Prairie Village Mayoral candidates on the issues: Where to direct growing property tax proceeds?

Today we continue with the Prairie Village Mayoral candidates’ responses to our election issues questionnaire.

Here’s item number three:

Property values in Prairie Village have risen sharply the past few years — but the city’s property tax rate has stayed the same, as have the rates of several other taxing entities. Should the city be taking any steps to address property tax burden on homeowners? Or should it be investing the additional tax revenue its receiving in city projects?

Eric Mikkelson

The City should have lowered property tax rates for 2018.

During my term on Council and as Chair of the Finance Committee of Prairie Village, home values rose at an extraordinary rate. This is good economic news for homeowners in the long-run. But for those invested in living here for the long-run, it causes short-term pain through higher property taxes when the tax rate is not adjusted. Out knocking doors I hear about this pain a lot, both from seniors on fixed incomes and from younger families struggling to make ends meet.

As the City’s Finance Chair, I put my background in economics, tax and finance, and my experience as a business owner, to work to try to get you some relief. The City was projected to collect several hundred thousand surplus tax dollars from increased appraised values. By “surplus,” I mean after funding salary increases for our police, after investing more than usual in capital improvements to our roads, after funding parks and drainage, and after funding all of the other services and needs of the City.

Even after funding all of those needs, the city still had money left over. So, I made a motion at the Council to reduce the property tax rate for 2018, to give some of that excess back to you. Unfortunately, my opponent did not support the motion and it did not pass.

Each year, prudent budgeting requires us to take a fresh look at projected costs and needs for that year, and compare to expected revenues, to make a new annual decision on tax rates. In making these decisions we also now must consider the property tax lid law the State recently imposed on cities. As Mayor I will take a hard look at property tax relief again if appraisals and revenues keep outpacing inflation. If we have an opportunity like we did for 2018 to lower property taxes while maintaining our fiscal strength, I would like to take that opportunity to put money in homeowners’ pockets.

For more information about my campaign, including a proclamation from the City of Prairie Village acknowledging my efforts to keep your tax rates low, please see www.mikkelsonforpv.com.

And don’t forget to vote for efficient government by voting for Eric Mikkelson on November 6!

Serena Schermoly

Yes, we need to be taking steps to address the property tax burden on our homeowners. Responsible government funds the projects and programs we need to meet our resident’s expectations. Your money is important, and your City takes this responsibility seriously. When looking at the full budget, the increase in revenue seen from rising property values is modest to the city, but substantial to the homeowner. Because the city only plays a small role in the division of your taxes, we will need to be creative as we explore what this means to our residents.

I have supported deliberative forums to bring together residents with our city staff to work on the previous budgets. As mayor, I will appoint a committee with residents, staff and a council members, to research and report to council innovative ways to ease the property tax burdens on all residents. We are limited in what we can do as a city, but we need to present a solution to our state lawmakers to create the changes we need.

There are many great ideas that could provide relief for the problems some of our residents face. In many cases, the home has been paid off, but the increasing value makes it impossible to forecast next year’s taxes or beyond. Kansas offers a Homestead provision, but because of our property values, few residents meet its thresholds. The County could freeze the property value or the tax rate for long-time residents at lower incomes to allow them to make financial decisions and remain in their homes. A provision could be made to divert the tax liability of our at-risk residents above a certain percentage increase, until the property is sold or transferred. There are many solutions, but we will have to partner with other municipalities and regional governments to affect this change at the state level.

With a commitment to finding solutions for those hardest hit by continued growth, it is also important that we continue to fund the ongoing needs of city. There is a long list of priorities that the Council will deliberate and prioritize and decide whether to fund or not.

Lastly, food for thought – The last Mill levy rate increase was in 2012, this was approved to hire two police officers.

This is not about what I can do. This is what WE can do together.

Please vote for Serena Schermoly for Mayor on November 6. www.serenaschermoly.org

Tomorrow, we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to our fourth question:

What’s the top infrastructure need — be it with roads, parks or other facilities — you see for the city today, and how would you go about getting it fulfilled as mayor?