Ask any homeowner, and he'll tell you that property tax bills always seem to rise. Yet, when you consider the sheer number of factors that can spark a change, you should probably be thankful that there aren't even more property tax hikes.

As a physicist, Sir Isaac Newton was right when he said, "What goes up, must come down." But if he had been an economist, he would've been making a grave mistake, because property taxes defy the laws of gravity. Taxes paid on privately owned property at different time periods during the year, are based on a combination of local tax rates and assessed property value. However, as you'll see from the list below, there are a number of other factors that can cause an increase.

1. Valuable property. Most municipalities tend to reassess a home's property value over a period of time, generally five to 10 years. An assessor could visit you even sooner if you've made sizable home improvements to your property, especially if you've added square footage.

2. Keeping up with the Joneses. The overall value of property in your district may increase, causing everyone's tax to increase. This can be caused by new local construction, such as the addition of new homes.

3. Government interference. Your state legislature may decide to increase overall property taxes.

4. The levy isn't dry. The city, township, or county's budget levy may change. Each of these government entities can review the "discretionary spending" in their budgets and decide that they need more funding.

5. Blame the kids. If your state funds its schools through property taxes, your school may request more money to keep itself operational. Taxes on homes can account for a significant portion of a school's budget.

6. Who's special? Special districts, including hospitals, drainage, and watershed, are unique entities that can draw on property taxes if they need to increase their budgets.

7. Neighborhood upgrades. Improvements made by your municipality, such as new sidewalks or curbs, may warrant additional funds, triggering a special assessment for the tax rolls.

8. Give us the money. On occasion, local government projects are required to be funded through a special referendum, such as the building of a new library, school improvements, etc. These may require significant operating costs.

9. Blame it on the Fed. It's not uncommon for federal legislators to pass an unfunded mandate that local governments are required to implement. Federal and state authorities may also revise their aid formulas for local governments.

Property tax increases often require a great deal of political will to enact. But as any property owner will tell you, where there's a will, there is a way. For that reason alone, it appears that property taxes will forever frustrate the likes of Newton and continue their gravity-defying act.

Published on May 8, 2007