Frequently Asked Questions



What does an Assessor do?
The assessor is a City employee or contractor that is Certified and regulated by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue whose job it is to discover, describe and assess all taxable real and personal property in the City of St. Francis in a fair, equitable and uniform manner. The assessor is not involved in the collection of property taxes.

How does the assessor value property?
Wisconsin Law requires that property assessed values be based on fair market value. This is accomplished when we do a citywide revaluation. Estimating the market value of your property in the City of St. Francis is a matter of determining the price a typical buyer would pay for it in its present condition. Some factors the assessor considers are: what similar properties are selling for, what it would cost to replace your property, the rent it may earn, and any other factors that affect value. It is important to remember that the assessor does not create this value, but rather interprets what is happening in the market place.

What if I think my assessment might not be correct?
Gather some information to help you to decide! Please be aware that we can only discuss your assessed value, not your tax bill or the amount of taxes the Common Council spends. It is the responsibility of your elected and appointed officials to decide how much money to collect in each year’s tax levy, including the Common Council, the School Board, the County Board, State Legislature, Metro Milwaukee Sewerage District and MATC. The Assessor is responsible under State statute to divide the burden of tax equitably in each community. First, you should make sure that our permanent records describe your property accurately. Secondly, you should make sure that your assessment is in line with homes similar to yours in neighborhoods like yours. Finally, you should make sure that your assessment is based on actual sales prices of similar properties at the time we performed our last “market-adjusted” Citywide Revaluation. If this research does not clear things up for you, the next step would be to schedule an appointment to meet with a staff appraiser during the “Open Book” period identified on your assessment notice to discuss your assessment. Bring along any evidence you’ve gathered and/or a copy of a recent professional appraisal if you have one. If after your meeting with a staff appraiser you have the option to appeal your assessment before the Board of Review. To request a hearing, you should obtain and complete an assessment objection packet from the City Clerk to schedule a date to testify. Once the packet is submitted, the Clerk’s office will schedule an appointment for you to appear to offer verbal testimony before the Board of Review Typically in the late summer or Fall of each year. The Board is made up of citizens who are knowledgeable about the real estate market, appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Common Council. It is the Board’s duty to hear verbal testimony and examine supplementary evidence presented by both the taxpayer and the Assessor’s office and to determine if the Assessment is in error and should be overturned.

How do I know if my assessment is fair?
First, you should make sure that our permanent records describe your property accurately. Secondly, you should compare the actual assessment of properties similar to your own. To know if your assessment is fair and equitable, you must first determine if your property is bearing its fair share of the tax burden. Make a list of properties like your own in your area, and check their assessments periodically to make sure that they are in line with each other. The amount of money you pay on your property tax bill should be about the same as your neighbors with similar homes around the City. The local assessor’s job is to make sure that happens in order that the burden of tax is evenly spread out according to the relative value of each property. According to the Wisconsin Legislature, for instance, if you’re comparing Milwaukee Bungalows, the one in the best neighborhood with the best condition should have the highest tax burden and the one in the least desirable neighborhood in the worst condition should pay the least. All the other Milwaukee Bungalows should be between these extremes in order of best to poorest. As long as your home seems to be in line, your share of the total tax levy should be fair. Finally, you should make sure that your assessment is based on actual sales prices of similar properties at the time we performed our last “market-adjusted” Citywide Revaluation. This can be done by looking at sale prices of similar homes or buildings in comparable parts of the City. Sales and assessment information is available in our office and open to the public for review during regular office hours. You may also choose to contact a private contract appraiser or real estate salesperson to estimate the probable selling price of your property if sold now. However, keep in mind that the job of the Assessor is not to determine what your house is worth today. It is instead to divide the burden of tax fairly and equitably between similar properties using historical sales trends as.

If after discussing my assessment with the Assessor's office staff I still think the assessment is not correct, what should I do?
You should arrange to appear before the Board of Review to offer sworn testimony and other evidence supporting an alternative estimate of value. The City Clerk's office will provide you with two forms approved by the Department of Revenue to complete, sign and return. The “Intent to Object to Property Assessment” form and “Property Assessment Objection” form. Both forms must be timely filed to preserve your standing to request a hearing. The City Clerk’s office will then schedule a time for the Board of Review to hear your testimony and develop a ruling. According to State Statute, the Board of Review must meet annually within 30 days of the second Monday in May. It is too late to file an objection when you receive your tax bill in December. Paying your taxes under protest does not constitute an assessment objection. You must have met with the Assessor’s office to discuss your assessment prior to timely filing the required forms to preserve your right to appear before the Board of Review.

