Americans for Prosperity worries about Johnson County tax increase

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Johnson County commissioners are little over a week away from voting on a property-tax increase — the first of the county’s kind since 2006.

Counting noses on the seven-member commission, it seems likely that a majority will approve a 3.3 increase to the county’s mill levy.

Hannes Zacharias, Johnson County manager, originally proposed a 1.6 mill levy increase to maintain county services from the previous year’s budget. But commissioners had their own projects in mind, namely additional mill levy increases to supplement funding to parks, the county library system and a taxi voucher program for residents with disabilities.

As a practical reality, the 3.3 mill levy increase would mean an extra $76.56 a year tacked onto property tax bills for the owner of an average $261,000 house. That works out to slightly less than the monthly Netflix movie-streaming service fee.

The county considered a tax increase last year, an election year. Accordingly, commissioners buckled to pressure, including dissatisfaction from some members of Johnson County’s legislative delegation in Topeka, whose policies place budgetary pressure on local units of government, such as the county. The year before, the Kansas Legislature passed a repeal of the mortgage registration fee, which blew a $10 million hole into Johnson County’s budget.

This year, much of that backlash is absent. The Kansas Legislature approved tax increases of its own this last year, forcing it to give up its anti-tax high ground.

Few protested the county’s proposed budget at a recent public hearing. Johnson County residents, it seems, understand that some extra money has to come out of their pockets to maintain government service levels.

Americans for Prosperity, however, wants to rally its members to try and force another surrender on tax increases by the Johnson County commission. In an e-mail to supporters, the conservative organization implores members to lobby commissioners to back away from a mill levy vote on August 13.

AFP, the political advocacy group tied to Wichita billionaire businessmen Charles and David Koch, are calling the mill levy increase a 13 percent tax hike when including the county’s increase in property valuation. AFP summons members to write generic letters to commissioners, but it’s doubtful that many will heed that call.

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