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School Board weighs levy to make up $2 million

Sept. 26, 2012

The Wauwatosa School District finds itself $2 million short after making a payment for that amount to the city, and the School Board is debating how to make up the difference.

Over a period of years, the city of Wauwatosa collected millions of dollars in property tax from the Wheaton Franciscan outpatient health care facility at 201 N. Mayfair Road. A state Supreme Court ruling last year in a lawsuit filed by Wheaton found that a large portion of the facility was tax exempt, and, factoring in interest, the city was ordered to pay Wheaton $8.4 million in wrongly collected taxes.

A ruling by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue approved the city's request to recover $6.2 million in taxes it collected for other entities, including the Wauwatosa School District.

The district paid its share to the city, $2.035 million, out of its fund balance, a few months ago, and now wants to make up the money.

Board members considered three options at their meeting last week. One would have the district add the $2 million to its levy in one year; the second would have it levied over five years; and the third would have it spread over 10.

The state has agreed not to count the extra collection against the stringent levy limits now in place, said John Mack, the district's director of business services.

Mack said that making the $2 million levy collection in a single year would drive up the school tax payment 4.81 percent above the district's base levy of last year, making for a roughly $102 higher tax payment for a house valued at $250,000.

To collect the $2 million over 10 years, it would amount to $10 more per year on that same house.

Board members sought a recommendation from Superintendent Phil Ertl, but he declined to offer one, saying it was not a policy decision, but one with political ramifications.

The board sought more information from Mack, and is expected to vote at its next meeting.

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