Plan ties Kansas schools tax to a proposed tax break for closed businesses

Topeka — A measure approved by Kansas lawmakers ties the renewal of a tax that’s crucial to funding public schools to a proposed tax break for businesses that are forced to shut down during future emergencies or pandemics.

The bill approved early Saturday is a response from the GOP-controlled Legislature to frustrations that businesses shut down or restricted last year during the coronavirus pandemic still owed local property taxes. Those taxes are based on a property’s appraised value, so they’re due even if a business makes no money.

The votes were 35-0 in the Senate and 108-3 in the House, sending the measure to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

Starting next year, counties would have to give property tax rebates to businesses that are shut down or restricted during a declared state of emergency, based on the number of days the rules are in place.

Local officials worry that the rebates will undercut funding for services, particularly public safety.

But that proposal is tied to a statewide property tax that is expected to raise $752 million for public schools for the 2021-22 year. The state constitution prohibits the levy from being imposed for more than two years at a time.


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