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Holiday cards, gifts and letters updating the status of family and friends are regular items in everyone's mailbox this time of year. Mixed among those pleasant pieces of mail, Wauwatosa property owners will also find a 2016 tax bill.

The 2016 Wauwatosa property tax bills were mailed at the end of the day Dec. 13, according to information released by the city. Bill statements for each resident are available on the city’s website at www.wauwatosa.net and can be accessed through the Wauwatosa Property Tax Web Portal.

The due date to pay the tax bill is Jan. 31, 2017, but a good portion of citizens choose to pay before Dec. 31, 2016 to be able to apply the deduction when they file their 2016 federal and state taxes.

Wauwatosa Assistant Finance Director Derik Summerfield said that many of the city's residents and some of the commercial entities pay their bills by Dec. 31. He said the city expects to collect around 45 percent of the total bills by the end of the year, which works out to about 12,000 real estate property bill transactions.

Long lines

Summerfield said that as soon as Dec. 16 there were already long lines of people paying their bills at the Treasurer's office in city hall. To avoid the lines, the tax bills can be paid online, through the mail or through the 24-hour depository drop box at city hall.

The Treasurer's office regular business hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, but the office will be closed for holidays Friday, Dec. 23, Monday, Dec. 26 and Friday, Dec. 30. To accommodate bill-payers who wish to pay before the end of 2016, the office will have extended evening hours to 6:30 p.m. for Tuesday, Dec. 27, Wednesday, Dec. 28 and Thursday, Dec. 29.

The city said that the 2016 tax rate increased by 1.6 percent to $23.69, or 36 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. 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 of Wauwatosa.

The breakdown

The largest portion of the tax bill, about 35 percent, is derived from the Wauwatosa School District 2016-2017 budget, which was passed by the school board Oct. 24. The school district's tax rate increased 3.5 percent (from $8.59 to $8.90), but the school tax levy credit from the state decreased by $100,000 or 4.5 percent. Because of this, the net school rate will show an increase on the bill of 5.2 percent.

The city’s portion of the bill at 31 percent, a net average increase of 0.7 percent, is a product of the city budget passed by the common council Nov. 22. The increase of $11.81 to $55.05 is based on a $220,000 residential property.

The city tax rate increased from $7.62 to $7.68 per $1,000 assessed value, while the total assessed value of all properties in the city increased 3.2 percent, from $5.36 billion to $5.53 billion. A significant portion of the total assessed value increase is due to new development and construction in Wauwatosa.

How to pay

Taxpayers have an option to spread their payments out and can make three installment payments that are due Jan. 31, March 31 and May 31, 2017.

Balances, electronic copies of the original tax bill, payment history and receipts can be found on the city website. The online payment option comes with a small fee and the payer will receive a follow-up email confirmation. Payments made through the 24-hour depository or payments mailed in will be posted online the next day.

Taxpayers whose mortgage company maintains an escrow account for payment of property taxes should check with their mortgage company to determine how the tax payment is going to be made. Tax payments made directly by the bank are sent in bulk and are not generally received by the city until the last week in December, and removal of funds by the bank from the escrow account does not indicate that payment has been received by the city.

Taxpayer tips

Below are some property taxpayer tips issued by the city:

  • Utilize the tax web portal on the city website. The web portal is updated in real time. 
  • Tax payments are only considered valid after the checks are cleared. Taxpayers should verify that there are sufficient funds in their account before submitting payment.
  • Taxpayers are strongly discouraged from using their online bill pay service with their bank for tax payments. When online bill pay is used, a check is produced by the bank and then mailed to the city. This check can take five business days or longer to reach the city. The payment will be receipted using the date the check is received at the city.
  • Taxpayers can submit a payment at city hall using the 24-hour night depository located at the southwest corner of the city hall complex. A payment submitted before midnight will be receipted using that day’s date.
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