What’s in Store for School Taxes

Some levies are up, some down, and all tax rates are decreasing as property values rise

Property tax rates from Door County public schools will decline, but some levies are up, as are property values.

In Gibraltar Area School District, a large increase in taxable property valuations districtwide will allow the district to lower its mill rate to $2.74 per thousand dollars of taxable value. That comes out to $274 per $100,000.

“Last year it was $2.98 and we were anticipating, with the approved referendum, the mill rate would rise to $3.17,” said Brett Stousland, superintendent.

But the district’s overall levy has increased, as have property values. That’s true for the Southern Door School District as well. In both cases, that means a lower mill rate may not equate to tax relief.

“While the mill rate is slightly lower, if individual property was reassessed, those individual taxes may increase along with the value of their property,” said Southern Door School District’s interim superintendent, Tony Klaubauf, in an addendum to an Oct. 23 board meeting agenda.

The increase in property values have come as municipalities across Door County are performing revaluations. When assessed values become out of sync with market values by more than 10%, the state requires the town, village or city to revalue all properties within its boundaries. 

That’s happened in many Door County municipalities over the past two years, as well as in communities across the state. In 2022, 9.5% of Wisconsin municipalities completed a revaluation of all property within their boundaries, the highest mark in at least the last decade, according to the Wisconsin Policy Forum. 

In addition, the school district is only one of the taxing authorities that levy property taxes on Door County property owners. The other three are the municipality, the County of Door and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

Gibraltar Debt Showing Up in Taxes

The Gibraltar School District’s total tax levy is climbing 13.9% to $16.3 million. The increase is due entirely to debt service for the upcoming reconstruction of central portions of the school. Stousland said the district is in a position to pay off the $29.8 million in debt for the project in five or six years rather than the scheduled 15.

Lower Tax Rate, Stable Levy in Sevastopol

At Sevastopol School District, a tax base that grew by 20.7% from $1.98 billion in fall 2022 to $2.39 billion this fall will allow the district to decrease the mill rate from $6.11 per thousand dollars of property value to $5.06. The district’s tax rate increased from $6 to $6.99 after the building referendum passed in 2019-20 but has declined each year since.

Superintendent Kyle Luedtke said the Sevastopol district will levy the same total of taxes as last year: $12.1 million. The district will continue to pay extra principal to reduce the debt for the new building.

He said the district will keep up with cost increases and cover a $616,000 deficit by dipping into its savings. Auditors told Luedtke the district fund balance, at $4 million, was about twice as much as needed.

Lower Tax Rate, Lower Levy in Sturgeon Bay

Sturgeon Bay’s school board on Oct. 26 approved a December 2023 tax levy of $10,691,221, including $9.3 million for the general fund, $929,623 for the referendum debt levy and $440,000 for the Capital Expansion Levy.

The Sturgeon Bay district is requesting $1,159 less in this year’s $10,691,221 levy than last year, and projects a tax rate of $7.55 per thousand. The district mill rate was $9.21 in 2022-23.

Sturgeon Bay Business Manager Jacob Holtz said he believes $7.55 is the lowest tax rate the district has had. Overall, districtwide property assessments increased from $1.16 billion last year to $1.4 billion.

Higher Levy Supports Capital Improvements at Southern Door

At Southern Door, the increase in assessments will in turn result in a $289,000 loss in state aid, adding to the local tax burden, according to the business office. Interim superintendent Tony Klaubauf said he had never seen property assessments increase so dramatically, in the 20% to 30% range in some cases. On Oct. 23, the board approved an increase in the total tax levy to $16,180,540 from $13,471,885 from 2022-23. Much of that increase results from the voter-approved capital-improvement projects. The Southern Door property tax rate will decline from $8.70 to $8.52.

The district will continue to make extra principal payments to cut interest costs and potentially boost the district bond rating, Klaubauf informed the board.

Slight Bump in Washington Island Levy 

On Washington Island, the overall assessments grew by 19.8% from $376.2 million to $450.7 million. The district increased its local property tax request (levy) from $1,524,850 for last school year to $1,576,325 for this school year. The property tax rate will be $3.50 per thousand, down from $4.04 last year, said Sue Cornell, district business manager.

Mill Rates Defined

A tax “mill” rate is expressed in mills per dollar value, or the amount per $1,000 of the assessed value of a property. If a school district’s “mill” rate is $7.55, for example, that’s $755 per $100,000 of taxable property.

Below are the 2024 mill rates for the five school districts in Door County. The district develops the mill rate by dividing the total amount it wants to collect in property taxes (the levy) by the total equalized value of all properties within its district. 

  • Gibraltar – $2.74
  • Sevastopol – $5.06
  • Southern Door – $8.52
  • Sturgeon Bay – $7.55
  • Washington Island – $3.50

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