Is your school tax a line item on your property tax bill?
November 14, 2013 2:34 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for examples of states or localities (in the US) where school tax payments are separate (either separate bills, or line items) from property tax bills. This is the case in NY State where the school tax bill is a separate bill. If anyone knows a comprehensive source on which states do and don't do this, that would be great. Otherwise your anecdotes as property tax payers in specific states will be helpful, even better if you know where this is explained on a state government website. I am trying to figure out where people know (as in NY) exactly how much money they are contributing to the local school system (or think they are, since they are also contributing to federal and other forms of school support).
posted by cushie to Law & Government (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Here is what they generally look like in all counties in Oregon.
posted by Danf at 2:45 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

In Vermont it's the same bill but split out so that you can see it on the tax bill separate from your taxes that go to "other" (library, town management, snow plowing, cemetery upkeep, all the other things the town pays for). The two parts of the taxes are also discussed separately at Town Meeting, at least in my town. I suspect this varies widely by town. There is actually a specific evening set aside to talk about the school budget and ask questions and go over it that is separate from the main town meeting which determines all the other tax items to be decided upon.

We also have a screwy tax allocation setup in Vermont (socialism!) which is complex and discussed here (pdf). You can see the actual rate you are paying for school taxes via this website here. The actual amount is, of course, on your tax bill. Here's a crazy PDF that spells out Education Tax Rates by town also.
posted by jessamyn at 2:55 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

According to this document (pg 18) the education rate has to be split out on the tax bills in VT.
posted by jessamyn at 2:57 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I owned a house in Illinois, it was a line item, and approximately 1/2 my total property tax bill. This percentage example from the state revenue dept. seems to bear that out. But it was not a separate bill. I was also in the 3rd largest school district in the state, tho'. So that was pretty high, I think.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:58 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

PA is kind of crazy - we've got so many individual municipalities and then we also have school districts. I live in a tiny borough that along with a couple of other boroughs, make up a school district. My school tax bill is separate and I pay it to the borough which in turn gives it to the school district.
posted by nnk at 3:10 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Michigan, I do believe.
posted by Lornalulu at 3:35 PM on November 14, 2013

The key variable is whether the schools are funded via a separate taxing jurisdiction with its own levy or under the auspices of a municipality. Almost every state in the south, west, and midwest feature separate taxing districts that ignore municipal boundaries; a given city may be served by multiple school districts. In many mid-Atlantic states the school district boundaries comport with those delineating municipalities, but they are separate taxing districts. In all of these states, the school district shows up as a line item on the levy, if not as a line item on the bill (but it's easy to do the math).

However, in many New England states (Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island for sure), the towns/cities run their own school systems which they, confusingly, sometimes call their "school district". Typically it's the municipality's biggest budget expenditure. Exceptions: New Hampshire has a statewide property tax for education. Maine has four different kinds of school districts that sometimes are so small as to only address a single school. Note: New England is different because there are no unincorporated county areas, unlike in the rest of the country.
posted by carmicha at 3:44 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

In Texas, it is broken out by municipality and school district. It is not unusual for a school district to draw taxes from pieces of several counties.
posted by tamitang at 3:53 PM on November 14, 2013

In Hamilton county Ohio and in michigan they are separate line items on property tax bills.

this website Explains how each state funds it's schools, which might be helpful.
posted by dpx.mfx at 4:12 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

In 2011 I had these line items on my tax bill as a resident of Lake County, Ill.

Grayslake High School District 127: $3,191.43
Grayslake High School District 127 pension: $ 69.94
Comm cons district 46: $3,570.96
Comm cons district 46 pension: $111.73
College of Lake County: $204.70
posted by qsysopr at 4:38 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

It is a line item in Illinois (actually, often two line items or more, but it's clear). Illinois has more distinct taxing bodies than any other state -- around 8,500, according to the Tribune -- but they don't each send out tax bills; the county assessor for each county sends them out on behalf of all the other taxing bodies in the county, and then remits the appropriate amounts to the appropriate bodies and goes after non-payors and whatnot. The bill has a whole bunch of line items for all the different taxing bodies -- off the top of my head, I pay to the city, county, school district, park district, community college district, and some other small random ones.

