Why are property taxes so high?

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Wichita taxpayers are footing the bill for a city-employed tennis professional to the tune2015 County-City Pay Examples of $102,000 annually. Topeka residents pay for two construction foremen fetching annual pay of $137,000 and $102,000.

These are just two of the many head-scratching uses of citizens’ hard-earned tax dollars one can find at KansasOpenGov.org, our government transparency portal. The portal now includes over $1 billion in new, 2015 payroll records, representing a broad sampling of city and county sizes and types across the state. The examples in the adjacent table comprise merely a sampling across the 19 cities and counties included on KansasOpenGov.

The additional cost of additional and more expensive employees is part of the reason why property taxes have increased so much. Many cities and counties have increased property taxes by 2 to 3 times the combined rates of inflation and population since 1997. Additional information on county increases can be found here and city increases can be found here.City-County Property Tax Growth 1997-2015

The next  table highlights the pay of city and county managers as well as their direct deputies on a cost per resident basis for Johnson County and a collection of its cities with payroll records available on KansasOpenGov.Org.
The table illustrates that the cost of government is a choice allowing for wide variance among localities, some of which pay significantly more for the same function. For example, cities like Lenexa and Shawnee have much higher manager pay per resident figures.

2015 JOCO Manager Pay (2)

Ultimately, Kansans across the state must decide for themselves whether their cities and counties are making efficient and effective use of taxpayer money. We hope that the new KansasOpenGov.org will prove useful in arriving at these decisions with an eye toward thinking about how cities and counties can strive toward providing the same or better quality public services at better prices to their citizens.

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