What is the Board of Review?
The Board of Review is made up of 5 citizens appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Common Council. It is the Board's duty to hear verbal testimony presented by the taxpayer, the assessor’s office and other expert witnesses. Cross-examination may occur by the Board or by parties in attendance. The Board’s responsibility is to consider the evidence presented to determine whether the assessment calculated by the Assessor is incorrect. State law places the burden of proof on the property owner under 70.47(8)(i) to demonstrate through sworn testimony that the assessor’s value is not correct. Under law, the Assessor’s value is presumed to be correct. The objector must clearly demonstrate that the assessor’s value is in error; a simple demonstration that other potential values are reasonable is not sufficient. Only relevant verbal testimony given at the hearing will be considered by the Board. Stating that property taxes are too high is not considered relevant testimony. Exhibits may also be entered into evidence to support any verbal testimony that is provided.

What happens after the Board of Review makes its decision?
Upon the conclusion of the testimony portion of the Board of Review hearing, the Board will consider the evidence and provide a ruling to the Clerk by Roll Call vote. At that time the Board may provide a written notice of the Board’s decision to you or such notice will be mailed to you at the soonest available opportunity. If you do not agree with the Board of Review's determination, the notice will contain information on how you may appeal the Board's decision.

What is a "Valid" or Market Sale?
A “valid” sale is one that can be used to estimate what other buyers would pay for other properties, because both the buyer and seller were typically motivated, well informed and previously unconnected. These are factors that must be true for real give and take negotiations to take place. Market value is defined as the amount a typical, well-informed purchaser would be willing to pay for a property. The seller and buyer must be unrelated, the seller must be willing, but not under pressure to sell, and the buyer must be willing, but not under any obligation to buy. The property must be on the market for a reasonable length of time, the payment must be in cash or its equivalent, and the financing must be typical for that type of property. An appraiser must determine if the price paid for a property is a price most typical, well informed and unpressured buyers would have paid for a property before using it to help estimate what other “open-market, arms-length buyers and sellers would agree to.

Do the market values of all properties change at the same rate and over the same time frame?
Significant differences exist between individual properties and the neighborhoods where they are located. In particular areas of the City, sales prices may change dramatically over a short period of time. In other areas, any increase may not be significant. Different styles of property in a single neighborhood may also experience variation in sale prices. For example, a single-story house may be in high demand while two-story houses may lag on the market or vice-versa. In addition, older homes in the same area may be rising in value more slowly than newer homes. Generally, commercial and industrial properties do not appreciate at the same rate as single family residential homes. There are numerous factors to be considered in St. Francis, which will cause each property's values to differ. Some of the factors that can affect value are location, condition, size, quality, number of baths, basement finish, garages and many others.

Why do assessors avoid considering foreclosure or estate sales when calculating assessments?
First and foremost, since assessments need to be equitable and fair, we do not change an assessment to match any single sales price, even if it is an open-market, arms-length sale. Assessments are based on “typical and usual” prices for each type of property, and a single “non-market” sale doesn’t tell us much about that. To find the typical market price range, we need to look only at open-market, arms-length sales over time. To help determine which prices are “typical and usual” prices, the Wisconsin Legislature and Court system have developed a test to make sure that we do not consider non-market sales in our analysis. They recognized that certain property sales occur under unique or unusual circumstances and are therefore not good indicators of what the open market is doing. According to their test, you can identify an open-market, arms-length sale if:

  1. No personal, business or other relationship exists between the buyer and seller. This is known as the “arms-length rule”. (if you already know each other, there is a high likelihood that you were willing to make a deal which was not available to others)
  2. Both buyer and seller came to the deal freely and were not under any undue compulsion or duress to act. This is known as the “no pressure rule”. (Includes foreclosure, sudden job change, divorce, death of owner or the need to liquidate assets fast to get cash, etc.)
  3. Both the buyer and seller know what “going prices” are and can negotiate with full knowledge of current market conditions and are acting in their own best interests. This is known as the “market knowledge rule”
  4. The property was marketed for sale in a typical way for a typical period of time in an open-market. If it takes 10 months to sell a Cape Cod that is priced right in the current market, 6 months at a high price is not typical. This is known as the “equal exposure rule”.
  5. Payment is in cash or its equivalent in typical market terms. Sale price should be free from special, creative or unusual financing arrangements or concessions for any interested party. Unusual financing terms have a dramatic “non-market” effect on sale price because all buyers do not have access to similar financing considerations. Therefore the price cannot be considered to be typical of the market. This is known as the “market-finance rule”.

