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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission votes to keep budget revenue neutral

Updated: Sep 16, 2023

By Charlene Sims, Journal staff

MOUND CITY – The Linn County Commissioners held the revenue neutral and budget hearings on Tuesday, Sept. 5. Commissioners were able to keep the mill levy at the revenue neutral rate of 40.994 mills by making several last minute cuts to the budget.

The budget that was published before the hearing was above the revenue-neutral rate after County Clerk David Lamb had suggested printing it above the rate so that they had a couple of weeks to work on lowering the amount.

A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed property valuation. Kansas has a statewide assessment percentage of 11.5% for residences, so a house with an appraised market value of $100,000 would have a tax assessment value of $11,500. If the tax rate on that residence is one mill, the tax levied would be $11.50.

According to Lamb at the Aug. 14 meeting, the budget could be lowered before approval of the budget but it could not be raised.

Because the published budget was above the revenue neutral-rate by one-third of a mill, the commissioners held a revenue-neutral hearing before the budget hearing.

Several members of the public spoke at the hearing.

Linn County resident Wes Coffel asked the commissioners if the county was revenue neutral and told them his valuation was up 30%, he asked if that allowed the county to lower the mill levy to provide the same dollar amount.

Lamb said that was the whole theory on revenue neutral. It’s the same tax dollars as the prior year’s budget, so if values go up, the levy goes down. He said that the county had published a lower mill levy than the 2023 levy.

Coffel said that he hated to hear when people compared Linn County’s taxes to Missouri taxes. He said that people just had to drive on Missouri roads compared to Linn County’s.

Our taxes are high, said Coffel, but he thanked the commissioners for how they spend the money on the roads because they are great.

Other public comments at the revenue-neutral hearing and the budget hearing addressed valuation rates more than the budget.

Dean Vivian said that because the county was going revenue neutral, it did not mean peoples’s taxes were going to remain the same.

The mill levy will remain the same, the taxes will not necessarily remain the same,” said County Counselor Gary Thompson.

Vivian asked if it shocked anybody that some people like him have had taxes go up 600%.

Lamb explained that was because the county had not been compliant with appraisals in the past and valuations had gone up.

“Have all the Linn Valley properties seen 600% increases?” asked Vivian.

Vivian said that the first guy who kicked off the raise in sales at Sugar Valley now has buyers remorse. He is now trying to sell those lots he bought because he realized that he ridiculously over paid.

Vivian said that the law goes back to what a reasonable person would pay. And now in the equation, we’re not dealing with reasonable people.

County Counselor Gary Thompson told the public that the time to appeal valuations was in March when the valuations came out, not at the budget hearing.

“If I am paying an extra $1,000 a year, is somebody else paying $1,000 less?” asked Vivian.

Peggy Damico said that her residential and vacant lot at Sugar Valley went up. She said that the valuation on one vacant lot at Sugar Valley went up 648% and her residential lot went up 92% and she thinks that is pretty excessive.

Damico says that her main home is in Jackson County, Mo., where her taxes just went up 54%. In Missouri, taxpayers have begun class action lawsuits against Jackson County.

She said this is the way she looks at it: She paid $3.60 a gallon for gasoline today and goes back tomorrow and has to pay $22 per gallon.

Damico said she understands that there is going to be a tax increase, and she does not have a problem with that. However, the problem at Sugar Valley is that people are coming in and they are paying above asking price for lots.

Her taxes on the lake lot went from $485 to almost $1,800. It was appraised at $3,610 last year and is now $27,000. Her other vacant lot went from $3,780 to $28,500 and her residential lot went from $36,900 to $70, 720.

Pamico said in a lot of counties they have the Homestead Act, which caps the percent that taxes can go up per year to take the burden off of the citizens.

“When the bubble bursts, can we get a tax reduction?” asked Pamico.

Commissioner Jason Hightower told Pamico that if sales change it will change the trends that valuations are based on.

The tax dollar amount the commissioners approved for the 2024 budget was about $2,000 less than last year, according to Lamb. If the valuation should go down, the mill levy will have to be raised to keep bringing in the same amount of money for the county budget.

Because valuations may go down in the next year, the commissioners signed a resolution stating that the county had the option of levying the property tax rate to exceed the revenue-neutral rate if necessary so that the tax dollar amount for the county budget would stay the same.

Commissioner Jim Johnson said that he would vote for the resolution as long as it stayed revenue neutral. It passed unanimously.

After the revenue-neutral hearing, the budget hearing for the 2024 Linn County budget and the Special Districts Budget was held. The budget was approved unanimously.

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