Understanding Property Taxes
Understanding Property Taxes
The first part to understand is that we have 3 different classes of property. Minerals are assessed at their full 100% value. Industrial property is assessed at a rate of 11.5%. And residential property, which is what we are discussing, is assessed at 9.5%. What this means is that if your house has fair market value as determined by the assessor of $100,000 (I know that is unrealistic for Teton County, but I am bad at math, so I have to use easy numbers) then you multiply by the 9.5% assessment rate, which gives you an assessment value of $9500. The mills are then taxed against the $9500 (the assessed value) and not the fair market value ($100,000 in this example). In Teton County we have about 60 mills right now, so the 60 mills would be taxed against the $9500, which gives you a tax bill of $570. (a mill is a tenth of a penny).
The County Commissioners set the mill levy for the next year every August. It is rare to see anyone there in attendance. Some mills are mandatory and the commissioners have no discretion. And before I talk about the different mills, it is useful to know the history of school finance. It used to be (prior to 2000) that your local school district was dependent on the property taxes collected in that county. This caused disparity. The mineral rich counties had nice schools and the non-mineral school districts struggled. The new system is that all of the property taxes for schools are collected in each county and put into one big pot of money in Cheyenne. The money is then re-distributed back to the school districts based on the number of kids enrolled in their schools. This has created a fairer school finance system.
K-12 Education Levies
District Levy 25 mills (mandatory)
County Levy 6 mills (mandatory)
Foundation Fund 12 mills
BOCES Region 5 .2
BOCES CWC .2
Additional County wide Levies
County Levy 12 mills (the county only does 9, the lowest in the state. The 9 mills include 2.605 for the library, .5 for fire, and .783 for the fair)
Weed and Pest 2 (our weed and pest only does .989)
Hospital 3 (the hospital has been debating going private, which would take these 3 mills away)
Town Levy 8 (the town does none. This is a big deal. We are the only town to do no property tax. They rely on sales tax instead)
School Recreation 1
Fire 3 (we only do .5 in our county and it is included in the county 9 mills, so really we do 0)
Cemetery 3 (paid for out of county general fund, so we have 0)
Then on top of these ones, there are additional costs depending on what neighborhood you live in. For example the Aspens charges $110 per lot that is added on to their tax bill to pay for water and sewer. The Bar Y charges an extra $1000. Granite Ridge tacks on an additional 16 mills for their operations.
The other piece of information to know is that 1 mill brings in about $1 million. But because assessment are going up, a mill will bring in more than a million this year.
So which mills do you tackle? Well for starters, the county has discussed implementing another penny of sales tax and reduce their 9 mills down accordingly. Thus the same revenue comes in, but through sales tax rather than property tax. This has benefits because then the visitors are helping to pay for services rather than just homeowners. The hospital has stated in the past that the $3 million that they get from property tax is a very small part of their revenue picture. It may be time to look at reducing or eliminating those 3 mills.
I should also point out that there are a lot of other potential mills available that our county doesn’t do, such as Museum, airport, building fund, county bond repayments, community colleges, band concert levy (not joking on that one), police pension levy, senior citizen center, flood control, regional transportation, downtown development, etc.
A mill in Teton County means a lot different than a mill in Campbell County (coal country). They can keep their mills low because one mill brings in a lot more money than our mill.
I think at this point the most interesting discussion going on is about implementing a new sales tax and decreasing the county 9 mills accordingly. In Wyoming the first 4 pennies are split with 70% to the state and 30% to the county and town. Then the 5th penny is our Special Excise Tax for special projects like pathways. The 6th penny is the local option sales tax which all of goes to the county and town. Presently we do 6 pennies, so the 4 mandatory pennies, plus the Special Excise penny, and the local option penny. We have the option of adding a 7th penny that is also for local use just like the 6th penny. One penny brings in about $10 million per year to the county and town.
I hope this was helpful.
State Representative Keith Gingery – Jackson Hole