All open-market, arms-length sales are considered together, along with property income and construction cost data if needed, to determine the range of values that will be assigned to individual properties as their assessments. In this way, we try never to use just one sale (either high or low) to determine assessed value. This “normalizing” process does often result in assessments being different than recent sale prices, but it is an important step since the law requires us to make sure that similar properties have similar assessments. 

What is a Revaluation?
Revaluations are performed periodically to assure that the burden of tax is distributed equitably and uniformly among property owners. State law requires municipalities to adjust assessments if a majority of market sale prices are more than 10% above or below the assessment. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue-Equalization Bureau monitors sales activity statewide and notifies each community if their assessments should be adjusted.
A Revaluation is a thorough review of assessed values throughout the City, when it is clear that open-market, arms-length real estate prices have increased or decreased enough to require that the assessments be adjusted to keep in step. During the Revaluation process, all assessed values are examined and adjustments are made where necessary to "catch-up" with market trends.

In Wisconsin, assessments are simply “snapshot” estimates of value whose chief purpose is to divide the burden of tax evenly and fairly between all properties in a community. Because they are only snapshots and may not be updated for several years, they ARE NOT good estimates of a property’s value TODAY.

As described by Chapter 70 of the Wisconsin statutes and the Wisconsin Property Assessment Manual, property assessments are calculated “en masse” or “as-a-group” in a process called Mass Appraisal. This mass appraisal process is based on analysis of Sale Prices, Construction Costs and Rents over a period of time.

Over time, there are high sales and low sales, but the assessor looks for the range of sale prices which is most common for each type of property to derive assessed values. It is important to remember that the assessor may only react to what happens in the market.

By design, Mass Appraisal does not address day-to-day fluctuations, but rather attempts to “smooth out” short-term variability by looking at the market over a period of years to understand how markets change overall.  This approach is very different from that used by private appraisers, who must rely on a few up-to-the-minute sales to satisfy risk-averse lenders, and may yield widely different results.

Will I be notifieed if there is a change in my assessment?
In the Spring of each year, a Notice of Change of Assessment will be mailed to all property owners whose assessment has changed from the previous year, prior to the annual Board of Review.  This change could have resulted from a Citywide revaluation or from a change in the physical nature of the property such as an improvement or demolition. Each year, the Tax Bill and Assessment Notice will be mailed to the mailing address on record.

How can my assessment change when I haven't done anything to my property?
General economic conditions in a community affect the value of real estate located there. In times of high demand, property values increase more rapidly and when buyers are scarce property values may rise slowly or even fall. The forces of supply & demand work continuously to affect prices in a free market. Other factors such as changing interest or inflation rates and property tax laws will influence the value of real estate as well. Periodically, the local assessor must adhere to State guidelines and “adjust” assessments in each community to “catch-up” with all of these changes. This catch-up period is an attempt to “reset” assessments in the City to reflect recent market changes and is called a Citywide Revaluation

Can my assessment change in the years between citywide revaluations?
The only time a property assessment typically changes between revaluations is when we become aware that the owner of the property has made improvements that resulted in the property becoming more desirable than houses of similar age and style. If our record of the home did not reflect these improvements, even if they occurred in the past, a correction will be made to reflect the home as it is now.  Alternatively, if a desirable feature is removed, like a garage, deck or central air conditioner, the home may be less desirable and the record should be corrected to reflect that change as well. These “nuts and bolts” kinds of changes can affect both your assessment and your tax burden along the way. We may review a property record for many reasons, including a citywide “records review’ program or as a result of a recent building permit or sale of the property to a new owner. In such a review, market conditions are not taken into consideration.

What will happen to my assessment if I improve my property?
Generally speaking, improvements that make your home more appealing to potential buyers will result in an increased willingness to pay more for the property than they otherwise would.  If buyers are willing to pay more for your property after the improvements are complete, the assessment must be adjusted to match the new category of “nicer” homes you now compare well to.  Improvements that typically will increase the market value of your home include an increase to the living area, new or expanded garage, substantial modernization of kitchens or baths, central air conditioning, fireplaces, or extensive remodeling among others.

