UG Commission sets maximum mill levy at same rate as last year

The Unified Government Commission voted Monday night to set the maximum mill levies for 2020 at the same rate as last year, which was the amount proposed by UG Administrator Doug Bach in his budget presentation on June 27.

On a unanimous vote, the commission set the maximum mill rate for the city of Kansas City, Kansas, at 38.138 mills and the maximum mill rate for Wyandotte County at 39.011 mills, the same as the current rate. Commissioner Brian McKiernan made the motion.

Bach’s proposed budget was $394.8 million, an increase of 2.9 percent over 2018. The commission is expected to set the final mill levy amount on July 25.

Last year, the mill levy rate was lowered. Valuations went up on average about 6.3 percent from 2018 to 2019, according to UG figures, and some taxpayers could see a slight tax increase with a flat mill levy, if their valuations increased.

Commissioner Jim Walters said if the property tax revenues are going up by more than 5 percent, he hoped the commission would have some latitude in cutting the mill levy. He said he would like to have a discussion about that.

Because the committee meetings preceding the budget meeting ran for 3.5 hours, the presentation that had been planned on tax revenues was cut short on Monday night. UG officials will return to a future budget meeting to make a presentation about sales tax revenues, which dropped in 2018 and have been fluctuating slightly. Sales and use tax revenues make up about 27 percent of the UG’s revenues, according to the budget document.

BPU member Jeff Bryant said at the Economic Development and Finance Committee meeting Monday night that since the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) fee on BPU bills is projected to gather more than $30 million in revenue for the UG, maybe the UG could look at lowering the PILOT fee, since valuations have increased.

However, UG officials reported at the EDF meeting that sales tax revenues were down significantly. The year 2018 started with an increase in sales tax revenues and ended with a drop, UG officials said. The 2019 first-quarter reports for sales tax revenue presented Monday night shows a decrease in revenues as compared to the same time last year. UG officials plan to present more information about sales tax revenues from April through June at a future meeting.

A resident who spoke at the EDF meeting said that she felt her property taxes were “overboard.” The resident lives in the Piper area and said her taxes were more than $6,000 a year. She said she appealed her taxes and was denied.

“What can we as citizens do to get our taxes lowered?” she asked the commission. “Do we need to protest? What do we need to do to get our taxes lowered? They just keep increasing.”

Commissioner Tom Burroughs said the UG represented only two parts of her tax bill, the city and county. There were also library, school and community college taxing districts, he said.

Commissioner Gayle Townsend said that the mill levy was lowered for the city of Kansas City, Kansas, in 2013 and continued to be lowered for the city through last year. She suggested asking the assessor’s office about her valuation. She and Commissioner Burroughs suggested going to other taxing districts and asking the same question.

“This body have done all we can do and continue to do to either maintain or lower the taxes,” Commissioner Townsend said.

The UG Commission also voted unanimously to set the maximum mill levy for the Self-Supporting Municipal Improvement District, also known as the Downtown Improvement District, at 11.023 mills and the maximum mill levy for the Wyandotte County Libraries at 6.068 mills. Commissioners pointed out that these libraries include the Turner, Edwardsville and Piper areas, and this mill levy does not include the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Libraries, which are set by the Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Education.

The 2020 maximum mill levy for the SSMID is the same as the 2019 rate, and the 2020 maximum mill levy for the Wyandotte County Libraries is the same as the 2019 rate.

According to UG officials, the final mill levy amount cannot be higher than the maximum mill levy that was set Monday, but it could be lower.

The UG budget is online at the UG website, www.wycokck.org.

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