Tired of Higher Property Taxes? Study Shows We Need to
Control Sprawl Development to Control Property Tax Growth
Madison, WI. -- With December tax bills now in hand, the Sierra Clubs analysis of
Wisconsin Department of Revenue figures shows that property taxes
for all Dane County communities are growing much faster than population, more than 3 1/2
times faster in fact. Town property taxes are growing five times faster than population.
In order to reduce this property tax growth, taxpayers should ask their local officials to
determine the costs of new growth before it happens, and ask new residents to pay their
fair share for additional schools, roads, police, fire, sewer, and other expensive
"We all know that property taxes are the worst tax of all and it is made worst by
growth and development," said Gary Bahr of Stop Taxes on Property (STOP), a tax
group. "This study shows that new development, especially in towns, costs us all and
drives up all our property taxes."
The study showed that between 1990-96, Dane Countys population grew by almost 12
percent, but total property taxes in all communities in the county grew by almost 43
percent, or 7 percent per year. All property taxes grew 3.57 times faster than population.
Dane County taxes grew slightly less at 3.46 times faster than population over the same
"As we all rush to the post office to pay higher property tax bills, we should ask
our leaders what they are doing to keep tax growth down," said Brett Hulsey, Director
of the Sierra Clubs Sprawl Costs Us All Project and study author. "We should
ask developers and new residents to pay their fair share so that the rest of us dont
have to pay more."
In Dane County towns, property taxes grew faster than
population by 4.98 times. While the towns population grew by 6.77 percent, total
town taxes grew by almost 34 percent. Madisons taxes grew relatively slower at only
3.55 times faster than population growth, with 11 percent population growth and 38 percent
"This study clearly shows that building in the towns is much more expensive for
taxpayers than building in the city," said Dave Cieslewicz, Executive Director of
1000 Friends of Wisconsin. "We can protect our communities, farmland and wallets by
guiding development toward areas where public services already exist and are more cost
effective, such as cities."
This study underscores the need for Dane County and all communities to determine the
cost of development prior to permitting new sprawl. "The Property Tax Impact
Statements will give all citizens the information on whether a development will increase
or reduce property taxes," said Hulsey. "We can use impact fees to ask
developers to pay for new schools, roads, and other expensive services to keep future tax
It also shows that additional growth in the townships could be very expensive to all
county taxpayers. Tax growth in cities will be lower. Further analysis is needed to
determine exactly what is creating the high costs and determine the costs of schools.
Targeted growth like the Vision 2020 plan will help keep all Dane County taxes lower and
protect Dane Countys families and environment.
Study Assumptions: We assumed that Wisconsin Department of Revenues total
property tax reflected the actual increase in costs of local government. We did not
include state tax subsidies such as the property tax credit. We also assumed that
inflation was relatively low between 1990 and 1996 and negligible. The relative difference
between city and town property tax growth remains the same, even taking inflation into
For a copy of the study, call 608-257-4994.
Up to Top | Printer-friendly version of this page