Unified Government Commissioners have approved a 2012 budget which prevents deeper cuts in services and programs. The Commission faced a budget shortfall of more than $8-million due largely to sharp drops in property values since the recession hit in 2008.
To fill the budget shortfall, the Commission okayed an 8.9% adjustment in the Unified Government property tax rate. Even with that adjustment most homeowners will not pay any more in city-county property taxes than they paid in 2008. The owner of a median-priced WyandotteCounty home paid $702 in Unified Government property tax in 2008. The Unified Government tax bill for that same house will be $677 for 2012.
The Unified Government property tax rate will be 81.3 mills under the 2012 budget. It was 97 mills in 1997.
The Unified Government receives only about 44% of the total tax bill paid by a Wyandotte County resident. Public schools, the Kansas CityKansasCommunity College, KCK Public Library and State of Kansas make up the largest portion of the tax bill– about 56%.
The budget reduces the Board of Public Utilities Payment-in-Lieu-of Tax (PILOT) fee 1%, but includes increases in stormwater and wastewater fees to pay for expensive sewer repairs mandated by the federal government.
When the property tax rate adjustment, sewer fee increases and BPU fee reduction are combined, the average homeowner will be paying about $5 a month– $60 dollars a year—more than last year to the Unified Government.
The 2012 Budget does fund several new initiatives. It continues funding 37 public safety positions when federal grants end July 2012; grass/weed mowing will be increased; the Neighborhood Infrastructure Program will be funded so planning and design of improvements such as sidewalks can begin by district; and the JFK Community Center will be operated comparable to recreation centers.
The 2012 budget also begins to rebuild cash reserves which is necessary to protect the Unified Government credit rating. A lower rating will result in significant increases when bonds are issued to build streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure. In the long-run, taxpayers could end up paying 10% more to borrow money for such projects.
In conjunction with approving the budget, Unified Government Commissioners formally adopted a resolution to study Unified Government operations to ensure the management and delivery of government programs and services is done in the most efficient, cost-effective ways possible.
“The Unified Government Board of Commissioners wants to minimize the tax burden on Wyandotte County residents as much as possible, while still providing the programs and services taxpayers desire and hold important,” the resolution states. It further says Commissioners are “committed to providing the highest quality programs and services to the citizens of Wyandotte County in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.”
The Budget Resolution calls for the elected leaders to conduct a “thorough review and analysis of Unified Government operations.” The evaluation and data-driven analysis will include major Unified Government operations, services and programs; and the benefits of functional integration of operations between the Unified Government and Board of Public Utilities. The review, analysis and data-driven evaluation will be initiated in 3rd Quarter of 2011 in anticipation of having findings and recommendations prior to development and adoption of the 2013 Unified Government Budget.
Over the past several years, the Unified Government has managed the major revenue shortfalls by adopting a series of difficult budget policies including, spending cuts, reduced workforce, employee furloughs, salary and hiring freezes and suspension of capital improvement projects and equipment purchases.
Wyandotte County is experiencing record-setting development—LiveSTRONG Sporting Park, Cerner Health office complex, Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway, General Motors and Sarah Lee to name a few. The Unified Government will continue to experience increased revenues from these developments— The Village Westdevelopment, including The Legends Outlets, already pays $11-million a year in property taxes– but due to financial pressures created by the Kansas Legislature, Congress and the stagnant national economy, these developments are not enough to offset the revenue losses. Before Village West was built, that same area generated only $208,000 in property taxes.
Information courtesy of the Unified Government
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