Archive for Wednesday, May 19, 2010

County: Property tax estimate was flawed

May 19, 2010


Projected budget deficits for cities and school districts across Douglas County may have gotten a little less painful Tuesday.

After being questioned by the Journal-World, top county officials said they likely were too pessimistic in how much the county’s property tax base had declined as a result of the economic downturn.

As late as Monday, Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug was telling cities and school districts in the county to plan for about a 3 percent reduction in their property tax bases — the largest such decrease in at least 20 years. But on Tuesday, Weinaug said that estimate was flawed and that he now expects the decline to be closer to 1 percent.

“I think it is fair to say that there was a gap in our communication,” Weinaug said.

Weinaug said county officials had used outdated numbers when making their previous estimates. More recent numbers from the county appraiser’s office showed that real estate values in Douglas County had not declined as much as expected.

The ramifications for local governments could be that projected budget shortfalls shrink by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“This is a lot better than what we had first been told,” said Rick Doll, superintendent for Lawrence public schools.

A 3 percent decline in the county’s property tax base was expected to create a $948,000 shortfall and require a 1.01 mill levy increase for the school district, said Kathy Johnson, the district’s director of finance. A 1 percent reduction would result in a $364,060 shortfall and require a 0.38 mill increase, assuming other factors like enrollment remain steady.

The change in numbers likely will have similar effects on other cities, school districts, townships and other governments in the county that rely on property taxes for funding.

In Lawrence, city commissioners are facing an estimated $1.6 million deficit in the general fund for 2011. City Manager David Corliss said the new estimate for property values could reduce that shortfall by about $400,000.

The county changed its property value estimates after the Journal-World questioned why the county was projecting such a large decline when the county appraiser was publishing data in his monthly newsletter that indicated the property tax base had held steady or increased slightly.

In his March newsletter, County Appraiser Steve Miles estimated that the county’s real estate tax base had increased by about 0.8 percent from Jan. 1, 2009, to Jan. 1, 2010. Many homeowners in March received change of value notices from the county that showed their home values had either held steady or slightly increased. As late as May 1, Miles estimated the real estate tax base was up 0.7 percent.

But Weinaug said his staff members were using figures produced several months before March that were several million dollars lower than the current numbers.

County officials aren’t yet guaranteeing that the estimates won’t change again. More data will become available by late June when the county gets information on the amount of personal property in the county and on values for utilities and other structures that are valued by the state assessor.


jmadison 8 years ago

The government makes up numbers to fit whatever tax scenario they desire.

devobrun 8 years ago

Does the concept of arbitrary come to mind? Are the appraisals audited? Or are they finagled to meet a political algorithm, a political calculus?

headdoctor 8 years ago

Craig Weinaug works for the County, not the City. This does bring up a few questions like why would the County Administrator put out information that was different than what the Appraiser was saying all along. It also makes me wonder what would cause the Journal world to go back after this story. DId the reporter get it wrong the first time or get over zealous to print an attention grabbing story.

In the scheme of things it doesn't make that much difference. The various budgets are what they will be set at and the other figures like mill levy will be set accordingly.

nineteen84 8 years ago

Um, Moocher hate to break this to you, but "they" work for the County, not the City. Obviously you would not be a good choice to replace them.

Michael Capra 8 years ago

fired fired fired fired fired fired fired fired,.,.,. a long time coming for those two

yankeevet 8 years ago

A gap in their communication? Houses are really overpriced; overvalued here in Lawrence; I will dump this place soon; Colorado Rockies is where I am bound.

tolawdjk 8 years ago

I thought it was Texas you were headed to a couple weeks ago?

Let me give you a bit of advice. No matter where you move to, you are going to think that the "taxes" are "too high".

Beth Ennis 8 years ago

Yankee, Colorado is much worse than Kansas. I came from there back in 98. My brother-in-laws house that was worth about $85,000 in 1995 sold for over $200,000 in 2000. Lawrence might be higher than most area's in Kansas, but it is not nearly as over inflated as a lot of the country. Don't get your hopes up, you will be sorely disappointed.

Tammy Copp-Barta 8 years ago

So does that mean that the city will go back on their tax increase now that they don't need as much money?

John Hamm 8 years ago

I don't normally criticize language used in news reporting but why in the world is "gotten" used in lieu of "become?"

Clovis Sangrail 8 years ago

American Heritage Usage allows this use of "gotten." It has been around forever, and although the Brits quit using it a long, long time ago, we didn't. Not that I expect the Journal World's crack team of copy editors to know that or to have checked it out.. JW copy editors have gotten to be nothing more than headline writers who coincidentally can do layout and run a spell checker.

But it does sound colloquial, doesn't it? In this article, I would not criticize anyone who changed it to "become" just to avoid that. Changing it would also cut down on the complaints from the pedants who insist on judging American English by British standards..

steveguy 8 years ago

Our property went up $68,000, 47%

kristyj 8 years ago

Actually, Douglas County (like all of the counties in Kansas) are in process of migrating to a new appraisal software system that takes into account additional factors into the appraisal process. By Kansas State statute, all home and property values across the State are based on a standard set of algorithms and as data in the County system is migrated, updated and corrected, it affects property values. Neither the County nor the appraiser can decide haphazardly to raise/lower random property values. But if anyone doesn't agree with their appraisal, you can always try the appeal process! Hehe.

Richard Heckler 8 years ago

Millions of homes around the country are becoming worth less than the mortgage. So how is it that Lawrence,Kansas is maintaining?

"More than 6 million Americans have been unemployed for 6 months or more, “the largest number since the government began keeping track in 1948,” according to a recent New York Times article. Three million homes were foreclosed in 2009, a record in U.S. history, with millions more expected to follow this year. Over 45 million Americans have no health care. Billions are spent on wars abroad while citizens at home lack basic social services AND JOBS."

According to 60 minutes 7 million home are on the market. On radio news today substantially more( millions was suggested) foreclosures are on the horizon.

There are plenty walking away from homes simply because the homes are losing extraordinary value. Yet these people can afford the payments BUT NOT the loss in value. Homes are not known for losing values. I saw this same exact scenario when the bottom fell out of the oil market. The Savings and Loan heist created a bit of the same scenario.

average 8 years ago

"Millions of homes around the country are becoming worth less than the mortgage. So how is it that Lawrence,Kansas is maintaining?"

Well, out of 372 metropolitan areas tracked, Lawrence is in the 15 with lowest unemployment. That certainly helps.

Now, pay for a whole lot of occupations is quite low here compared to national or even regional numbers. But, most everyone who purchased here has been used to that low pay all along.

vega 8 years ago

Only the market 'appraises' property value.

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