The city speaks
By Chris Meyer
Our TVs are filled with politicians telling us what they have done—or will do—to fix budgets and reduce taxes. At the municipal level, we rely on property taxes to pay for the services provided by cities, towns, villages, counties, and school districts.
Every December, mixed in with Christmas cards from family members, you find a tax bill from the City of Marshfield. While you pay this amount to the city of Marshfield, only part of that payment is actually for the city of Marshfield. Generally, about 40% of the amount you pay is for city services.
These services include police and fire protection, road construction and maintenance, snow plowing, garbage collection, water service infrastructure, storm water management, library services, cemetery maintenance, inspecting services (building, electrical, and plumbing), municipal court, parks and recreation services, and City Planning, Zoning and Economic Development services, plus many more.
Your tax bill is calculated using a “mill rate.” This is an amount, determined by each entity, which they need to charge for every $1000 of assessed value on property in their jurisdiction to cover budgeted costs. Marshfield’s mill rate, or tax rate, last year was $8.98.
This means that if you owned a $100,000 home, your taxes for the city of Marshfield were $898. The combined mill rate of all taxing entities in the city of Marshfield last year was $24.85 ($24.53 if you live in Marathon County). This means that your total tax bill on a $100,000 home was $2485 and $2453, respectively.
Each fall local units of government pour over proposals for the next year’s budgets. The Common Council in the city of Marshfield has maintained a flat tax rate for almost a decade. Last year the tax rate increased by 2.4 cents, an increase in annual taxes on a $100,000 home of $2.40.
The council authorized the budget to be prepared this year with a similar rate adjustment of between 2 and 4 cents. While an increase is still an increase, the ability of the council to continue to keep rate increases far below the rate of inflation for such an extended period of time shows that the efforts they have made in economic development are working. Every new home or business that is constructed creates new revenue that helps defray rising costs for the rest of us.
This is the time of year to pay close attention to the meetings of all of your locally elected leaders. They will be having discussions about tax rates and projects that are being proposed for next year. Provide feedback, and let them know what you feel is important for you and your family.