According to kansaspolicy.org, the population of Kansas has risen 11% since 1997; during the same period, the rate of inflation was 53% and the average county in Kansas raised property taxes by 180%. Bourbon County was right at the state average, while shrinking about 5.5%.
Here is how some of our neighboring counties fared since 1997:
County Tax Change Mill Change
Allen 321% 81%
Anderson 236% 59%
Bourbon 180% 53%
Crawford 147% 33%
Linn 223% 71%
Here are a few of the highest and lowest around the state:
Douglas 399% 88%
Harper 67% -6%
Lane -1% -42%
Mitchell 428% 119%
Rice 88% -14%
The new “Truth in Taxation” law that was signed by the governor in 2020 went into effect this year. In essence, the law says that government entities that rely upon real estate tax revenue must set a revenue-neutral mill levy every year, unless they hold a public hearing to inform voters. What this means is that when the total assessed valuation of a county goes up, the mill levy must be dropped in order to avoid collecting more taxes.
Do you think businesses consider these numbers when selecting their next location? Do potential new residents? Common sense would tell us, “Yes.”
Related to real estate taxes is the issue of delinquent taxes. The recent list of tardy property owners published in the local newspaper raised quite a stir. Statutes exist that set the rules as to when a jurisdiction can sell a property to collect the past due levies.
Unfortunately for small counties, the cost to follow legal procedures to foreclose upon and sell the properties in question can cost more than the total auction prices achieved.
Yes, the beginning of the process can awaken an owner into action and more taxes are collected. During the proceedings, property owners must pay their taxes plus penalties, or face losing their properties; however, we need to consider all the implications, including the foreclosure economics and the cost to own foreclosed property.
I would be much more interested in strong code enforcement that brings attention to problems before a building collapses and costs our government even more money.
Last point, some elected officials are of a mindset that small tax decreases will not be noticed by property owners and are a meaningless gesture. It is the same mentality that caused the continual tax increases in the first place that totaled over three times the rate of inflation.
We need to think about the long-term and the cumulative impact of mill levy changes. Let’s start a downward trend, no matter how small, and keep revenue increases at or below the rate of inflation.