The City of Milwaukee mailed out pre-pandemic property assessments this weekend and some residents were surprised to discover how much the values of their homes went up.
When local resident Damion Thompson got his assessment, he was bewildered by the increase.
"As you can see there’s no major renovations on the outside of the property that would warrant a $169,000 increase," Thompson said.
Thompson lives in District 6, which includes parts of the Riverwest, Brewer's Hill and Harambe neighborhoods. According to the Milwaukee Assessor's Office, residential property valuations went up 25.78 percent in District 6—the largest increase all districts. Data shows the average assessment in the district went up more than $18,000 in 2020. In 2019, the district saw a 6.94 percent increase in residential properties.
Milwaukee as a whole saw a 9.14 percent increase for all residential and commercial property, up from just over five percent last year. Data shows on average, that's almost a $17,000 increase. All districts saw increases across the board.
These assessments reflect the values as of January 1, 2020—before the coronavirus pandemic.
Other District 6 residents were also surprised by the increase.
"25 percent would seem a lot, to me they're high already," said Roger Kocher.
"I'm happy with the new development downtown, but at the same time I don’t want to be victimized," said Brad Gray.
Steven Miner, Commissioner of Assessments for the City of Milwaukee, attributes the increase to a strong market and high demand.
"Each year by state statute, assessors are supposed to value property as of the first of the year," Miner said. "And so to do that, we look at the most recent sales, and the sales that took place in 2019 are what guided us for the new assessments. Assessors follow the guidelines put out by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, state law controls what assessors do."
Miner said it's too early to tell how the pandemic will affect future assessments. He said property assessments are part of the equation for calculating property taxes, as the tax rate is determined by the city's budget. The Assessor's Office says if your property assessment does go up, it doesn't necessarily mean your taxes will along with it.
But Thompson is preparing for it anyway. He's lived in his Riverwest home for three years. He grew up in the neighborhood and has seen it change over time.
"To try to go to a tenant and try to justify needing to increase the rent by a couple hundred bucks a month or something to absorb such an increase, you know, who would want to be the landlord to be in a position to say that," Thompson said. "And just deal with that emotionally, especially given the current climate that we're in with people being so uneasy with work."
Residents can contact the Assessor's Office to appeal until May 18.