Kansas City, Kan., residents will see no change in their tax rate for 2015, according to Unified Government County Administrator Doug Bach.
Bach cited decreasing UG revenues caused by new state laws cutting revenues to the UG in his budget presentation on July 10.
Bach presented the $295.8 million city-county budget to the UG Commission on Thursday, July 10, at City Hall. It is $1 million less than last year.
While the overall, combined city and county mill rate will be kept at 82 mills, the county’s mill rate will be raised 2 mills while the Kansas City, Kan., mill rate will decrease 2 mills, Bach said.
That means no change to the mill levy for Kansas City, Kan., residents, Bach said, but an increase in the county mill rate may have an effect on the Bonner Springs and Edwardsville residents.
Budget director Reginald Lindsey Jr. presented the details of the budget to the commission.
Bach told the commission that this year has some challenges. The goals outlined by the commission included reducing or maintaining the property tax rate, keeping the Commission Neighborhood Infrastructure Program in place, doing an employee compensation study, and studying public safety operations.
Bach said that he will propose reorganization initiatives later in the fall of 2014. Currently, there are many vacant department heads and some vacant administrative positions, he said.
He proposed creating a General Services Department, where procurement services and compliance would report.
He proposed that the Parks and Recreation Department report directly to the county administrator’s office, while moving forward with filling a director’s position permanently.
Bach also proposed restructuring the municipal court and probation offices. In municipal court, those on probation come back and report to the judge. Under this proposal, those on probation would report to a probation officer, not the judge, in a similar procedure as exists in district court.
He also proposed reorganizations that will create efficiencies in handling innovation and open data.
Bach said his target is to reduce public safety overtime by 30 percent. He added the police and fire departments are on course now to achieve this.
He also said the Land Bank could be used to acquire properties that have high delinquent taxes and are not selling in tax sales, in order to get the properties back on the tax rolls.
Additionally, Bach proposed to eliminate the current annex fee on customer service transactions. That would be replaced with a $5 fee for everyone who transacts motor vehicle renewals in person at the courthouse or courthouse annex. This fee would apply to transactions that could otherwise be done by mail or through the Internet. Wyandotte County has a 70 percent rate of in-person renewals as compared to other counties’ 25 percent rates, he noted.
He also proposed to continue employee reviews in which UG employees will be asked what they can do to improve customer relations.
The 2015 budget also includes funding for the continuation of the UGTV telecasts of commission meetings.
“Revenues have been flat for a number of years,” Bach said. At the same time, the UG has faced increased pressures from a number of areas.
Some of these areas included less funding coming in from the state and federal governments. Also, the UG faces higher costs of fuel and other items.
Bach said valuation has largely been flat for the last five years.
The UG this year faces health care costs, as an employer, of $150,000 a year It also faces Environmental Protection Agency sanitary sewer and emission mandates, as well as Americans with Disabilities Act mandates, he added.
The loss of the machinery and equipment tax funding continues to hurt the UG, and will probably eventually total $14 million a year, he said. It was eliminated in 2006 and has cost the UG more than $100 million since then.
This year, the mortgage registration fee was eliminated by the state Legislature, and is expected to cost the UG $500,000 the first year, and eventually, $1.8 million a year.
The state also lowered the delinquent tax interest rate 2 percent, which will cost the UG $300,000 to $500,000 annually, he said.
This year, the UG will start paying for a county-wide radio system for police, fire, emergency and the Board of Public Utilities, costing the UG $1 million a year.
The UG also is paying for the operating cost of expanded bus routes, and there is more than $300,000 in expenses in 2015 because of the loss of federal funding.
Bach also told the commission that the UG’s portion of the property tax dollar is only 45 percent in the Kansas City, Kan., school district. The other taxing entities, such as the school districts, community college, libraries and state, together receive 55 percent. In the Turner district, the UG receives 42 percent of the tax dollar, and in the Piper district, 47 percent.
Bach outlined many achievements that are taking place currently in Wyandotte County.
That includes a population growth for the first time in five decades, to 160,000. It also includes new job growth, where the county ranked 46th out of 355 counties studied.
Crime is at an all-time low, he said, and new grocery stores are coming to 78th and State, and to the Argentine area of Kansas City, Kan.
There has been $1 billion in economic investment, Bach said, citing Fairfax, where there is a redevelopment project at the public levee. Village West continues to bring in new development; Rosedale and Argentine also have new development.
New investment in the downtown Kansas City, Kan., area was noted, with revitalization along Minnesota Avenue, as well as some other areas.
Bach also cited infrastructure improvements throughout the county, including new bus routes, new luxury apartments in Village West, and a new athletic field at 9th and Parallel.
“We’re seeing a lot of positive trends in our community even though the money’s tight,” Bach said.
Budget meetings will continue throughout July. A final public hearing on the budget is scheduled July 28. After that, the UG Commission will vote on the budget.
The budget is online at www.wycokck.org/InternetDept.aspx?id=9730&menu_id=954&banner=15284.