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Milwaukee Area Property Tax Report

Property Taxes

Sorry I haven???t been blogging much this month.   My work and personal life occasionally intrude upon this hobby.    There has been little WFB news for inspiration, on top of that.

But Sunday???s Journal-Sentinel provided some inspiration.  Every year, they put out an article on ???Tax Rankings??? that paints a skewed picture of the reality of who-pays-what in our region.


The main culprit in what makes this data worthless is that they normalize every Village and Town by using a mythical $200,000 house to ???compare apples to apples.???

This gives you a chart where poor West Milwaukee is being absolutely hammered by taxation, at the top of the charts at $5,222, while rich River Hills looks like a cheapskate dream, at $3,870.  Whitefish Bay fares well on the list, coming in at #21, or $4,174.

Of course, almost nobody pays only $4,174 for property taxes in Whitefish Bay, because there are very few $200k houses to be found in our Village.  This is exponentially true in River Hills.

The Journal Sentinel defends this practice every year:  ???This is the most accurate way of comparing communities, since assessment practices vary..???

The bottom line is, true, by normalizing these valuations, you can compare property tax RATES from one community to another.    The main complaint is that NO ONE evaluates their housing situation based on rates.  No one.  When you are thinking of locating in to a community, you don???t ask the tax rate.  You ask about the ACTUAL property taxes you will pay on your property.

The same goes for comparing communities.  Charts like the Journal Sentinel???s paint the moronic picture that Brown Deer is a very expensive place to live at $4,760, while Bayside is cheap at $3,983.

I???ve played with the data, and added a column:  Median Home Value (MHV) from 2007. 

I admit MHV has its problems.  Milwaukee is a great example.  Milwaukee???s central city is rife with homes far under $100k, while the East Side has homes for $500k and up, but its median is $143k.  Waukesha and Brookfield have the same problems, as they have pockets of $200k houses, and pockets of $800k houses.   No doubt each community has its high and low values.

But generally speaking, if you said you bought an average home in Milwaukee, and it was $143k, or an average home in River Hills for $866k, that would sound about right (in 2007.)

So here???s my chart .. I did not review every city in the JS???s chart, only ones in the area, plus some comparables. 

Pay close attention to the "Median Property Tax" column, otherwise known as "What they are really paying."

Rank

City

Tax/$200k

Rate

Med Home Price

Med Prop Tax

Diff from

$200k Tax

%Diff

1

Milwaukee

               4,576

22.88

                     143,700

                  $3,288

                     (1,288)

-28%

2

Brown Deer

               4,760

23.8

                     142,519

                  $3,392

                     (1,368)

-29%

3

Grafton

               3,462

17.31

                     201,728

                  $3,492

                           30

1%

4

Waukesha

               3,545

17.725

                     201,600

                  $3,573

                           28

1%

5

Men. Falls

               3,210

16.05

                     232,844

                  $3,737

                         527

16%

6

West Milwaukee

               5,222

26.11

                     153,990

                  $4,021

                     (1,201)

-23%

7

Cudahy

               4,910

24.55

                     177,000

                  $4,345

                        (565)

-12%

8

Cedarburg

               3,460

17.30

                     251,498

                  $4,351

                         891

26%

9

Brookfield

               3,259

16.295

                     290,978

                  $4,741

                      1,482

45%

10

Mequon

               2,814

14.07

                     343,788

                  $4,837

                      2,023

72%

11

Glendale

               4,294

21.47

                     226,377

                  $4,860

                         566

13%

12

Elm Grove

               3,352

16.76

                     343,641

                  $5,759

                      2,407

72%

13

WFB

               4,174

20.87

                     323,563

                  $6,753

                      2,579

62%

14

Shorewood

               4,724

23.62

                     290,720

                  $6,867

                      2,143

45%

15

Fox Point

               4,652

23.26

                     338,140

                  $7,865

                      3,213

69%

16

Bayside

               4,368

21.84

                     382,377

                  $8,351

                      3,983

91%

17

River Hills

               3,870

19.35

                     866,799

                 $16,773

                    12,903

333%


The average River Hillian does not pay $3,870, but closer to $16,730 per year. Very few in WFB pay $4,174, they pay around $6,753. Brown Deerites don???t pay $4,760, they pay around $3,392.

Now the chart makes more sense, and the data is much more usable.  The median Milwaukeean is actually #1 in this chart, paying the least at $3,288, while WFB now doesn???t look so "inexpensive" as the 5th most costly area (in my chart.)    Prior to this, you may have thought moving from WFB to Fox Point would lower your property taxes.  Yeah, not so much.  Cedarburg isn't quite the bargain you thought it might be, although it is less expensive than most.

And remember, the reason property taxes are high in our communities isn't because our village or schools are run poorly.  They aren't.  It's the State of Wisconsin's "funding formula" that "gets us."  The citizens of Milwaukee pay about 19% of MPS' costs, with state and Federal taxpayers picking up the HUGE remainder.  Whitefish Bay, on the other hand, pays for about 83% of the WFB-School's cost, which represents the lion's share of your property tax bill.

When you hear people crying about how terrible the "funding formula" is .. just remember, the pie doesn't get bigger.  These folks generally want to slice it differently, so that Milwaukee pays even less, and the suburbs even more.

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