How would property assessment changes impact taxpayers?

Gov. Scott Walker is calling for annual property assessments

A new proposal by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker could change how property assessments are done throughout the state.

In an effort to make property assessments more efficient and fair throughout the state the governor wants to hand the task over to county officials.

Walker’s new assessment proposal could be bittersweet for taxpayers in Wisconsin.

Throughout the state of Wisconsin, most property assessments are done by individual municipalities. They are the ones who decide who to contract with and how often to perform assessments.

La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat and Onalaska Mayor Joe Chilsen both said they are open to making property assessments more consistent, but have differing views on Walker’s new proposal.

“Our city is just a little bit over 52,000 people,” said Kabat.

Kabat said the city of La Crosse’s property assessments are completed by an in-house assessing department.

“Each and every year they are updating a certain section of the city,” said Kabat.

Overall, it takes about three to five years for the entire city to be reevaluated.

“With our current resource, staffing and systems we have, I think that is an optimal time frame,” said Kabat.

In neighboring Onalaska, with a population of about 18,000 people, property assessments are completed every four years by an outside vendor.

“I think it’s a good amount of time. Not too soon, but not too far away also,” said Chilsen.

Now Walker wants to change that to an annual basis to level the playing field across the state.

Although the mayors don’t necessarily agree with a yearly assessment, they do want more consistency.

“In the city’s case, we are somewhat penalized for having the most current and accurate assessments, especially when you look at other jurisdictions that let theirs lag for several years,” said Kabat.

“Maybe setting a four-year rule is a good step in saying everyone has to do it every four years so we don’t get someone doing it every year or 10 years, so that we do get some consistency,” said Chilsen.

But Walker also wants to put the county in charge of property assessments and this is where the mayors seem to part ways.

“When you are looking at just the consistency and fairness of how people’s properties are assessed, I think looking at that as a county or region does make some sense,” said Kabat.

“I think that what the governor is looking for is consistency, I just think he should let the municipalities create the consistency,” said Chilsen. 

One other major factor in Walker’s proposal is he would allow big cities to opt out of the county-wide assessments.

If a city has a population of 39,000 people or more, like La Crosse, it can continue doing its own assessments. But for smaller municipalities, like Onalaska, it would have to take part in the new assessment proposal.

If approved, the proposed change would start next year.