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Pamela Strittmater was among homeowners across the city who got a notice this week that the La Crosse completed a mass revaluation of all residential property for the 2019 assessment year.

“I’m in total shock,” said Strittmater, the president of the La Crosse Area Apartment Association.

The assessed value of the four properties Strittmater owns went up a combined $135,000. The values of two went up 32%, one went up 27% and the fourth went up 5%.

“Even my parents who live two blocks away, their house went up 10%,” Strittmater said.

According to the notice, the majority of the assessment changes are in the range of 25 to 50%, while some neighborhoods and property types will see larger or smaller assessments based on market conditions.

The numbers are concerning to property owners like Strittmater who are worried that the increase in assessed value will mean a jump in their property tax bill.

Jason Gilman

Jason Gilman, La Crosse City Planner

However, city officials assured the public Tuesday that higher assessed values don’t mean their taxes are automatically going up. That’s part of the reason why the update was sent out en masse, said La Crosse city planner Jason Gilman, who oversees the Assessor’s Office.

“It’s really important to do this citywide just for equity. If you only do certain sections of the city, obviously it shifts the tax burden,” Gilman said.

Some people’s bills will go up — especially for waterfront properties that are seeing some dramatic value increases — but others could see a lower bill, because the tax rate will change.

“They can’t take their new value and multiply it by the old (tax) rate. That’s not how it works,” Gilman said.

The increased values won’t automatically mean the city is getting more money. The amount assessed — and the amount to be spent — each year is set by the La Crosse mayor and Common Council in the fall.

“If spending is held constant and all the values go up, theoretically the (tax) rate should go down,” Gilman said.

Mayor Tim Kabat

Kabat

La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat said Tuesday he was committed to reducing spending as long as he’s the top executive in the city.

“When it comes to our budget and what we have to levy, we’re going to continue to hold the line. I’m not worried about that at all,” Kabat said.

His goal is to keep the total levy, which was set at $35.4 million in 2019, $34.4 million in 2018 and $34.6 million in 2013, constant, he said, and lower the tax rate, which the city has done for the last two years.

“We’re going to continue with our budget discipline,” he added.

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The revaluation was prompted by state regulations that require cities to keep the assessed values within 10% of fair market value and revalue properties every five years. La Crosse last saw a complete revaluation in 2008.

“It’s been quite a few years. The city frankly has fallen behind on our assessed value by state statutes,” Kabat said.

That’s a problem because if the city falls too far behind, the Department of Revenue issues a warning and can actually make adjustments for the city, which Gilman said weren’t as accurate as assessments by locals who are better in tune with neighborhood housing markets.

The delay was caused by the implementation of Market Drive software, which took longer than expected to get up and running, but is meant to improve the city’s appraisals and comply with DOR requirements.

“This is basically a step in the process to update our property values to better reflect what the markets are,” Kabat said.

With an aggressive housing market where housing prices are rising, the assess values rise to reflect that.

“We have a strong real estate market and the goal is to get people close to market value,” Gilman said.

Gilman and Kabat urged people with questions to either call the city assessor’s office at 608-789-7525 or visit cityoflacrosse.org.

People can dispute their assessment by filing an objection with the La Crosse City Clerk to go before the Board of Review at least 48 hours before its first scheduled meeting May 20.

“Would you sell your house for what we have it valued at? If the answer is, ‘No, I don’t think I could get that much for it,’ then we want to know why,” Gilman said.

The city recommends bringing evidence of either a recent sale price for their property or a recent sale price of property close in proximity and similar to their property. The oral testimony of a witness who has made a recent appraisal of the property is also accepted.

Strittmater said she and her family, as well as the Apartment Association, aren’t sure what their next steps are.

“We’re all trying to get a grasp on this and trying to figure it all out,” Strittmater said.

She expects the uncertainty will lead to her and her husband putting off some much-needed roof repairs on their home.

“With the unknown value of how much our property taxes are going to go up, it’s going to make us defer some maintenance that we need to do for our house,” Strittmater said.


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Jourdan Vian can be reached at jvian@lacrossetribune.com or follow her on Twitter at @Jourdan_LCT.

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City government reporter

Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

(9) comments

Veridic

Tara Johnson saved $400 a year off her property taxes by claiming her front yard as agricultural land, a full 5 acres, even though there is only room for no more than 2 acres. She has been doing this for the past 5 years. That's a total of $2,000 she cheated.

http://lacrossecounty.org/LandRecordsPortal/viewParcel.aspx?ParcelID=54655

Tara's taxes in 2013: $7,023.28 (land 12.82 acres residential)
Tara's taxes in 2014: $6,608.75 (land 7.82 residential, 5 acres agricultural.)

