Massive School Tax Increase Hits Taxpayers

This is what criminal mismanagement looks like.

The New Berlin woman was expecting a bump. After all, her school district — West Allis-West Milwaukee — had been mired in financial problems and had just secured $15.8 million in new loans from the state.

But a $530 increase? Up 18.4%? Just for her school taxes?

“People are livid,” said Neuroth, whose school district taxes have risen nearly 30% over the last decade, though her assessed value has fallen.

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The 2018 tax increase is the latest fallout from West Allis-West Milwaukee’s financial meltdown in which it blew through $17.5 million in reserves over a decade to post a $2.1 million deficit in 2016.

Voters, many angry over what they saw as fiscal mismanagement, rejected the district’s bid for $12.5 million in extra operating revenue last year. After that, the district turned to the state, which approved $15.8 million in loans for energy efficiency and capital projects.

RELATED: Wisconsin schools raised $217M above tax caps for green projects

That was supposed to raise taxes this year by about $16 for every $100,000 of home value, or about $50 for a house like Deb Neuroth’s that is assessed at $318,700. But tax rates surged instead because of a confluence of factors, including, paradoxically, the district’s efforts to slash spending and live within its means.

The combination of declining enrollment and reduced spending caused it to lose almost $6 million in state aid, which it then had to recoup from local taxpayers.

West Allis residents also took a hit. Their taxes rose about 12%. But New Berlin residents’ surged 18.4% because of an equalization formula that spreads the burden among communities based on property values.