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Proposed Property Tax Increase In Johnson County Would Pay For Parks, Libraries

Johnson County Commissioners will vote Thursday on a mill levy increase to pay for parks and libraries.

“Fully 50 percent plus of this entire property tax increase is going to improve services,” says County Manager Hannes Zacharias, adding those are the amenities besides a high-quality education that attract people to Johnson County.

The rest will offset a decrease in revenue collections, improve pay for sheriff’s deputies and fund capital improvements for county infrastructure.

Zacharias says collections for county services actually decreased during the recession. But at the same time, schools and other taxing districts raised their rates, causing people’s overall tax bills to go up.

“The most common misconception is that when they write a check to the Johnson County Treasurer, all that money goes to Johnson County government,” Zacharias says. “It does not.”

Only about 15 percent of the total tax bill goes to the county, Zacharias says, versus more than 40 percent for schools.

The amount of sales tax revenue the county captures is even less – about 6.3 percent.

The proposed increase represents an increase of about $8 per month for the average Johnson County residence (which is worth $261,000). Olathe residents would pay a little less because they have their own library system.

Even with the increase, Johnson County would have the lowest mill levy in the state.

Budget includes significant cash reserves

The proposed 2016 budget includes about $185 million in cash reserves – about a quarter of the budget – which Zacharias says are critically important to the county’s AAA credit rating.

“It basically says we are able to borrow money at the cheapest rate possible in the country,” he says. “There are about 3,100 counties in the United States, and about 1 percent have a triple-A bond rating. We’re one of that 1 percent.”

Having one of the top bond ratings in the country will allow Johnson County to borrow money in the near future for upgrades to the Tomahawk Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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