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Editorial Roundup: Kansas


Topeka Capital-Journal. March 23, 2024.

Editorial: The best decision makers for providing local property tax relief are local voices

Taxes are one of those things that are just unavoidable in life. They’re sometimes confusing, often complex, and, depending on your worldview, necessary.

For context, if you’re not sure what a mill levy is, it’s the tax rate that is applied to the assessed value of a property. One mill is one dollar per $1,000 of assessed value.

The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Jason Alatidd reports Kansas Republicans are advancing plans to abolish an unfunded program intended to help local governments provide property tax relief. Instead of putting money into the local ad valorem tax reduction fund for the first time in two decades, Republican lawmakers would formally end the program and put money toward cutting state property taxes.

Republicans, Alatidd reports, say abolishing the fund called LAVTRF would essentially provide the same amount of tax relief as cutting state mill levies. Kansas stopped funding the LAVTRF in 2004 because the state was in a budget crunch.

Alatidd reports Senate Bill 94 would eliminate the 1.5 mills combined for state building construction and maintenance. Additionally, House Bill 2815 would cut the 20 mills to 18 mills, then further cut it in the future as valuations rise in order to raise the same dollar amount of revenue.

But it’s a bit more complicated than that.

It’s disappointing the Legislature has ignored its funding mandate in recent decades. How loud do state legislators yell when federal funding mandates go unfulfilled?

Taking away this fund also provides no protection of funding to local governments that depend on them. If the state gets into another budget crisis, there’s no guarantee local communities would get relief.

The Senate Republican plan to cut 1.5 mills would be about $35 in tax cuts on a $200,000 home. What a relief. That’s practically two fast food combo meals. Its implications would impact government buildings, schools and other infrastructure. We can’t overlook that.

A host of local government representatives lined up to oppose the House bill, ranging from counties to municipalities to school boards.

We need legislators to listen to their concerns and give them some consideration.

Perhaps the decision on the best way to address local property taxes should be made by local voices.

This seems like another time when the state decides it knows best — and we know how much they hate it when federal leaders do that to them.