Archive for Saturday, December 17, 2011

And the ‘Taxi’ goes to …: A look at rates in Douglas Co.

Lawrence City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

Lawrence City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

December 17, 2011


Roll out the red carpet. Put on the prom dress. Smile for the paparazzi. It is tax season.

That’s right, tax season. And that means it is time for our annual awards program: The Taxis, where we take a look at fun facts and figures related to the tax rates of every government in Douglas County that has the honor of charging a property tax.

Per usual, most of the awards will go to governments, such as cities, counties, townships and — who knows? — maybe even a dark-horse candidate like a cemetery board or a watershed district. Wouldn’t that keep them talking on “Entertainment Tonight”?

Don’t worry, though. Ordinary citizens are sure to receive something too. Tax bills and statements were mailed to all property owners in Douglas County in late November. First half tax payments are due Tuesday.

But enough with the Barbara Wa-Wa chit-chat. Let’s get on with the show:

Category: The Big Gainers

Six governments, out of the 40 that charge property taxes in Douglas County, had a mill levy increase of 1 mill or more for this new tax year. They are:

1.City of Lecompton. The mill levy went from 18.5 mills to 21.3 mills. Elsie Middleton, a council member for the city, said the increase largely was to account for general government expenses.

“Basically, the cost of doing business has increased a lot more in the last five years than our mill levy has,” Middleton said.

Until this year, Lecompton hadn’t increased its mill levy by a mill or more since 2006. Lecompton, the smallest city in Douglas County, continues to have the lowest mill levy of any town in the county.

2.City of Lawrence. The mill levy went from 26.697 mills to 28.612 mills. Voters are directly responsible for all but a fraction of this increase. Voters approved an $18 million library expansion, which increased the mill levy by 1.7 mills. The remaining increase funded an additional four police officers to the city’s force.

3.Wakarusa Township: Wakarusa Township had the third largest mill levy increase, despite seeing its property tax base grow by a larger percentage than any other taxing unit in the county. (More on that in a moment.) Wakarusa’s mill levy went from 16.7 mills to 18.2 mills.

Township Trustee Steve Brown said there’s a simple reason why: oil. He said everything from the fuel spent on pushing more snow than normal the last two winters to the oil that is used to maintain the township’s paved roads have played a role.

4.USD 434 Santa Fe Trail School District, which extends into parts of southwest Douglas County: 55.0 mills to 56.5 mills.

5.Clinton Township in western Douglas County: 12.2 mills to 13.3 mills.

6.Osage County Fire District No. 4 in Overbrook, which extends into parts of southwest Douglas County: 3.5 mills to 4.5 mills.

Category: The Big Losers

In this case, it is a good title to have. Only three governments, though, had a mill levy decrease of 1 mill or less.

1.USD 348 Baldwin schools: 75.1 mills to 73.8 mills

2.Palmyra Township near Baldwin City: 12.9 mills to 11.9 mills

3.Willow Springs Township in southwest Douglas County: 16.8 mills to 15.8 mills.

Category: The Long-Timer Award

This category looks at which governments have kept their mill levies relatively stable over the last five years. Six cities, school districts or townships have actually either seen their mill levies go down in the last five years or have had an increase of less than 1 mill.

1.Palmyra Township: Down 1.4 mills

2.Willow Springs Township: Down 0.7 mill

3.Lecompton Township: Down 0.6 mill

4.Kanwaka Township: Up 0.04 mill

5.USD 343 Perry-Lecompton school district: Up 0.7 mill

6.Baldwin City: Up 0.8 mill.

Category: The Big-Timer Award

This category looks at which governments have had the largest mill levy increases over the last five years. School districts that are based in adjacent counties but extend to Douglas County have been the biggest movers.

1.USD 287 West Franklin school district: Up 12.25 mills

2.City of Eudora: Up 8.0 mills.

3.USD 289 Franklin County: Up 7.4 mills

4.USD 434 Santa Fe Trail: Up 6.9 mills

5.USD 248 Baldwin City: Up 6.5 mills, although it is worth noting that the school district’s mill levy actually is up 13.8 mills from four years ago.