I have recently built a new home. Will cost to build my property be considered when my assessment is calculated?
The cost to build your property is in many ways a unique figure, but it may shed light on the replacement cost of your property if it has been built recently. However, it should be said that it may or may not reflect the current market value of your property. It is one of several approaches that are considered when an assessment is assigned to your property.

I have a refinance appraisal- Will you change my assessment to the appraiser's value?
We will be pleased to review any professionally prepared appraisal completed within the past year. Upon examination, it is common to find substantial appraisal errors and a wide disparity between the few comparable sales used and estimated value selected on one hand & all the other available comparable sales and the value they support on the other.  Please keep in mind that our first obligation is to make sure that similar homes have similar assessments in order to preserve basic tax fairness. Also, in the interest of fairness, we cannot adjust an assessment based solely on a private appraisal without review.

We recognize that not all appraisals are performed for the same purpose or carried out in the same way. Assessments are performed for the purpose of ensuring tax fairness while a Refinance or Mortgage appraisal is performed to reassure the lender that the loan amount is within a certain range of acceptable risk. In contrast, estimating the cost to replace a building in the case of fire is the only concern of an Insurance company.

While we find that Comparable Market Analysis prepared by Realtors often ignore fundamental appraisal principles, we will be pleased to review any professionally prepared market analysis completed within the past year. Each of these appraisal purposes may conclude that a different value is appropriate for the same property on the same day.

 City Clerk/Treasurer

Where do I register to vote?
You can register to vote in the City Clerk's Office. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  (There is no voter registration on the Monday prior to an Election Day.)  You can also register to vote on Election Day at your polling location.

Where do I vote?
The City of St. Francis has two polling locations. Where you vote is dictated by what Aldermanic District you live in. Districts 1 and 3 vote at the St. Francis Community Center at 3476 E. Howard Avenue. District 2 votes at the Civic Center location at 3400 E. Howard Avenue.

When can I expect to receive my tax bill?
The City mails out tax bills in mid-December. Tax information may be obtained online. Taxes

When is the fiscal year for the City, and when does the City do it's annual Budget?
The fiscal year for the City of St. Francis is January 1 through December 31 each year. The annual budget process for the upcoming year typically starts in August or September, with final Common Council adoption no later then the end of December.

What does all this tax money really pay for?
The proceeds from taxes are deposited in the General Fund of the City and used to support general operations such as police and fire protection, street maintenance, traffic control, parks, library services, engineering services, health and safety, and general finance and administrative services. The City is only 40% of your Tax Bill. The City collects for all the other taxing authorities such as the School District, County, MATC, MMSD and State of Wisconsin.

 Fire Dept

Are smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors required in my home?
Yes. In Wisconsin, owners of all new and existing one and two family homes must install working smoke detectors and owners of all single-family and multi-unit dwellings must install carbon monoxide detectors. At least one detector is needed on every occupied level of the home. Basements and any finished attic spaces must also have working smoke detectors. A smoke detector must be installed within six feet of any sleeping room, at the head of each open stairway and at the door of any enclosed stairway. We recommend that you also place a working detector in every bedroom, especially if you sleep with the door closed.

 Health Dept

Does the Health Department have a Doctor I can see?
No. The Health Department does not employ a doctor. Public Health Nurses are available to provide health information or refer you to other community agencies that will assist you. The Public Health Nurse will also inform you of clinics in the area that provide medical care at a lower cost.

Can I have my blood pressure checked at the Health Department?
Yes. Blood pressure assessments, health counseling and health education are conducted every Tuesday of the month. You may also call and set up an appointment. Please see the Health Department page (under the clinics tab) for further information on blood pressure screening and clinic locations.

Does the Health Department have a WIC (Women, Infant and Children) clinic?
No, the South Milwaukee / St. Francis Health Department does not have a WIC clinic, however a Public Health Nurse can provide you with information regarding WIC locations and it’s programs.

Does the Health Department do hearing and vision testing?
Yes. The South Milwaukee / St. Francis Health Department can provide Hearing and Vision testing. Please call and speak with a Public Health Nurse to schedule an appointment. This testing is also done in the Public Schools during the school year.

