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Archive for Friday, September 26, 1997

COUNTYWIDE SALES TAX COMES UNDER FIRE

September 26, 1997

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City and county officials found themselves on the hot seat Thursday over the county's 1 cent sales tax.

About 30 people attended an informational forum held by the League of Women Voters on the tax at the East Lawrence Center. Most want a frank explanation of the tax, how it works and why taxpayers have not experienced a net decrease in property taxes as promised.

Sandra McKenzie, a Kansas University law professor who specializes in taxes moderated the forum. She was joined on the forum panel by KU business researcher David Burress, businessman David Longhurst, County Administrator Craig Weinaug and City Manager Mike Wildgen.

A major concern for many of the attendees was the way in which the tax had been sold to the public. Many felt they were promised property tax reductions that never materialized.

"It led simple people to believe in simple statements," said Don Cashatt, leader of a property-owners group that has served as a tax watchdog. "That needs to be looked at. It is almost deception."

Literature passed out to county residents before the 1994 general election vote on the tax said the countywide sales tax would be used to reduce property taxes.

Weinaug said those promises were more than met.

The county had promised a 2-mill decree in the property tax and the city a 5-mill decrease. The actual figures for the past two years show a 4- mill drop on the county side and a 5-mill drop on the city side.

The problem, he said, falls with property valuation -- one of the factors in determining the mill levy.

"Property values have gone up by more than the rate of inflation," he said. "The county is growing and a number of problems are happening all at once that have resulted from the growth."

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