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Property taxes increase, but not as much as in past

A non-partisan analysis of net property taxes in Wisconsin shows property owners are paying slightly higher rates, but the growth is the smallest it's been in almost ten years.

The average Wisconsin homeowner paid two-point-two percent more in property taxes this year than last. That's the conclusion of an analysis by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Association.

The report's lead author is Ryan Parsons and he says that while some property owners did pay more, some paid less, and most tax bills were held in check by a so-called property tax "freeze" passed by the state Legislature and approved, with some amendments, by Gov. Jim Doyle.

Still, Parsons says this year's increase is the smallest annual jump in property taxes in a decade. He says because it was called a freeze beforehand, a lot of people expected zero growth or negative growth.

However, he notes that there are over 2,000 units in Wisconsin that levy on the property taxes and it's very hard to call something a "freeze."

The property tax "freeze" is always put in quotes because of a partial veto by Doyle. He held cities and counties to a 2 percent increase, and the governor increased state aid to local school districts by more than $250 million.

Parsons says that injection to the school aid formula is what held property taxes in check. He says because school districts are limited in how much revenue they can increase from the sum of state and local aids, an increase in state aid means local aids have to fall.

Parsons says property taxes also vary from city to city because of factors like property values and new construction.

Parsons says he expects another small jump in property taxes next year. From there the future is more unpredictable because the "freeze" is only on the books through 2007.