On JCCC board, debate about whether — and how much — to reduce property tax rate

Members of the Johnson County Community College board of trustees are considering a reduction to the property tax rate levied by the college.

With assessed values throughout Johnson County jumping significantly this year, the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees is considering a reduction to the property tax rate is levies on homeowners here — but how big a reduction, or whether there should be one at all, remains up for debate.

At the board’s April meeting last week, JCCC chief financial officer Rachel Lierz told members that her office was recommending a reduction of .25 mills from the current 9.473 to 9.223. At the end of last year, the finance office had told the board they were likely to recommend a reduction of around .1 mills based on early real estate value assessments. When the total increase in assessed valuation came in higher than expected, the finance office changed its recommendation to make the reduction .25 mills.

Based on projected total valuation in the county, the 9.223 mill rate would allow JCCC to collect about $99.5 million from property taxes. This current fiscal year, property tax revenues account for about $95.7 million, or roughly two-thirds of the college’s general fund.

But there were divergent views about the proposed rate reduction.

Board member Greg Musil said he thought the board should consider reducing the mill rate even further.

“I’m supportive of .25 reduction now — and I’m not totally convinced we couldn’t reduce it a little bit more,” Musil said. “Property tax payers, we know that lots of people have been hit pretty hard over the last couple of years.”

On the other hand, board member Lee Cross said he was hesitant to commit to reducing the rate given the likelihood that assessed values will taper off in the coming years. He also said he believed conservative lawmakers at the state level may look to cut funding to higher education in the coming years.

“Certainly we’re all glad real estate and property values have gone up,” Cross said. “I would just like to put the money aside and reinvest.”

Cross said he had heard ample negative feedback to the news that the college was cutting its track program as a way to save money. He said he had a hard time balancing the feedback he was getting from residents who wanted to see the college invest in those programs with the recommendation that they should cut the mill rate.

“I’m just noting that cognitive dissonance that I have,” he said.

JCCC’s portion of a homeowners total property taxes varies from city to city, but generally accounts for about 10 percent of the total property taxes a Johnson County resident pays.

For a person with a home valued at $300,000, the current JCCC mill rate of 9.473 equates to about $327 per year in property taxes.

The board will vote on a formal recommendation about where to set the mill levy at its meeting next month.