Mayor John Dickert's budget, released Tuesday night, calls for a 2.7 percent increase, or $1.2 million, in the amount of money the city raises from property taxes. But the proposed increase includes a hidden cost. The mortgage crisis and the burst housing bubble dropped Racine's residential assessed value 4.4 percent this year. So while the tax value of Racine's homes dropped $150 million this year, the mayor's budget would make up the difference by increasing the property tax rate to offset the lower values. The only way to avoid a tax rate increase would be to cut spending to offset the decline in the city's tax base.
Interestingly, and perhaps conveniently, Dickert's budget address to the City Council last night made no mention of the looming tax rate increase. City Administrator Tom Friedel told the JT that the tax rate wasn't available because the city was still waiting on assessment information from the state. While possible, this is the first time in 10 years the mayor's budget did not include mention of the property tax rate, largely because rising assessment values allowed previous mayors to cut the property tax rate.
Here's how the JT reports the missing rate in today's paper:
City officials didn't even want to hazard a guess, because it has been such a volatile year as far as assessments are concerned, Friedel said. Last year's tax rate was $10.84 per $1,000 of assessed property value. If you're trying to figure out what you'd pay in city property taxes on a $100,000, $150,000 or $200,000 home, you'll have to wait until November.Dickert's 2011 budget calls for a $3.9 million increase in city spending, which is a 2.1 percent increase over this year. The budget includes no layoffs and no major cuts in service.
Interestingly, Dickert claimed Tuesday night that city officials held the levy increase to 1 percent, but his own numbers don't bear that out. His budget calls for a 2.7 percent increase in the levy. When JT reporter Paul Sloth asked about the discrepency, he apparently didn't get a response. Here's how he report it:
Through some modifications and getting a little smarter budgeting, Dickert said city staff was able to get that number down to 1 percent, but didn't explain where that 1 percent came from.
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