IT’S ALREADY PAYING BIG DIVIDENDS TO TAXPAYERS.
The new Truth in Taxation law requires elected officials to be honest; no more pretending to ‘hold the line’ while collecting big increases from valuation changes. Now they have to vote on the entire property tax increase.
As a result, nearly 250 local government entities have announced they are not increasing their property taxes next year.
Before Truth in Taxation legislation, city and county officials said they were “holding the line” on property taxes while valuation changes allowed rates to rapidly increase without public debate.
Riley County raised its mill rate by only 20% between 1997 and 2018, but total property taxes shot up 265% — creating a 245 point “honesty gap.”
Source: Kansas Department of Revenue.
75% of Kansans said local elected officials should be required to vote on the total property tax increase.
Source: SurveyUSA statewide survey; Dec. 2019
In March 2021, Kansas legislators passed Senate Bill 13, which automatically reduces mill rates so that property tax revenues equal the same dollar amount from the previous year. To increase the rates, elected officials must notify taxpayers of their proposed total increase, hold hearings for public comment, and vote on to the entire property tax increase.
What impacts has Truth in Taxation brought to Kansas’ local and county governments?
- Transparency over property tax increases. Now, any district proposing to increase property taxes beyond the revenue neutral rate must notify taxpayers and hold a hearing for public comment. This means anyone can attend and keep local officials honest. View a full list of counties that are holding hearings here and here
- Reduced and “honest” property tax rates. As a direct result of requiring local lawmakers to Bee Honest, 1nearly 250 cities, counties, school districts, and one community college announced they will not increase property taxes next year. Twenty more entities are proposing to reduce property tax rates. View a full list of proposed rates for 2021 [and entities that have not responded to records requests] here.
- Accountability of local lawmakers. Transparency leads to savings for taxpayers and accountability for lawmakers who claim to “hold the line” on property taxes. After Truth in Taxation, lawmakers must receive feedback on their proposals to increase property taxes, and go on the record to vote for the increase. This process reduced the effective tax rate in Utah by 7.5% while the Kansas rate increased by 22% (2000-2018)
How has Truth In Taxation affected property tax increases in your area?
For example, Douglas County saw total property taxes increase by 399% from 1997 to 2020, but it’s mill rate only increased by 88% during that period – creating an honesty gap of over 301%.
Now after the Bee Honest bill has passed, open records requests found that Douglas County lawmakers proposed only a 2.8% increase over the mill rate in 2021. That’s the power of Truth in Taxation.
What’s next in keeping Kansas lawmakers honest?
Cities and counties across Kansas are receiving $1.1 billion in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) over the next 12 months. That’s in addition to the hundreds of millions they collected last year.
Johnson County commissioners get $117 million to spend and the cities in Johnson County will take in $70 million more, for a total of $187 million in Johnson County. The Sedgwick County total is $184 million. In Shawnee County, it is $82 million. Even in little Cherokee County, the total is over $5 million.
That is serious money, and it should be spent in taxpayers’ best interests.
Here’s our idea: Share Half. Cities and counties should share half of their $1.1 billion windfall with taxpayers (like a one-time property tax rebate), and the other half should be spent on one-time projects like deferred road and bridge repair.
If you agree, sign our Share Half petition and we will make your voice heard!
The heavy burden of high property taxes is taking a toll on Kansans. But, there are solutions. Our local governments should address this crisis with a sense of urgency and stop the practice of backdoor tactics that raise property taxes without a vote.
The new Truth in Taxation legislation is now in effect, and there are three things that taxpayers should know about the process to maximize the benefits and reduce taxes.
THE SOLUTION TO CLOSING THE HONESTY GAP?
Demand that officials—who represent the people—vote on the total increase.