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Christmas cards no longer stuff up mailboxes this time of year, but you can count on receiving one piece of old-fashioned mail: the annual property tax bill.
After getting his residential tax bill in December, Gov. Scott Walker took to Twitter to proclaim it was lighter than last year.
And to take credit for the reduction.
"My property taxes went down largely because my technical college portion went down 35.5% because of the money we put in at state," the governor tweeted Dec. 12, 2014 from his personal account.
Walker made tax relief a cornerstone of his first term, signing legislation easing both income taxes and property taxes, among others.
In January 2014, we rated Mostly True the governor’s claim that "With the tax controls we already put in place, property taxes on a typical home in December of 2014 will actually be lower than they were in December of 2010."
Walker was correct that the "typical" property owner -- a hypothetical individual owning a median-valued home taxed at the average statewide property tax rate -- would have a smaller tax bill than four years earlier.
But that doesn’t mean everybody is in the same boat.
So let’s take a look at the bill of one flesh-and-blood person -- Walker -- and see if his claim is on target when it comes to the year-to-year change.
The governor owns and lives in a $360,000 home on a busy street in suburban Wauwatosa in Milwaukee County. An online database shows his total bill fell $118 or 1.4 percent this year.
His total bill: $8,364.
Two of the six taxing authorities represented on the bill collected less from the Walkers this year than in 2013: the Wauwatosa School District and the Milwaukee Area Technical College.
As Walker tweeted, MATC billed him 35.5% less than last year, a drop of $255
Almost all of that drop is directly attributable to state legislation pushed by Walker and other Republicans who sought to return surplus state funds to taxpayers. Walker signed Wisconsin Act 145 in March 2014, injecting additional state aid into the state’s technical college system.
At MATC alone, that unexpected state aid replaced $60 million in funds that would normally have been raised through local property taxes.
Consequently, the overall MATC property tax levy for 2015 dropped by 40 percent, according to MATC budget documents.
In terms of the school district portion of the tax bill, the governor saw a drop in school taxes of $90, or 3 percent.
So the biggest contributor to his lighter tax load, as he claimed, was the technical college portion. And it was, as he claimed, due to actions taken at the state level.
A couple notes before we leave you to check your escrow accounts.
Walker had less to brag about last year at this time, when his property tax bill jumped more than $1,100. It coincided with the 2013 citywide property revaluation in Wauwatosa. Walker’s property assessment rose 11 percent that year.
In fact, Walker is not one of those "typical" taxpayers whose bill is lower now than four years ago. His is up $1,300.
Finally, the governor wasn’t alone on his block this year in seeing a dip in his property taxes. Across Wauwatosa, more than 95 percent of property owners saw a decrease. We checked three of his neighbors’ bills. They each fell by $50 to $100. And, in contrast to their famous neighbor, they have seen a decrease in their overall bill from 2010 to 2014.
In a tweet, Walker said: "My property taxes went down largely because my technical college portion went down 35.5% because of the money we put in at state."
He’s right. We rate his claim True.
More on Scott Walker
For profiles and stories on Scott Walker and 2016 presidential politics, go to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Scott Walker page.
Tweet from @ScottWalker, Dec. 12, 2014
City of Wauwatosa online property tax and assessment records, accessed Dec. 15, 2014
Emails with Laurel Patrick, Gov. Scott Walker’s press secretary, Dec. 15, 2014
Interview with Shannon Krause, City Assessor, Wauwatosa, Dec. 15, 2014
Interview with Derik Summerfield, Wauwatosa Finance office, business supervisor, Dec. 15, 2014
AP, "Governor signs tax cut at Cecil farm," March 24, 2014
Office of the governor, press release, March 24, 2014
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