County Commissioners vote 5-2 in favor of budget with property tax increase, would fund parks, libraries projects benefiting NEJC

The Corinth branch is slated to be rebuilt under the Johnson County Library's strategic plan, which would be funded in part by a property tax increase given preliminary approval by the Board of County Commissioners.
The Corinth branch is slated to be rebuilt under the Johnson County Library’s strategic plan, which would be funded in part by a property tax increase given preliminary approval by the Board of County Commissioners.

The Johnson County Board of County Commissioners on Thursday approved the outlines of a 2016 budget that would raise residents’ property taxes by 3.3 mills. The increase will bring the total county rate to 19.564 mills, which would still be the lowest county rate in the state.

The bulk of the tax increase, which would equate to an additional $8.26 for the owner of a home valued at the county average of $261,000, would help replace the funds from the mortgage interest fee that were required to be cut from the county’s budget under a state bill passed in 2014.

An additional .75 mills each would go toward execution of the county’s strategic master plans for both the Johnson County Park & Recreation District and the Johnson County Library. Additional new funds would go toward an expansion of the county’s para-transit program.

Former Prairie Village Mayor and current District 1 Commissioner Ron Shaffer, who was among the five commissioners to vote in favor of the budget plan, said the debate over raising taxes to fund the public institutions was detailed.

“There was a lot of negotiation to get to the .75 mill level for both departments,” Shaffer said. “Both of them wanted more, but we all agreed and that’s what eventually prevailed… It’s no secret that the parks need some additional funding to fulfill their obligations to keep them as good as we expect them to be. Same with the libraries.”

Should the commission formally adopt the budget later this summer, northeast Johnson County residents will likely see the results of the increased parks and library spending in their neighborhoods. The library master plan being considered by the Library Board calls for the renovation or rebuild of the Cedar Roe library in Roeland Park and the Antioch library in Merriam. The Corinth library in Prairie Village is slated for a rebuild.

Additionally, the city of Prairie Village is in the process of finalizing an agreement that would create a massive new county park on the site of Meadowbrook Country Club.

The county will hold a public hearing on its proposed budget at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 27 in the Board of County Commissioners Hearing Room at the Johnson County Administration Building in Olathe. The board is set to formally adopt the budget Thursday, August 13.