Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Tax rate up, values down, bills the same?

by Steve Targo

December 05, 2013

LINN — “Really,” said town chairman Jim Weiss over the phone Nov. 27, “The taxes are relatively flat.”

With the town’s tax rate going up 11 ½ cents, how is that possible?

In a Nov. 25 phone interview, town clerk-treasurer Sue Polyock said Linn’s assessed value went down. 7.84 percent — from more than $1.664 billion to $1.534 billion.

“The way to look at it, you’ve got moving parts,” Weiss said. “You can’t just look at the (town’s tax) rate going up.”

Earlier this year, the town conducted what Weiss called in a Dec. 31, 2012, Regional News story an interim market update. Essentially, it’s a cheaper way to re-evaluate the town’s property values.

As the market fluctuates, the town can lose property tax revenue — if, for example, a $100,000 home is sold for $50,000. Then, theoretically, the new owner might end up paying half the property tax to the town. So, to keep property tax revenue balanced, towns conduct revaluations.

The town discovered that the interim market update was a cheaper way to do just that.

But according to the 2014 budget the Linn Town Board adopted Nov. 20, the town’s tax rate is $1.40 per $1,000 of assessed value. That means the owner of Linn property worth $200,000 would pay $280 to the town.

Weiss said don’t focus on the town’s tax rate, though. The general property tax revenue listed in the 2014 budget, which was approved as published, is $2.154 million — up 0.7 percent from this year’s revenue of $2.139.

“One can’t just hone in on the mill rate,” Weiss said, referring to the town’s tax rate. “The rate’s up a little, but the value of your home is down. Some people, through this revaluation, will have lower taxes.”

The town is just one taxing entity. Others — the state, Walworth County, Gateway Technical College and local school districts — also use a tax rate to determine how much a Linn taxpayer is charged annually.

Property value also is used in those determinations.

“The other thing to keep in mind, also, is that we’re talking about this year,” Weiss said. “You go back four or five years, the town tax rate didn’t increase at all.”

The town maintained a $1.29 rate in the face of decreasing property values, Weiss said. Last year, the town’s value dropped 1.18 percent.

“We’ve held out as long as we could to help the residents,” he said.

Other budget aspects

Weiss also discussed other significant factors in 2014’s budget of $3.655 million, which is up 17.09 percent from this year’s $3.121 million.

  • New fire truck purchase. Weiss said $535,000 of the overall budget increase is because the town is buying a new fire truck “that we have been reserving funds for for a number of years.”

  • Leisure spending increase, from $96,740 to $124,290. “That’s because, in the past, we were receiving grants to help us” maintain the town’s community nature park at the corner of South Lake Shore Drive and Maple Ridge Road. 

  • Bright future. “Town of Linn is still happy to report we are 100 percent debt-free,” said Weiss.

He added that in 2014, the town is projected to have more than $3.1 million in cash balances.