Property tax hike forced by state act

07/17/2014 7:00 AM

07/19/2014 6:13 PM

Homeowners and businesses in Johnson County soon will be paying a slightly higher property tax rate for some good reasons — and a bad one.

The Kansas Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback recently approved phasing out collection of a mortgage registration fee, a decision that will cost the county millions of dollars a year. The County Commission needs to approve a tax increase to help make up for that loss and avoid deep cuts to public services.

In recent years, Johnson County has embraced austerity. But given the state act, an increase is unavoidable. Leaders are on the right course in following advice from County Manager Hannes Zacharias.

The small mill levy increase also will more fully fund the sheriff’s office. And Zacharias took the welcome step of advising elected officials and residents that they are likely to see higher future property tax rate proposals. These could be required to make up for the continued loss of the mortgage registration fees and — more importantly — to provide excellent public services.

The county needs to determine whether it’s going to build a new courthouse, a costly decision that’s been postponed for years. And county officials are working on strategic plans to add amenities to the large parks system and to build new libraries.

Investing in crucial public assets will help keep the county an attractive place to live.

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