Archive for Wednesday, March 27, 1996

T PROVIDE TAX RELIEF

March 27, 1996

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Legislators say efforts to cut property taxes are stalling out.

Feel weighted down by your new property valuation?

Don't count on the Kansas Legislature to lighten your property tax load this year.

Local legislators indicate the most that probably will be done this year is holding the line on the statewide 35-mill levy for school property taxes. It's a tax of $201 on a $50,000 home.

At best, the Legislature might set up a schedule to reduce the mill levy over the next few years, they said.

"It's going to be very difficult to reduce taxes this year when we don't know what revenue is going to be like next year," said Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence.

Downturns in the agricultural economy caused by droughty conditions mean less state revenue, and that's sending warning signals to the Legislature about cutting taxes, he said.

"I think we need to be more cautious," he said.

Sloan's sentiment was echoed by Sen. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence.

"I think you'll find this session will hold the line on tax increases," she said.

However, local property taxes are still going to increase because of increased property valuations, she said.

She said there have been several proposals made to reduce the 35-mill levy over the next few years. But there is no consensus developing.

"There's a lot of sentiment developing now for a really in-depth study on how we finance education so we don't make a decision precipitously," she said.

Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, said she hoped that lawmakers would reauthorize the 35-mill levy before the session ends in the last week of April. Otherwise, a special session might need to be called to deal with the subject.

Ballard said the 35-mill levy raises $580 million for public schools.

"If we let that mill levy expire, I think we run the risk of school districts slashing their budgets drastically," she said.

Ballard said legislators know if they cut property taxes, they'll have to make major increases in sales taxes and income taxes to make up the difference.

"Then it's not a cut, but a tax shift," she said.

Rep. Troy Findley, D-Lawrence, said there were about a dozen different plans that would either phase out the 35 mills or shift the tax burden to sales and income.

Findley predicted a plan that might emerge as a compromise: increasing the amount of money going into the public education budget this year, then laying the groundwork to start phasing out the 35 mills.

"I think it's unrealistic that you would see a plan that would reduce the 35 mills beginning this year," he said.

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