Property owners know their assessment is used to calculate their December tax bill. What many taxpayers find confusing is that the assessment is only one part of the equation for computing the property tax. The other variable used to compute property taxes is the tax levy.
The Tax Levy represents the total amount of money needed to fund the budgets each year approved by the elected or appointed boards that run the different levels of government in Wisconsin. In West Allis, that includes the city, the school board, the county, the state, the sewerage district and the technical college.
The burden of tax created by the passage of the annual budgets for each of these entities must be met by the tax levy or the total amount of money collected each year. These taxes must be apportioned among property owners according to the percentage of ownership they have in the total property of the municipality.
The most important job of the assessor is to distribute the burden of tax in an equitable way between similar properties. The way that this is accomplished is to set the assessments of similar properties at similar levels using open-market, arms-length sales prices as periodic benchmarks.
If assessments are 10% above market values the tax burden will be the same as it would be if assessments were 10% below market levels. This is because whether assessments are high or low, the budget approved by elected and appointed officials will be met because the mil-rate will be adjusted to arrive at the same result.
The most important thing is not that an assessment is exactly at market level all the time, but instead that each assessment is in line with similar properties.