Maybe we all need to claim our yards as agricultural so we can get tax breaks too?

madmen60

The city should have done this incrementally to avoid huge increases and corresponding sticker shock. My advice? Be wary with this revaluation. I think huge tax increases are just around the corner. How else will the city pay for the La Crosse Center? Nothing is free.

Brice Prairie

With re-assessments, school referendums, and pet projects, our elderly on fixed incomes are getting the shaft. It is time that we adopt a some sort of property tax freeze for them. Six other states offer this, CT, NJ, OK, RI, TN, and TX. It doesn't even have to be on a state level!!! If any of the local politicians really cared you would see some effort made.

EstherXerxes

As a multiple homeowner in La Crosse County we've seen our share of issues with zoning and taxes that make us see red. We've been forced to either tear down or rebuild two garages, one of those damaged by what we determined to be the City's repeated addition of gravel to repair the alley and building it higher and higher each year. This making our garage a low spot for water accumulation . We were forced by the City to tear it down and/or apply for a building permit to replace it, because the water caused foundation and floor issues. We rebuilt it slightly larger and raised the garage to meet the alley. Much time, much expense, building permits, inspections and BIG increase in taxes coming, surprise!
{The median property tax (also known as real estate tax) in La Crosse County is $2,912.00 per year, based on a median home value of $148,700.00 and a median effective property tax rate of 1.96% of property value.
La Crosse County collects very high property taxes, and is among the top 25% of counties in the United States ranked by property tax collections. Of the seventy-two counties in Wisconsin, La Crosse County is ranked 15th by median property taxes, and 8th by median tax as percentage of home value. } The above bracketed info from https://www.propertytax101.org/wisconsin/lacrossecounty.

I heard on the news yet another round-a-bout in some remote neighborhood location is coming? Really? Who's paying for that? OH yeah, reassess us and get just a little more, lets be number one on the State's highest property tax ranking list, That is something to be proud of huh?

On Earth

There is no conspiracy.

Chipper

I think the real issue is why they waited 11 years to re-value when state statutes requires it every 5 years. Now the city is playing catch up and tax payers are shocked by the huge increase in assessed values. Software issues being blamed for the delay is unacceptable.

Beholden to the Truth

This whole thing is a racket. A few years back I used to like Gilman and Kabat and saw them as attempting to make things better for our community. Wow, was I wrong!

Now its obvious they've already spent too much, our budget is in shambles, and they're scrambling to get more money from the citizens and surrounding communities. Guess what? You overspent and we cant afford any more mistakes guys.

I see Mr. Gilman made close to $118,000 last year. He's not worth a quarter of that. Why are we paying him so much? Someone please shine a spotlight on that.

Whoever is creating the ideas and making decisions are not cutting it.

Upping the taxes with "software" upgrade revaluations on one of the most heavily taxed cities in the midwest? Not good. Blaming the state? Not good. We do understand some human beings are behind the "software" input decisions. And you guys want to blame it on a computer in the letter!

Explanation to the community about whats going on here? Complete Fail. You guys get a super sized F minus.

Cass Street "bumpouts"?

"Yes you've got it correct boss - we lose 75% of the parking, winter snow removal will be done with heavy construction equipment loaders at premium per hour prices but its all for the benefit of the pedestrian (who would not be able to cross without all this extra concrete and the bicyclist who simply veers out into incoming car traffic at every corner from West Ave on the way downtown". Not a win guys.

I am a cyclist btw and cannot believe the confused blunders made. People told you, just like we're now telling you about how much sense raising taxes makes.

Just wait until a cyclist is killed and sues the city for millions. I'm very serious. Any of the local meth heads and drug addicts our city is hoping to attract could've told you that design was a huge liability. All those who signed off on it need to have their bird brains re-examined.

I'll make it real simple. Please assemble some adults and make some adult decisions to get some controls on spending where we don't need it, and fix the roads where we do need it!! Thats a loud NO to tax increases.


41

City: 40K 100 yo homes; few asphalt patch $$, aver in $10K student $20K single $30K tech $42K Co $44K/house. Less income, jobs, schools enrolls & 50% Taxes Hike? buy it

canman

Kabat says “he was committed to reducing spending”, how does he explain the out of control spending by the parks department much less the 42 million Center renovation he now asking every town to help pay for. La Crosse is on the path to bankruptcy.

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