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Candidates For Johnson County Commission Chair Debate Taxes, Transparency


The race for county commission chair in Johnson County is already hot and getting more fiery. Monday on Up to Date, Steve Kraske spoke with the two candidates, incumbent Ed Eilert and challenger Patricia Lightner.

The two  disagreed on the openness of the county's current government.

“One of the things lacking right now in our county government is transparency,” Lighter said, referring to what she called closed door meetings and a lack of a clear budget. “I’m not going to say that (some meetings are) secret… the fact is they’re not recorded (when they're held) in the basement.”

Eilert disagreed with her assertions, saying all the county meetings are public and properly announced.

“For anyone who looks, there is complete transparency,” he said.

The two candidates also disagreed about property taxes. Eilert pointed out that property tax rates have not gone up since he's headed the commission, but Lightner said that did not matter, since the property tax revenue has risen as property values have gone up in that time period.

"We’re taking less money in 2015 than we did in 2008. We lost, if you will, $45 million in property tax revenues during the Great Recession. We have not recovered that," Eilert said.

Eilert also said that while county staff did recommend a rise in property rates for the 2015 budget, the commission cut spending instead to balance the books. Lightner contended that Eilert himself voted for the increase.

"I think we need to look closer at how that budget's being spent," she said.

Lightner used the parks part of the budget as an example.

"I know that there’s a lot of talk about… developing a couple of the park plans we currently have open… there’s talks of taking a loan out to buy more land ... Let the people vote on whether or not they want to increase their taxes to fund more development of parks," Lightner said.

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