K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Across Wisconsin, uneven property assessments fly in the face of fairness

Raquel Rutledge and Kevin Crowe

James Fleischman and his wife, Barbara, have lived in their five-bedroom ranch on Applewood Drive in Glendale for about three decades.

In recent years, the assessed value of their house hovered around $331,400, and they paid about the same in property taxes as their next-door neighbor.

But when the four-bedroom Cape Cod next door sold last year, all that changed. The assessor slashed the value from $319,400 to $249,900, a drop of nearly 22%.

That cut shaved $1,642 off the new owners’ tax bill.

When the Fleischmans opened their bill, they owed $640 more. In fact, all the residents of Glendale whose property values didn’t go down paid more.
Gary Porter
This Glendale home owned by James and Barbara Fleischman has had the same assessed value for years while the assessed value of a neighbor’s house dropped significantly after a sale.

That change in their neighbor’s value didn’t account for all of the Fleischmans’ tax increase. Glendale officials had increased the overall tax levy, and the assessor had lowered a smattering of other residential properties.

But the change violated the state constitution, which was crafted to make the tax burden fair. Assessors are not supposed to modify values of individual properties based on market conditions unless they are revaluing entire neighborhoods or communities.

Yet assessors are doing it.