Frustration was evident at Wednesday’s Kansas County Commissioners Association meeting being held in Manhattan, with a panel discussion regarding the property tax lid now required by the state. Under a recently passed state law, city and county governments need to hold a public vote if they want to raise spending by more than an adjusted Consumer Price Index rate.
Pottawatomie County Commissioner Pat Weixelman was one of the 112 county officials present. He told KMAN what really bothers him is the state put this ceiling on them for a tax lid but on other things they collect for the state such as for schools and other things they did not put a tax lid on themselves for what they can do.
Pottawatomie County Administrator Robert Reece says one of the things he took away from the panel’s conversation was that a lot of things his county has had in place for quite some time now should help out some. Reece says that applies to budgeting and where expenses are funneling out of various funds. He indicates overall it was a good reinforcement of what many of the other professionals are talking about. He describes Pottawatomie county as being in a “reasonably pretty decent position financially” as they go into the future and start getting into the tax lid process.
Pottawatomie County Commission Chair Dee McKee had some questions during Wednesday’s panel discussion on the state’s new property tax lid, which was part of the Kansas Association of Counties meeting held in Manhattan. Mckee expressed concern about having to hold elections if local governments want to raise spending by more than an adjusted Consumer Price Index rate. McKee adds they don’t have the time to do all the proper public relations that would be needed for such an election and she suggests if there is an election it should be based on a protest petition with a certain percentage of the electorate.
Also present was County Commission candidate Dana Wethington who said the issues presented at KCCA help commissioners learn how to present the matter to the public.
“If we don’t like them throw us out. If we’re not doing well, change.” Riley County Commissioner Robert Boyd had that comment regarding the process of democratically electing representatives of our republic who are to make executive decisions, in light of the state imposed property tax lid. Boyd was attending the panel discussion entitled “The Situation Counties are in.” He says they have to look at what kind of services we want and what kind of latitude. Boyd is working with extension officials on putting together a Citizen Academy on how to communicate on this matter with citizens.
Riley County Commission Chair Ben Wilson, who gave introductory remarks to the more than 100 county officials in attendance, told KMAN frustration is evident. He says the frustration is with the state thinking they know better than they do how to run things locally–which isn’t consistent with the way the state runs its own budget compared to the way counties do so.
Representatives from Cowley and Butler Counties, CPA’s, and other financial experts took part in the panel. Ken Kriz is a Regents Distinguished Professor of Public Finance at Wichita State University. Kriz admitted there are a lot of concerns when it comes to dealing with the state imposed tax lid but also a lot of unknowns in the legislative language about the election and consequences.
One member in the audience during the panel discussion compared the situation to the Wizard of Oz with Toto pulling the curtain back to reveal the Wizard.
A Saline County representative spoke from the audience, telling the group the bottom line is to get citizens involved. She mentioned millenials–who get most of their information online and through Social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook as one part of the population that needs to be reached.