Does the Health Department check for mold problems?
The South Milwaukee /  St. Francis Health Department can provide information and assistance regarding mold and mold prevention. Laboratory services for the identification of mold are not provided.

How many dogs and cats can I have if I live in St. Francis?
A resident of St. Francis is allowed 2 dogs and 2 cats. Every year licensing the animal/animals must be done. The animals must be up to date with all of their immunizations, and proof of rabies vaccine needs to be provided when the animal/animals are licensed.

What if my animal bites someone?
All animal bites are reported to the St. Francis Health Department either by the hospital, Police Department, owner, or victim. The owner of the animal will be contacted by the St. Francis Police Department and the victim will be contacted by the St. Francis Health Department to assure proper quarantine of the animal and to assure it is not infected with rabies. Please see Health Department page for further information on rabies.

Does the Health Department have information on Quitting Smoking?
For information on how to quit smoking contact the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line. The Quit line is available from 7am to 11pm daily at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1800-784-8669) or visit their website.

Can I get a birth or Death Certificate from the Health Department?
Birth or Death Certificates can be obtained by calling the Milwaukee County Courthouse at (414) 278-4002.

Does the Health Department take my used needles?
No. The disposing of used sharps is very expensive. The Aurora Lake Shore pharmacy located within Lake Shore Medical at 2000 East Layton Avenue will dispose of your sharps. You will need to purchase a Biohazard container from that pharmacy and when it is full they will dispose of the contents.

Does the Health Department have a lab to test blood samples?
No, the Health Department does not have a lab.

 Municipal Court

What if I miss my court date?
You must contact the Court Clerk immediately for instructions on re-opening your case.

What happens if payment or payment arrangements are not made by the due date?
If it is a Traffic citation, a one year suspension of your drivers license is issued for failing to pay. If it is a Municipal Ordinance citation, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. Failure to pay a Parking citation will result in a suspension of your vehicle registration. Operating while Intoxicated and Operating while Suspended or Revoked citations for failure to pay may also result in a Warrant.

Can I reschedule a court date?
Yes, If the Court Clerk is notified before the assigned court date, one adjournment is allowed by the Court Clerk. Any further adjournments, must be approved before the Judge. NO adjournments will be made on the day of court.

How do I pay a citation?

  • Payments can be made at City Hall Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM - 4:45 PM, later on court nights.
  • Payments may also be made online or by calling 1-866-604-7888.
  • Payment can be made using cash, check or credit.

Am I required to appear for my scheduled court date?
If the citation states "Yes", in the upper left hand corner of your citation, you must appear when scheduled. If it states "No", then you may appear or pay the citation before the court date and time.

If my citation states "No" I do not need to appear, what happens if I do not appear?
If you do not pay the fine, and you fail to appear, and you were personally served, the Court will find you guilty by default and you will be ordered to pay the forfeiture. If you were served by mail, a warrant will be issued requiring your appearance.

If my drivers license is suspended for failure to pay a fine, once I pay, how long does it take to release the suspension?
It will take approximately seven (7) to ten (10) days after the fine is paid. You will also need to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles and get reinstated with them in order to be valid to drive.

 Police Department

What are your hours?
Our summer window hours are open:
  • Monday through Friday 8:00 AM - 9:00 PM
  • Saturday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
  • Sunday: Closed

Holiday Hours: 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Where do I pay a citation?
Citations can be paid in City Hall at 3400 E. Howard Ave or Online.

 Rummage Sales

There is no longer a permit needed for rummage sales held within the City of St. Francis, but there are a few things to keep in mind:


  • Property permitted to be sold. No person shall sell or offer property other than personal property for sale at a rummage sale.
  • No more than four rummage sales may be conducted from any one premises during any calendar year.
  • No rummage sale shall last longer than four consecutive days.
  • Rummage sales shall only be conducted in the following areas on the premises: driveway, garage, basement, front or rear yard, or an interior portion of the seller's home.
  • Signs may only be placed upon the property of the residence where the sale is being held or upon other residential property with permission of the owner or other person in charge of such, at the time of the sale.
  • No sign advertising a rummage sale shall be placed within the area of any public lands or right-of-way.
  • No sign placed in conjunction with a rummage sale may be displayed for more than five days and all such signs shall be removed within 24 hours of the end of the rummage sale.

§367-6 Please review the code relating to rummage sales.