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Tax Levy Information

Wisconsin Policy Forum (Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance)

In 2017 the Public Policy Form and Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance merged to create the Wisconsin Policy Forum, a nonpartisan, independent research organization. The mission of the Wisconsin Policy Forum is to “research, analyze and communicate information about the finances, performance, relationship of state and local governmental bodies in the State of Wisconsin to enhance government efficiency and educate citizens and taxpayers.”

Article 1 – Two keys to property tax understanding (pdf)
Article 2 – Understanding property tax surprises (pdf)

Wisconsin Department of Revenue
2019 Taxpayers Guide (pdf)

School Levy Tax Credit

Courtesy of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (2012)
Part of the state’s commitment to fund education4 comes in the form of the school levy tax credit. What makes this aspect of funding confusing is that, while the state considers these dollars a part of its commitment to education, this credit is not paid directly to schools. Instead they function to offset individual school property tax bills. In effect, through these credits, the state “buy down” a portion of each taxpayer’s property tax bill. In November, when a school district sets it property tax levy, it sets a gross levy amount. In December, when property tax bills are issued, the bills show a net levy amount. The difference is paid by the state through these credits. The amounts allotted through [the levy credit] are based on a formula that generally provides more funds to municipalities that have higher property taxes for schools.

Courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Revenue

How is the school levy tax credit calculated?

Formula for calculating the school levy tax credit:

Municipality’s 3-Year Average School Levies Statewide

3-Year Average School Levies x Total Funding = Municipality’s Credit
  1. Is the school levy tax credit paid to the school district? No. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) distributes this credit to counties and municipalities. DOR makes the payments directly to the county where the municipality is located and then the county distributes the payment to the municipality.
  2. When are town, villages and cities notified of the school levy tax credit amount? DOR must inform municipalities of their school levy tax credit payments on or before November 20 of each year.
  3. How is the school levy tax credit reported on individual property tax bills? On property tax bill, the school levies are reported after subtracting the school levy tax credits. The amount of the school levy tax credit for the current year is listed in a separate box on each property tax bill.
  4. How does a property owner qualify for the school levy tax credit? The school levy tax credit is applied to every taxable property. The credit amount is based on the property’s assessed value as a percent of the municipality’s total assessed value.