Misleading responses from the City of Olathe and Johnson County to a citizen’s inquiry about pending property tax increases are perfect examples of why the Legislature is allowing citizens to vote on property tax increases next year. KPI’s report on pending property tax increases prompted a resident to ask Johnson County Commissioners, “I am interested to know how you plan to vote on the upcoming tax increases proposed for [Johnson County]. I understand from Dave Trabert that this is the 2nd hefty increase in 2 years. What have you done to cut the budget so that NO INCREASE is necessary? Shocking raise of 17.3% in 2015 and now 7.4%! Please cut taxes now!”[i]
County Commissioner Jim Allen replied, “The Johnson County Commission has set the same mill levy for 2017. The mill levy is not increasing.” That’s it. No response to either question…just a quasi-denial that taxes are even increasing. Commissioner Allen is surely aware that the County is proposing a 7.4 percent increase in property tax revenue; that information was provided to KPI by the Johnson County budget office. Citizen anger over being misled on property tax increase was a major factor in the Legislature’s decision to require voter approval of increases beyond inflation next year, and Commissioner Allen’s misleading response is typical of what we’ve found across Kansas.
The same resident submitted the following to the City of Olathe, “I am interested to know how you plan to vote on the upcoming tax increases proposed for Olathe. I understand from Dave Trabert that this is the 2nd hefty increase in 2 years. What have you done to cut the budget so that no increase is necessary?” (Olathe property tax revenue increased 188 percent between 1997 and 2015 (7.9 percent last year) while inflation and population combined was 106 percent higher; another 9 percent increase is proposed this year.)
A generic non-response from Budget Analyst Matthew Randall said, “Information regarding the City of Olathe’s Budget can be found at www.olatheks.org/budget. The Public Budget Hearing is scheduled on August 2 and the Budget Adoption is scheduled on August 16. These are scheduled during regularly occurring City Council meetings (first and third Tuesday of each month). Residents are encouraged to attend both meetings. The City of Olathe is not proposing any sales tax rate increases for FY 2017. In addition, the City of Olathe is not proposing any increase to the City’s mill levy rate in FY 2017. The City of Olathe strives to provide high-quality services while being excellent stewards of taxpayer dollars.”
Citizens deserve honesty, transparency and efficient spending from government…not the ‘mushroom treatment’ (being kept in the dark and fed lots of fertilizer).
[i] The increase for county operations reported to Dept. of Revenue was 17.3 percent last year; including increases for libraries and parks, the combined increase was 21 percent.