The $842.8 million budget proposed for Johnson County sailed through its public hearing this week with no questions or protests to slow it down.
By ROXIE HAMMILL
Special to The Star
In fact, the lone speaker at the hearing, Roger Cooper of Roeland Park, thanked the Johnson County Commission for holding the line and delivering “remarkably good service” to county residents. The county compares favorably to Roeland Park, he said, which is considering a double-digit property tax increase. Roeland Park will lose one of its biggest sources of revenue, Wal-Mart, which is moving to Mission.
The county has planned for $670 million in expenditures and $172.8 million in reserves for 2014. It is the first budget in several years that has not required cutbacks to be balanced. Over the past four years, the county has eliminated 424 full-time positions.
For 2014, there are 3,871 full-time employees included in the budget, an increase of 11 from the last budget.
The mill levy will remain at about 23.210, an amount that has stayed fairly constant since 2007. One mill equals $1 on every $1,000 of a home’s assessed value. At this rate, the owner of a $240,000 home would pay $641 in county property taxes per year, or $53.42 a month.
Although the tax rate will not increase, the improved economy has meant an increase in home values. Assessed valuation for the county is about $7.65 billion, a 1.66 percent increase over last year, and the first increase since the recession began. When home values go up, taxes revenue automatically increases unless the mill levy is reduced. The increase will bring the county $3.2 million more than it would have had if values stayed flat. The final mill levy will not be set until the end of October, after the appeals process is finished.
The bulk of property tax revenues go into the general fund for operations and administration of various departments including the sheriff, corrections and appraiser. The general fund gets about 55 percent of revenues, followed by the library with 11.5 percent, parks and recreation with 10.3 percent and public works and mental health, 7 percent apiece.
Public safety and infrastructure account for a little more than half of the county’s total budget. Reserves for unforeseen spending make up 20 percent.
The county also has a capital improvement budget of $110.7 million, which comes from a variety of sources, including sales and use tax. Just over half of that is spent on wastewater projects, with infrastructure coming in second at about 16.4 percent.
The next stop in the budget process is the Aug. 8 commission meeting, where the board is expected to give its final approval. Once it is approved, it would go into effect Jan. 1.