Riley County commissioners approved a preliminary budget Thursday that will go to publication before a public hearing scheduled for July 10.
The county projects a mill levy of 37.531 — a decrease of 1.393 mils from 2017. A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 in assessed, taxable property value. While it’s not known if that will hold up after final valuation is complete in November, commissioners are confident the mill levy will remain flat for 2018.
This is also the first year city and county governments across the state have had to formulate their budgets with a tax lid. The tax lid, imposed by the state, forces special elections on budgets if mill levies get too high — often measured against inflation and the consumer price index. It was passed in Topeka as a way to battle rising property tax increases, even though reduced funding from the state to municipalities have put local governments in a position where raising mill levies have been the only option to keep services solvent.
“We were talking to about 10 other counties yesterday, and we are very fortunate,” Riley County Commission Chairman Ron Wells said during Thursday’s budget work session. “Probably a number of them are going to have to go to an election.”
Earlier meetings revealed Riley County is nearly $1 million below the threshold in its budget where an election would be needed.
The commission’s budget has few, if any, substantial cuts to programs and increases the county’s contribution to employee health plans and cost of living increases.
“Our department heads did a great job putting together their budgets,” Commissioner Ben Wilson said.
Tami Robison, the county’s budget and finance officer, said a big reason no increase in the mill levy is expected because the value of the mil is more for 2018.
“The value of the mill is actually a little higher, which generates more tax dollars,” she said. “So if you leave the levy, flat, the mills flat, you’re going to generate more dollars, because the value is greater at this point than last year.”