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  • Writer's pictureRoger Sims, Journal Staff

Mound City tax increase draws criticism from city resident

Updated: Sep 23, 2023

By Roger Sims, Journal staff

MOUND CITY – The Mound City Council on Tuesday, Sept. 5, unanimously voted to approve a budget that, while it will continue last year’s levy of 66.5 mills, is expected to support net expenditures of nearly $1.35 million dollars in 2024. That will be about $20,000 less than this year.

As anticipated, the budget was about 6 mills above the revenue-neutral rate of just over 60.5 mills, but down from the 2022 levy of nearly 72.9 mills.

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.

Mound City residents are expected to see a tax increase, not only for the city’s ad valorem tax but also for the county, the school district, the library district and other local entities because of an increase in the valuations.

Citywide, the valuation for 2024 is a little more than $5.95 million dollars, a whopping 20.4% increase from 2021 when the valuation was more that $4.94 million.

During a hearing on the budget, Mound City resident Shirlee Mayfield took issue with both the increase in valuation and the increase in expected tax, pointing out that her property value has increased from $80,000 in 2016 to $132,000 this year. Over that same period her city taxes went from less than $1,700 to about $2,400.

But Mayor Wade Doering and city consultant Josh Baldwin told Mayfield that the blamed lies with the county because of increased property valuations and that she should take it up with the Linn County Commission.

Property valuations have risen throughout the county, partly because the county appraiser’s office has worked diligently to meet state compliance of determining real market values and partly because the sales prices of real estate climbed as much as 40% during the COVID pandemic.

City receives check for lake improvements

Don George, fisheries biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, presented the council with a check from the state for nearly $16,000 for improvements made at Mound City Lake by city Superintendent John Bruns and his crew.

George told the council that inspectors from the state were very impressed with the improvements that city workers made at the lake, and said they would like to have a couple of crews like that for other projects around the state.

The check presentation represents the completion of Phase I of a cooperative venture by the state and city to create more outdoor recreation areas. The improvements made by Bruns and crew include building a walking trail around the lake and creating camp sites for recreational vehicles.

The city is in the process of applying for a Phase II grant for the lake project.

In a related matter, City Clerk Shelby Murray said she had been working to get the camping spots at the lake listed on Firefly Reservations, a camping equivalent of Airbnb that lets campers reserve sites online.

Council tables further action on house

Following testimony from city codes officer Jacob Bush and Gerald Cox, owner of the house at 101 N. First St., during a scheduled hearing during the council meeting, the council opted to table further action until its meeting on Oct. 3.

The council had the option of condemning the house and beginning demolition procedures but instead decided to give Cox another month to continue his repairs on the house in an ongoing case that has spanned more than two years.

Bush said the main issue with the house is that the foundation is deteriorating and the framing plates and studs are rotting. Noting that Cox has much of the material he needs on site, Bush said the owner had made considerable progress in the past six weeks.

He said that the house could be salvaged with enough money and time, however, every exterior wall in the house had issues.

Saying he had been slowed by 100 degree heat and illness, Cox asked the council for another month to make those repairs and install the windows and exterior doors already on site.

City Attorney Burton Harding asked if the house would be safe by early October.

Bush said he thought the owner could have it enclosed by then, and the council unanimously gave Cox an additional month before taking up the case at its next meeting in October.

In a related matter, Bush suggested the council begin work on an ordinance concerning use of shipping containers for both storage and use as houses. He said that three containers were providing storage for three businesses were behind Coleman’s Hardware on Main Street, and more businesses had inquired about using them.

Bush also said because the containers – which are approximately 8 feet high, 8 feet wide and usually between 20 to 40 feet long – have been used for houses in some locations, the council needed to make some regulations on their use.

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