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Archive for Thursday, February 21, 1991

VEHICLE TAX LOSSES MOUNTING IN COUNTY

February 21, 1991

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Douglas County, the Lawrence school district and the city of Lawrence stand to lose at least another $538,000 in motor vehicle registration taxes if the state doesn't take action to soften the impact.

The losses are a result of two elements of motor vehicle registration taxes: a decrease in mill levies through increased valuation from reappraisal, and the change aimed at correcting the so-called "alphabet inequity" in state's method for taxing registered vehicles.

Although officials during the summer prepared their 1991 budgets knowing that receipts from motor vehicle taxes would be lower, they didn't anticipate additional losses that resulted when the state changed the motor vehicle tax method in November.

The decreased receipts have concerned local officials, but they remain hopeful that the Legislature will either phase in the losses over a period of a few years, or find revenue from other sources to compensate for losses.

ABSORBING THE largest hits from the changes are Lawrence's school district, $282,207; the county, $141,729; and the city of Lawrence, $113,865. Another $104,000 in losses is spread among other taxing districts in the county, including townships, that receive motor vehicle registration taxes.

And, county officials point out, a final total on losses has yet to be fully calculated.

County Administrator Chris McKenzie said he would watch the county's revenue income during the first part of 1991 to monitor the impact of the shortfall on the county's 32 property tax funds.

"That impact is going to be spread throughout those funds," McKenzie said. "And each one of them has a little different mix of revenues, some more diverse than others. Those with the greatest degree of diversity will be able to sustain whatever reduction they might experience better than those with very little diversity."

MCKENZIE SAID that the Legislature might take action to alleviate the impact, such as following the county's proposal to make an adjustment to offset the loss.

Craig Fiegel, Lawrence school district director of business and facilities, said it was too early in the year to know if the full loss would be realized. But the gravity of a $282,000 shortfall hasn't been lost on the district.

"If we lost that, that would be a real problem if they (the state) didn't make it up in some other way," he said. "But there has been some talk in the governor's proposal on school finance, (and) they talked about ways of offsetting some of that. If they offset it in some way, the magnitude depends on how they offset it."

THE CITY'S loss will be spread proportionately to its 11 mill levy funds, City Manager Mike Wildgen said.

Bearing the largest brunt of the loss are the city's general fund, approximately $27,300; bond and interest fund, approximately $25,900; and the employee benefit fund, approximately $15,900.

"We're not saying that's not going to make a drastic effect on any of them," Wildgen said of the funds. "The cumulative effect is what you always have to look for. (If) you have a lot of revenue sources that were down, then you have problems in the next year.

"If everything were down 25 percent, that would be a bad situation. But that (loss) will be spread among all those different mill levy funds."

Personal property taxes for motor vehicles are based on the average county mill levy of two years ago. Since 1989 was the first year that the higher, post-reappraisal valuations were used to compute the average, taxes collected in 1991 are the first to be affected by the change.

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