Here's an example from Cook County. Note that this hypothetical taxpayer has a K-8 district and a high school district that are separate, so they actually pay to TWO school districts (plus the community college district).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:40 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

In California the base 1% prop 13 tax rate is a single line item and if you want to know how much of that is going to schools, you'll want to call your friendly local county auditor. Voter-approved school bonds and parcel taxes are listed as separate line items.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:41 PM on November 14, 2013

Note that in the Oregon example Danf linked above, there are three separate lines for school taxes -- one general school district tax up top, and two bond measures (one which isn't obvious, the SD #1J one) down below.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:41 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I own several properties in Central Florida. They do break it down for you.
This is the breakdown for a house in Winter Haven, Florida, which is in Polk County. (Note: the house is on a lake, which feeds into the Peace River basin, so the house also has water fees)

General Polk County Fund: $130.46
Public Schools Funds (assessed by State Law): $99.64
Public School Funds (assessed by Local School Board): $42,71
Municipality of Winter Haven Fund: $110.01
Lake Region Water Management Fund: $9.49
Southwest Florida Water Management Fund $7.46
posted by Flood at 5:50 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

curry county, oregon property tax bills, such as i paid last month, have line items for the school district, the library, the cemetery and the vfd, along with general unallocated county revenue, and they're still astonishingly low compared to my native california.
posted by bruce at 6:02 PM on November 14, 2013

In NH, the local school cost is by far the largest part of the property tax. Here's a state summary of the rates. The school cost is usually broken out by state and local. Here's an example from a small town in New Hampshire:

$27.54 - 2011 Tax Rate (per $1000)

$5.06 Town
$17.17 School (local)
$2.43 State School
$2.88 County
posted by jason6 at 8:07 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've owned houses in two states. Neither Massachusetts nor Maryland break out school tax as a line item, nor are there separate bills mailed. There are line items, but school tax isn't one of them.
posted by tckma at 8:18 AM on November 15, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks to all of you (and more answers are welcome) - this is very helpful and exactly what I was looking for.
posted by cushie at 8:53 AM on November 15, 2013

Even if you could get this information, it may not actually tell you what you want to know. Just because the school district does/does not appear as a line item on your property tax bill doesn't mean that they aren't getting revenue from some of the other levies. In some jurisdictions, school districts can impose special taxes, which show up as a separate line item,* over and above the revenue they receive from other property tax courses, whether or not there is regularly a line item for the district already.

But yes, the fact is that money which shows up as going to the county or the city or whatever may well wind up back in the school district's hands, even if the school district has its own line item, e.g., the county paying the school district for setting up state-mandated special education units, etc. Frustratingly enough, the reverse is also sometimes true, as school districts often pay other local government units for services, e.g., utilities, police presence, etc. A huge element of local politics is frequently tension between school districts and county/municipal governments over who is going to pay whom for what and how much. The tension arises because school districts are frequently governmental units independent of counties/municipalities, often with non-uniform jurisdictional borders. So just because a school district shows up on a line item does not mean that all of that money stays with the school district or that they aren't getting money from other sources. In some cases it may not even be a useful rule of thumb.

*E.g., to fund capital improvement projects or pay for a particular bond issue.
posted by valkyryn at 8:56 AM on November 15, 2013

Mod note: Please answer the question asked and don't turn this into a debate/discussion about school taxes.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:07 AM on November 15, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, Jessamyn- I am indeed specifically interested in how the tax bill/bills appear and whether school funding is a separate line item. For the purposes of this question, I don't need to know who is actually paying for what. Thanks, and more answers still welcome!
posted by cushie at 10:34 AM on November 15, 2013

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