New bill could prevent future assessment headaches

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Stacy Vogel
Thursday, January 7, 2010
— A new bill from Rep. Kim Hixson, D-Whitewater, would prevent some of the headaches Milton went through this fall after an assessment error, according to a news release from Hixson’s office.

Under current state law, the state can’t fix errors in municipal property assessments until the following year, creating discrepancies in property taxes. Hixson’s bill would allow the state to fix errors caught by Oct. 1 if the error affects equalized value by more than $10 million and the amount of the error exceeds 7.5 percent of the municipality’s correct equalized value.

Hixson created the bill after learning of Milton’s situation. In that case, an assessor placed the value for one of the city’s tax incremental financing districts in the wrong column on a spreadsheet, causing the city to undervalue its non-TIF property by $31.6 million.

As a result, the school district will receive about $200,000 less from city taxpayers than it should in 2010, but will get that amount back in 2011.

The error didn’t affect city government as much because the city plans to use $241,000 in fund balance to correct the mistake in its 2010 budget. The money will be paid back to the fund.

But it did cause a lot of stress and extra work for city staff, Mayor Tom Chesmore said.

New reporting programs and other changes will allow errors to be corrected more easily over the next few years, but Hixson believes a solution is necessary now, he said in the release.

“This bill is about fairness to taxpayers,” he said in the release. “I know that a number of other communities in Wisconsin have faced similar situations.”

Nancy Zastrow, Milton clerk/treasurer, announced the new bill at Tuesday’s city council meeting and said she’s pleased Hixson has taken action.

Last updated: 12:44 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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