Alder Rebecca Kemble
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
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Alder Kemble’s Blog
Property Tax Assessment Meeting This Wednesday, May 2
Many Northside residents were shocked to receive their property tax assessments in the mail recently. Two of the three assessment districts where values rose the most - 12% or more - are located right here in District 18. (See this article with the assessment district map embedded.) The rest of District 18 has values rising between 8% and 11.9%, except for the Cherokee neighborhood which saw their big rise in assessments hit last year.
I have heard from many residents with questions such as:
- Why did this increase happen so rapidly?
- What will the impact on our tax bill be?
- What does the increased assessment have to do with the mil rate and the city budget?
- What do we do if we can't afford the taxes?
- How many home sales drove the increase in assessment for the rest of us?
- What can we do to stay in our homes if our taxes rise to unaffordable levels?
I have some of the same questions. My assessment went up $31,200, the biggest increase ever. I suspect that some of the factors driving this have to do with our neighborhoods being some of the last in the city with affordable homes. People are purchasing them in bidding wars, paying above asking prices and well above assessed value. Downtown, the Isthmus and the near East, West and South sides of town have been experiencing this pressure on affordable housing stock for at least the past 20 years. It is finally hitting the Northside.
Additionally, our Northside neighborhoods were hit hard by foreclosures after the financial crisis of 2008-2009. I know we lost a lot of families in my neighborhood, many of whom moved out of the city. During that time speculators bought up many dozens of properties at highly discounted prices at the Sheriff's auction, and began renting them out. Those discount purchases kept average sales in our area artificially low, resulting in some years where assessments actually decreased. Within the past couple of years they have been cashing in on them. Since our assessments are based on comparable sales, this dynamic has definitely had an impact on the numbers we received from the City Assessor's office earlier this month.
The increase in home values has historically been considered to be a good thing, since for many families of modest means our homes represent our largest financial investments. But the potential property tax burden is also a serious issue for folks on fixed and lower incomes. Concerned residents have organized a meeting to discuss these issues, as well as specific questions about the assessments and the potential impact on taxes this Wednesday, May 2 at 6pm at the Vera Court Neighborhood Center. I have invited, and confirmed the attendance of:
- City Assessor Mark Hanson to explain the assessment process;
- City Finance Director David Schmiedike to explain how property taxes are divided amongst different units of local government as well as to explain the mil rate, levy limits, and an overview of the city budget;
- State Representative Melissa Sargent to discuss state tax credit programs like homestead and earned income credits, and to explain how the squeeze on state aids has shifted the burden for funding local services onto the property tax.
I will also discuss the City's reverse mortgage program to assist people on fixed and limited incomes with tax and utility bills. I do think there is a wide range of policies both the City and the State could adopt to deal with gentrification and the impacts on people on fixed and low incomes who get pushed farther and farther to the margins.
In the meantime, I am encouraging residents who feel their assessment is unfair or inaccurate to contact the City Assessor's office at 266-2531. You can look up property assessments for your home at https://www.cityofmadison.com/assessor/property/ where you can also find a map of your assessment area and the list of comparable sales that was used in the latest assessment.
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