Board of County Commissioners candidate on the issues: Rising property values and taxes

Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for office address ahead of November’s general election. Based on the input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for candidates running for seats on the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners.

We’ll be publishing the candidates’ responses to one item per day each day this week. Today we’re publishing the candidates’ responses to item #1:

Property values have increased substantially in many parts of the county over the past decade, but the property tax rate has held largely steady. This means many homeowners have seen their annual property tax bills increase faster than the rate of inflation. Are you comfortable with this trend? If so, why? If not, how should the county address it?

District 2 (Parts of Shawnee and Lenexa and all of Lake Quivira)

Jeff Meyers

Property taxes are the major source of revenue for our county government. I know residents are looking for relief in their tax bills. I am one of those residents who also does not like to see my tax bills rise. Seniors want to stay in their homes and it is hard to do with property tax increases. Looking for ways to address this issue is important.That being said, the county is waiting on a decision on an appeal from commercial property tax that has been issued in the past that could have a major effect on the county budget. As a commissioner you always have to be mindful of the services you are providing to residents and weighing them with the amount of revenue you have to spend. Whether it is safety services, mental health services, transportation issues, business, parks and recreation, environment or the many other responsibilities of this position, you want to provide the protection and services that county residents want and deserve. I believe county staff and current leadership are doing a great job and are constantly looking at ways to solve these issues. The ways to address this are to first look for cost saving measures. I believe looking at consolidation of services is a good way of finding cost savings when possible. Reform property tax formulas or change other taxing entities such as reducing the mill levy for relief are other ways of addressing property tax increases. Residents also have the possible remedy of appealing your property tax bill if you feel your property has been unfairly appraised. As a commissioner when making these decisions you must be ready to explain the expenditures you are willing to change or delete. I will not make promises that I cannot keep but I can promise that I will be prudent and frugal when it comes to taxpayers money. I want to emphasize that I know residents are looking for relief at this time.

Rob Patterson

This is easily the top concern voters have when I go door to door. They are tired of the ruse, where those in government will claim they haven’t raised taxes, only to have their property tax bill go up. This is why we have to rein in the rate of growth in government spending to be more in line with inflation and population growth, so property taxes are not such a burden on homeowners and business owners throughout Johnson County. This is particularly true during this uncertain economic period. If families are expected to tighten their belts, so should government.

District 3 (Southern Leawood and Overland Park plus Stillwell and Spring Hill)

Stacy Obringer-Varhall

Government must be to be adequately funded to successfully work and we need to make sure that funding is obtained through fair and reasonable assessment and taxation. This applies to both commercial and residential property tax bases. I do not support shifting tax burden from commercial to residential payers through dark store hypothetical value which reduces the property tax that large stores pay. I would work with the state to expand tax relief for more Johnson County residents through programs like Homestead Fund and SAFSERF which provide refunds to those seniors qualifying. And during difficult times like the COVID-19 pandemic there should be some adjustment to ensure patrons are not facing rising taxes while struggling to make ends meet.

Charlotte O’Hara

I am not comfortable with this trend; this is taxation without transparency, using the windfall of reappraisal. The County Commission must vote on all tax increases whether it is through an increase in mill levy or taking the windfall of increased valuation.

 

District 6 (Much of Olathe and western Johnson County)

Mike Brown (incumbent)

Total Johnson County property tax collections have risen from ~$1 billion in 2016 to ~$1.25 billion in 2020. That’s roughly a 25% increase in four years which is completely unsustainable — and it would have been much more if I had not fought to control spending on behalf of the Johnson County taxpayer.

The county and other taxing jurisdictions receive a windfall of hard earned taxpayer money when each year’s valuation appraisals rise. The mill levy should always be adjusted down to offset this windfall and any increase in property taxes should always be transparent and easily available for the tax-paying public to see, understand and provide their input.

A government that continues to expand to be all things to all people is a government doomed to never-ending property tax increases and expenditures. I support our core services being appropriately funded… however mission creep in scope of services continues and the taxpayer foots the bill for this type of leadership.

We all want Johnson County to be the best place it can be to live, work and play. A county where folks choose to leave because of high property taxes falls far short of that goal.

Shirley Allenbrand

This is a very complicated issue. Over the last Decade there have been several state initiatives with the results being to shrink the tax base and shifting the burden to businesses and residential real estate. These must no be allowed. Secondly, I would support the state legislator and governor considering a freeze for senior home owners where their property tax dollar amount freezes except for inflation. County government property taxes are about 20% of the tax bill and I believe where possible we should think about rolling back the mill levy before we think about spending excess other than inflation.

Tomorrow we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to item #2:

Mental health issues are a continuing concern in Johnson County, as evidenced by teen suicide rates and calls for police service. What can the county do to improve residents’ access to mental health services and ensure that mental health calls don’t divert police resources from crime prevention?