Joco 913

Two tax issues stir debate on charter commission

Updated: 2011-11-29T19:55:01Z

By KATHLEEN POINTER

The Kansas City Star

Two proposals dealing with taxes in Johnson County drew heated discussion at the Monday night meeting of the Johnson County Charter Commission.

One proposal would let voters roll back county real estate property tax increases. The other would allow a voter initiative to trigger a vote on retaining a sales tax.

Charter Commission member Bernie Bianchino, the author of both proposals, and Don Jarrett, chief counsel for the Johnson County Board of Commissioners, clashed at the meeting over the legality the proposals.Jarrett said a major problem with the real estate tax proposal is the election requirement.

“This group, by charter, cannot impose an election requirement,” Jarrett said. “Elections are the province of the state.”

Bianchino argued subsequent generations of voters should have the right to address these tax issues.

“(Voters) have the mechanism to go to elected officials and say we want that changed,” Jarrett said. “I don’t agree with your supposition that the residents don’t have a way to do it.”

Bianchino asked the board to consider asking another lawyer for advice.

County Commission Chairman Ed Eilert briefly addressed the Charter Commissioner at the meeting. Bianchino asked Eilert if the board had ever considered repealing the county sales tax. Eilert said in his years on the board, no.

“If we get five years into paying down the debt and a sales tax is rolled back, how are we going to meet those obligations?” Eilert said. “When you make a commitment over a 20- or 30-year period of time based on a certain source of revenue you either default on those commitments or raise taxes.”

The commission put the two issues on the agenda for its Nov. 21 meeting.

The Charter Commission convenes every 10 years and votes whether to recommend changes to the Johnson County Board of Commissioners, which can put the proposals on the ballot for voters to decide.

At a meeting in September, most residents who spoke asked the commission to make no more than minimal changes to the charter, saying it has served the county well and does not need adjusting.

To reach Kathleen Pointer, call 816-234-7701 or email kpointer@kcstar.com.

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