You may have noticed that none of Lawrence’s big three made either five-year list. So, if you’re curious, the city of Lawrence’s mill levy increased 2.2 mills during the last five years, USD 497 Lawrence Public Schools increased 1.63 mills, and Douglas County increased 5.76 mills.

Category: The High-Low Awards

So now you know who has had the largest increases and decreases, but who actually has the highest and lowest mill levy rates?

  • Cities: Highest: Baldwin City, 33.2 mills. Lowest: Lecompton, 21.3 mills
  • School districts: Highest: USD 348 Baldwin City, 73.8 mills. Lowest: USD 287 West Franklin, 50.8 mills
  • Townships: Highest: Eudora, 21.5 mills. Lowest: Palmyra, 11.9 mills.

Category: It Pays to be in the Country Award

Each government in the county has a tax base, which basically is just the taxable value of all property located inside a city, a school district, a township or whatever. These days, the fastest-growing tax bases are in the rural parts of the county.

1.Wakarusa Township: 9 percent assessed valuation growth. Wakarusa blew everybody else out of the water. Presumably, the large increase in tax base was the result significant construction that has increased the value of Westar Energy’s coal-fired power plant that is located in the township. Wakarusa now has a tax base larger than the cities of Baldwin City and Eudora combined.

2.Grant Township: Up 4.1 percent

3.Clinton Township: Up 3.4 percent

4.Eudora Township: Up 3.3 percent

5.Kanwaka Township: Up 2.1 percent

6.Marion Township: Up 2.1 percent

7.Lecompton Township: Up 2.0 percent

8.Palmyra Township: Up 1.5 percent

9.City of Lecompton: Up 1.3 percent

10.Willow Springs Township: Up 1.0 percent

11.City of Eudora: Up 0.9 percent

12.City of Lawrence: Up 0.4 percent

13.City of Baldwin City: Up 0.2 percent

Category: The Add It All Up Award

When you add up all the different property tax rates charged to a property owner, such as city, school, county, drainage districts, etc., here are the top five total mill levies and the bottom five total mill levies.

Highest: Baldwin City: 145.712 mills

Lowest: Clinton Township, the portion in far western Douglas County that is in the Shawnee Heights School district: 105.832 mills.

If you’re curious, the total tax rate for the city of Eudora is 140.678 mills. For the city of Lecompton, it is 120.988 mills. For the city of Lawrence, it is slightly more complicated. For most of the city, the tax rate is 125.323 mills.

But there is an area of the city where you get a significant discount, and you don’t even need a coupon. A portion of northwest Lawrence is now in the Perry-Lecompton school district. That area of Lawrence has a mill levy of 119.287 mills, or a difference of about 6 mills or about $140 a year in taxes on a $200,000 home.


buffalo63 6 years, 6 months ago

The City doesn't have to raise the mill levy to get an increase in funds. That is done in the appraiser's office by raising your property value, never mind that property sells for less these days.

SinoHawk 6 years, 6 months ago


That always bothers me as well. Tax rates don't need to be increased for the revenue from said tax to increase. When times are good, more funds should role in naturally. Unfortunately, the tax appraisers in most places are unwilling to lower appraised values when the market is down.

headdoctor 6 years, 6 months ago

Jeez. I looked at the abbreviated headline and thought they were going to talk about a car ride. Didn't make sense with the picture. Oh well. Guess there is more than one way to spell taxes.

Jonathan Fox 6 years, 6 months ago

Lawrence needs a 10.5% sales tax and needs to rightly appraise property and we'd be fine. Given a huge percentage of the city population for most of the year don't own property, why should the property owners pay for the services the students use.

While I'm on the soap box, Lawrence commissioners need to allow stores to build here so we can stop loosing business taxes and sales taxes on their purchases to people driving to Kansas City to be able to get what they need.

headdoctor 6 years, 6 months ago

Brilliant, raise the sales tax on those who spend a lot of money in town and the locals who can least afford to pay it. How about not spending as much by only contracting consultants that are actually needed or cut back on throwing money to the Cities own club house....The League of Municipalities just to name a few. The only cities in Kansas that are over 10% are that way because of added TIFF taxes and then it is just in certain locations. Most Kansas cities basic sales tax are under 10%. I don't believe any of those cities are better off with the higher rate than we are and many of their populations are more year round than ours.

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