Joco Opinion

Editorial: Put tax increase up for review in Johnson County

Property taxes may be headed higher in Johnson County for the first time in several years — if elected officials and the county staff can provide good reasons for such a boost.

County Manager Hannes Zacharias put out the notice a little more than a week ago that officials are considering how a tax increase could help them provide better public services to residents.

As Zacharias correctly noted, the county has been nothing like a spendthrift. Instead, it has kept the mill levy rate steady while cutting staff. The mantra has been to become more efficient without boosting taxes, even in a fast-growing and affluent county.

At some point, however, that could end up meaning the county is “doing less with less,” Zacharias said.

That kind of attitude would have been anathema in Johnson County when most of its leaders were in moderate and progressive moods.

In recent years, however, a more conservative mindset has taken over at the County Commission as well as on the state legislative level.

Just last year, in fact, several local legislators barged in at the last minute and told the commission that it should not approve a small property tax increase suggested by Zacharias to bolster county services.

The commission quickly capitulated, partly because it said it wanted to determine how the state’s phase-out of the mortgage registration fees would affect county finances.

The county should have that information more clearly in hand in the next few months.

That will help Zacharias decide whether he has solid reasons to ask the commission to approve a tax increase.