County Chair Eilert lays out benefits of tax rate increases, calls for continued ‘investment’

Johnson County Chair Ed Eilert speaking Friday at the Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Roeland Park community Center.
Johnson County Chair Ed Eilert speaking Friday at the Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Roeland Park community Center.

Long-term investment in areas such as transportation and education has built Johnson County into the place it is today and that should not stop, County Chair Ed Eilert said Friday. “Our objective should be to invest for tomorrow … to build the kind of community we want to work in and raise our families in.”

Eilert told the crowd at the monthly Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Roeland Park that Johnson County has the lowest county government tax rate in the state of Kansas. “Economic growth and job creation” have been responsible for that low rate, he said.

But with an increase in the county portion of the tax rate planned for 2016, Eilert pointed out that the mill levy has been flat since 2006. To accomplish that the county has reduced employment by 428 positions, made $46 million in on-going budget reductions and reduced or eliminated merit increases for employees for three years.

Loss of state funding and residential property values that have not bounced back to 2009 levels contributed to the funding challenges.

For 2016, the county is planning an increase of 1.8 mills for county services and .75 mills each for the county parks and library system. The combination of those increases will add $4.75 per month to the taxes of the owner of a $150,000 home.

Both the libraries and parks department have undertaken sweeping master plans that will have benefits in northeast Johnson County. Library director Sean Casserley reiterated that the libraries at Corinth, Antioch and Cedar Roe will all be remodeled or rebuilt. “We are committed to having those libraries in those communities,” he said.

In the county park system, director Jill Geller said, the plan is to open five new parks in the next 15 years, including the 88-acre Meadowbrook property in Prairie Village. The county system also plans to add 38 miles of streamway trails over the same 15-year period.