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Wauwatosa property tax bills are on their way

Dec. 5, 2012

Property tax bills are expected to be mailed by the end of Friday, said city business supervisor Derik Summerfield.

But billing statements already are available on the city's website, Wauwatosa.net, including the home's fair market value, assessed value, amount of tax owed and other information.

The tax rate for a city of Wauwatosa resident for 2012 is $22.70 per $1,000 dollars of assessed valuation. That's an increase of 79 cents, or 3.6 percent, from last year's $21.91.

The rate is based on the taxes collected by six entities: the state of Wisconsin, Milwaukee County, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, Milwaukee Area Technical College, the Wauwatosa School District and the city.

The school district is easily responsible for the largest portion of the tax bill, at 36.4 percent, or $8.72 of the $22.70. That is followed by the city at 29.7 percent ($7.13); the county, 19.1 percent ($4.57); MATC, 8 percent ($1.92); MMSD, 6.2 percent ($1.47); and the state, 0.6 percent (15 cents). A school tax credit of $1.26 per $1,000 dollars of valuation is applied to reach the given rate.

Two other flat-rate discounts apply to many properties: an $88.50 lottery credit for those homes that are primary residences and a $63.49 first-dollar credit for properties that are not vacant lots.

A first installment payment is due Jan. 31. The first installment represents 34 percent of the tax bill, minus the lottery credit, plus any special charges and delinquent utilities due. Two other payments of 33 percent are due March 31 and May 31.

For a home valued at $240,000, the 2012 tax rate represents a net payment of $5,297.03, factoring in credits. That's about $200 more than a home of the same value was taxed in 2011.

This year, the city has initiated a streamlined escrow payment processing system, Summerfield said.

Many of the largest banks in the country - JPMorgan, Citigroup, US Bank and others - have signed up to make escrow payments on property taxes directly to the city through a vendor called CoreLogic.

The payments are automated, and are directly posted to the city's tax collection system; the taxpayer can check on the status of their payment without a call to the city. The banks will send the tax due - not more, if more was escrowed - which is an additional convenience to the city. If the escrow collected is less than the taxes due, the bank will send what it has, and the taxpayer will have to pay the difference.

About 3,000 city taxpayers have mortgage holders that send escrow checks to the city directly. Half of those, about 1,500, have a bank that is signed up for the automated CoreLogic payments.

Summerfield said a staff member can manually process about 50 payments an hour, so the CoreLogic system saves the city about 30 staff hours - and that savings will likely grow as more banks sign on. And, by automated checking by taxpayers, it saves the city a phone call from a worried resident who wonders if the city got his or her check.

"We do get a lot of phone calls and personal contacts about that," Summerfield said.

Another new efficiency is an automated pet licensing system. Some people come in and pay their property taxes, water bill and pet license fee all at the same time. Instead of a paper form that takes 5 minutes to fill out, the pet license will be processed out of database in just a minute, he said.

"Pet licensing was pretty much the biggest time consumption of any payment that we would get," he said.

Sending checks to taxpayers whose escrow payments were too high is another time-consuming task at tax time.

The city handles about 26,000 transactions a year, including 14,000 or more in December, Summerfield said.

Look online

To access your bill, go to the city's website, Wauwatosa.net and follow these links.

Click the "Property Tax" link on the lower left side.

Click "Link to City of Wauwatosa Web Portal."

Click "Proceed to Site" and enter your house number and street name in the boxes provided.

Click "Search for Parcels," and the tax button on the upper left side. Make sure the tax year in the upper left corner says 2012.

Finally, click "Print tax details.

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