and unpopular part of the Affordable Care Act — is dead. But it may no longer matter.
“From a practical matter, it won’t have much of an impact,” said Marty Anderson, chief marketing officer for Security Health Plan, an affiliate of Marshfield Clinic.
The penalty was repealed as part of the tax reform and tax cut that was signed into law Friday by President Donald Trump. The change goes into effect in 2019.
The fine is a minimum of $695 for an adult or 2.5% of income, above the federal tax filing threshold of roughly $10,650 for one person.
It was considered too small by many policy analysts and was far less effective than projected.
“Certainly I would prefer to keep it in place,” said Cathy Mahaffey, chief executive officer of Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative in Brookfield. “But I really do think the impact of repealing the penalty will be minimal.”
The mandate to have health insurance or pay a penalty is tied to one of the most popular provisions: requiring health insurers to cover people with pre-existing health problems.
The penalty was designed to prod healthy people to buy health insurance to help offset the cost of covering people with health problems and to discourage people from waiting until they were sick before buying health insurance.
But if people were going to be required to buy health insurance, the cost would need to be subsidized for people with low incomes who could not afford insurance on their own.
That was the underlying idea, and it didn’t work as well it was intended.
State consumer protection officials are warning the public about a rash of scam emails that are using their agency to try and trick people.
The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection says scam emails are making the rounds that are claiming to be from DATCP officials, and telling people that they have an invoice due. The mail then claims that the recipient needs to click a link and pay that invoice.
Spokesperson Jerad Albrecht says this is something that happens to their agency every so often. “We talk about imposter scams a lot, where scammers will use the name or contact information from a major company or government agency to add legitimacy to their ploy.”
Versions of the email currently circulating will claim to be from agency officials, but the email address actually sending those mails will be from some random website not affiliated with the state. “And if they’re getting any kind of email that claims to come from our agency, especially if they’re mentioning an invoice and offering you a link to click, we don’t want you to do that,” says Albrecht. Those links simply open you up to losing your personal information or installing malware on your computer.
“If we are going to contact you, it’s going to be by mail, not by email.”
If you get one of these emails, Albrecht says you should simply delete it and move on. If you have concerns, you can always contact the state’s consumer protection help line at (800) 422-7128.
Gov. Scott Walker said he plans to address the rising cost of health insurance in 2018.
Walker said Thursday in La Crosse that he plans to lay out his agenda for next year’s session in January. Along with workforce and education, Walker said addressing the rising cost of health insurance will be a top issue.
“In light of the inaction in Washington when it comes to health care, there’s more that we can do to help people in the state of Wisconsin, particularly help to try and take a bite out of high premium costs,” Walker said.
State insurance officials have said they’re considering applying for a federal waiver to set up an alternative insurance system in the state. The waiver could help cover patients with high-cost conditions through a reinsurance program or a program similar to a high-risk pool.
Walker said he’s also been talking with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, about expanding support for public schools in the next session.
“(Vos) was very interested in the things that we’d like to do to continue, particularly for rural schools and low-revenue schools to give them support,” Walker said.
As property tax bills arrive this month, Wisconsinites are often left wondering, “Why is my
bill so high?” A new report from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX), “Investigating Residential Property Taxes” answers this and other property tax-related questions.
Taxpayers are also often puzzled why their property taxes have increased more than the “average” or “median-valued” home in their community, or why their taxes increased more than their neighbors’. The report explains several factors at work.
First, averages tend to mask variations among communities and between individual properties. Some local governments may levy more than others, which means both total tax collections and taxes on individual properties will be higher.
Shifting values also have an impact. If the value of an individual property rises more than other properties in a community, a homeowner may end up paying a larger share of the total tax “pie.” Similarly, if the total value of one municipality in a county or school district rises while other values decline, residents of that municipality may also be responsible for a bigger share of the total county or school district collections.
Wisconsin officials are moving ahead with aggressive plans to upgrade I-94 south of Milwaukee despite uncertainty over a key source of federal funding for the project.
The improvements, including the addition of an extra lane in both directions of the freeway, took on new urgency this year with Foxconn Technology Group’s plans to build a massive electronics plant in the Village of Mount Pleasant, east of the freeway.
“We think that we have a really nice project that fits the requirements of the grant,” said Brett Wallace, director of the southeast region of the state Department of Transportation.
The state is pinning its hopes for the expanded freeway and related work on a $246.2 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation that would pay for about half the remaining cost.
But Wisconsin is making a big ask: The state Department of Transportation is seeking one-sixth of $1.5 billion available in the federal government’s grant program, known as the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America, or INFRA.
Wallace acknowledged the state is seeking a big share of the money.
But he said the state’s application meets important criteria federal authorities are looking for. A major selling point: the economic benefits of improved traffic flow in and around the Foxconn project and the burgeoning I-94 commercial corridor that includes Amazon and Uline operations in Kenosha County.