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Milwaukee homeowner's tax bill goes up by 286%

Posted at 6:08 PM, Dec 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-23 19:08:18-05

MILWAUKEE — A Milwaukee homeowner saw his property tax bill increase 286 percent this year after assessors determined the value of his home went up by more than $100,000.

Channy Rasavong has owned a home on West Galena Street in Milwaukee for at least 20 years, and he says he's rented it out for about 16 years.

He was shocked when he opened his tax bill. He owes more than $3,500 this year. Last year he paid a little more than $900. The bill shows his property was assessed at $138,900. Online property records indicate it was assessed at $37,900 in 2019.
"I just do regular maintenance on there to keep the property up to code," Rasavong said. "There’s no new improvements on there. That’s why I was really shocked."

In a statement Wednedsay, Ald. Milele Coggs announced she wants a review of the assessment process after getting calls and emails from constituents about how they will pay their tax bill.

The city of Milwaukee Assessment Commissioner Steve Miner took a look at it. He says Rasavong is not alone, and that several parts of the city saw increases. Assessments are determined by recent sales of comparable homes, and Miner attributes the increasing prices to high demand and low interest rates. He said demand for income properties is high as well.

"Even if a property owner hasn’t changed their property, if the market in their neighborhood or similar properties have increased, then their value will increase also," Miner said.

He stressed his office doesn't create the market - they follow the market. He added sometimes assessors are surprised by the sale prices, too.

Back in the April, the City Assessor's Office announced it mailed out its assessments, which were calculated before the pandemic. Residential assessments were up nearly 12 percent citywide, and some districts saw sharper increases than others.

Miner said the assessments are mailed out before the city sets tax levies and budgets, which help determine the tax bill.

"An increase in assessment does not necessarily mean an individual’s tax payment will increase, and the city’s tax collections are not significantly increased as a result of higher assessments," the city wrote in a news release back in April.

Rasavong's assessment is way above his district's average residential property values for the year, which data from the city shows is more than $53,000.

"If yours is going up significantly more than the average, then that’s what's going to impact the tax bill at the end of the year," Miner said.

Some Milwaukee Common Council members tried to freeze the assessments back in May, but that didn't pass. Instead, city leaders extended the deadline to file an appeal.

Rasavong never appealed, and now he says he'll struggle to pay his tax bill. He worries not only for his bottom line, but also his neighbors.

"If I'm affected, I'm for sure the Laotian community…will be affected as well," Rasavong said.

Miner said next year you will only get a new assessment if physical improvements have been made to your property, but everyone can still file an appeal.

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