Understanding the Proposed Property Tax Statement

By David A. Marlette, District Superintendent and Lisa Raiter, District Finance Officer

This is the time of year that each resident receives the document ‘Notice of Proposed Property Taxes’. This notice lists the total tax rate levied by each taxing jurisdiction (school district, county and city or township).  The document looks simple enough, but the information that goes into the document is anything but simple. In this article, I will attempt to explain the different levy components which make up the Watertown-Mayer School District total levy amount:

Equity Revenue:

Designed to equalize local tax burdens between property rich school districts and property poor school districts, this revenue is distributed to districts through state aid and local levy.

Operating Referendum Revenue:

Operating Referendums rates are determined by a local district voter approved amounts per student. These referendums tax only the value of the house, garage, and surrounding one acre of land only for agricultural property. In the fall of 2011, the WM ISD #111 approved a $500 per student operating referendum, for ten (10) years, with an annual inflationary factor included.

Facility Bond Referendum Revenue:

Facility Bond Referendums are determined by a voter approved building project and all district property is included in these tax calculations. In 2006, the WM ISD #111 approved a $52,000,000 building project referendum. In 2012, the school district re-financed the bond loan, due to low interest rates, and saved the taxpayers of Watertown-Mayer ISD #111 over $2.5 million dollars over the life of the loan.

Operating Capital for items that have a life expectancy of two (2) or more years:

Funded though state aid and local levy, currently the split is 58% local levy and 42% state aid.


A district may levy the amount necessary to pay the district’s unemployment insurance costs.

Safe Schools Levy:

This levy allows districts to levy for costs associated with student and staff safety issues.  The levy equals $30 per pupil unit and is used for School Counselors, Liaison Officers, training, and safety equipment.

Career and Technical:

District’s who offer career and technical programming are eligible for revenue funded through local levy.

Health and Safety:

Districts with building problems related to health or safety concerns, may submit an application to the Commissioner of Education for authorization to receive health and safety revenue.

Lease Levy:

If a school district pays rent on leased facilities, the school may get approval to levy for the payment.

Deferred Maintenance:

This levy is computed by multiplying $60 by the pupil units and the average age of the school district buildings. This revenue is used for things as fixing roofs, HVAC Systems, Parking lots, and repair of school equipment.

Community Education:

These are programs that are intended to maximize the community’s use of public schools and to expand the involvement of community members who have skills and knowledge to share.  Community Education programs are paid through both state aid and local levy for General Community Education, Youth Services, and Youth Before and After-School Enrichment.

Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE):

ECFE is funded through state aid, local levy and participant fees. The district can also levy for ECFE home visits which is $1.60 times the number of district residents under 5 years old.

School – Age Care:

Districts may offer school-age programs for children in kindergarten through grade six. Any additional costs of providing services to children with disabilities are funded through local levy.

Truth-in-Taxation Meeting:

This meeting is held each year to explain the amounts that are being funded with the current year’s levy. Watertown-Mayer’s Truth-in-Taxation Meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Dec. 17at the Watertown City Hall.

Outlook for Proposed Property Tax for 2013:

The overall tax changes for 2013 are a mixed-bag for our property owners due to changes at the State and County and School levels. Some of the moving parts are as follows:

  • The Watertown-Mayer School District No. 111 has seen the following Local Levy changes. Our General Fund request is down by 21.73 percent, our Community Education is up 1.44 percent, and our Debt Service is up 13.29 percent due to an acceleration of our building bond payoff for an overall increase of $127,911.12 or 2.33 percent:
  • The 2012 State Legislature made changes to the Homestead Credit/Exclusion which has raised or lowered taxes on some properties depending on the property re-classification.
  • The County has adjusted the values of all residential property to reflect the lower estimated market value due to the recession. This means that most home owners may receive a reduction in their tax statements for 2013.
  • The County has adjusted the higher estimated market value for our district agricultural property due to higher land prices. This means that many of our land owners may see higher tax statements for 2013.
  • The overall general effect of the above readjustments will cause our district market values to drop dramatically. Two years ago our district had a market value tax base over $1.118 trillion dollars and now our market tax base is at $950,381,000. What this means to our district tax payers is that we have a smaller tax base to collect our tax payments from and it creates a situation where all taxpayers now pay a larger percentage per $1,000 of property market tax value to cover the approved tax payments for our counties, cities, and schools.