MADISON, Wis. - Gov. Scott Walker's administration said property taxes dropped slightly last year.
The governor said Monday that taxes on a median value home dipped 0.4 percent, the first time in 12 years they've decreased. Walker cited his policies, including stripping most public sector workers of many bargaining rights, as the cause for the decline.
The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau had estimated last year that property taxes on a median value home would increase by nearly a full percentage point in 2011.
"Schools are doing better because our reforms are working. It's saving money; it's keeping property taxes down; it's doing the things we said would happen," Walker said.
The 0.4 percent decrease equates to a drop of $11 for the owner of a median valued home of $157,600. The average property tax bill on that same home was $2,951.
But Todd Berry, president of the watchdog group Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, said the governor's math didn't include all property types. Berry said property taxes actually increased 0.2 percent, which he called "nearly flat."
"I think that the most honest way to say it is that net property taxes were more or less flat this year," he said.
The reason behind the decrease is also more complicated than Walker made it seem, Berry said.
School districts, which make up the majority of the property tax bill, were limited in how much revenue they could raise. That curtailed their ability to increase property taxes -- although some still did, Barry said.
"School people would tell you that it's been a little painful," he said. "The governor would argue, yes we cut your aids, but we also gave you some flexibility in terms of cost savings, and that's true."
Walker's policies allowed districts to bid competitively for employees' health care and other benefits, instead of bargaining with their teachers' unions.
Democrats have forced Walker and five other Republicans into recall elections later this spring. The recalls were prompted largely by the changes Walker and Republicans made to collective bargaining rights.
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