JCCC Board of Trustees candidates on the issues: Property tax rate

Candidates vying for election to the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees discuss their views on the college's property tax rate.

In August, we asked our readers about the issues you wanted to hear the candidates running for Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees address. Based on your feedback, we developed a five-item questionnaire touching on the most important issues to patrons of the district.

Each day this week, we will publish the candidates’ responses to one of five questions. Today, we are publishing candidates’ responses to the following question:

Rising property taxes, caused in large part by increasing home valuations, continue to be a concern for many Johnson County residents. In recent years, the revenue JCCC collects from local property taxes has gone up even though the mill levy, or tax rate, has gone down. Should JCCC look to cut the property tax rate even further, in light of rising property values? In general, what is your philosophy on setting the college’s property tax rate?

Below are the answers the Post received from the candidates on this issue:

Gerry Malnar

Gerry Malnar Headshot Johnson Countians are paying more than their fair share of the revenues of the college. JoCo taxpayers provided 55% of total revenues in 2013. That percentage increased to 64% in 2020. Despite a 25% decline in enrollments over the past 10 years, the school’s budget has increased more than 25%. Given these facts, the budget needs to be analyzed to determine how taxes can be decreased without compromising education quality. JCCC must be mindful to be good stewards of the rich resources the taxpayers provide.

 

Jae Moyer

Jae Moyer headshot Rising property taxes, caused in large part by increasing home valuations, continue to be a concern for many Johnson County residents. In recent years, the revenue JCCC collects from local property taxes has gone up even though the mill levy, or tax rate, has gone down. Should JCCC look to cut the property tax rate even further, in light of rising property values? In general, what is your philosophy on setting the college’s property tax rate? I think it’s incredibly important to take a look at how Johnson County Community College positively impacts the community. JCCC is designed to provide a quality education at an affordable rate to students not only from Johnson County, but also all across the world. We already know that small business owners are choosing to bring their livelihoods here to Johnson County because of the education that they know students are receiving at Johnson County Community College. Businesses want to hire our graduates because they are gaining incredibly important skills at JCCC. This, in turn, is stimulating our economy- providing businesses the opportunity to grow and create more jobs.

This is why I would argue that it’s incredibly important to continue providing JCCC with the resources it needs to provide a quality education. We must ensure that the college is always able to successfully fulfill its purpose in our community. In short, I believe that we need to keep the mill levy about where it is, at least for now. Based on information distributed by the college, per the 2019-20 operating results, 7% of every tax dollar goes to the college. This money is essential to helping the college operate in whatever manner necessary to provide a quality education.

Joy Koesten

Joy Koesten headshot Rising property taxes, caused in large part by increasing home valuations, continue to be a concern for many Johnson County residents. In recent years, the revenue JCCC collects from local property taxes has gone up even though the mill levy, or tax rate, has gone down. Should JCCC look to cut the property tax rate even further, in light of rising property values? In general, what is your philosophy on setting the college’s property tax rate?
Even though JCCC has cut their mill levy rate every year over the past six years the rapid rise of housing prices has placed a burden on some homeowners. As noted on the Johnson County Appraiser’s website, “the healthy local economy means many people want to live and work in Johnson County, so property values in nearly every neighborhood continue to increase each year.”

By Kansas statute, assessed property value is taxed at a base rate of 11.5% for all residential property. On top of that, each taxing authority (county, school districts, libraries, JCCC, etc.) has the responsibility to raise or lower their mill levy based on the needs of their constituents. The current mill levy rate for JCCC is .009, or less than 1% of assess value on residential property. My philosophy holds that Trustees have an obligation to all stakeholders to balance the current and future needs of the college with those of the taxpayer.

Lee Cross (incumbent)

Lee Cross headshot I am for keeping the mill at a responsible rate. I am proud of the People of Johnson County for investing in our students, College, and economic engine. No, we should not cut our mill rate any lower. JCCC has helped build one of the strongest economies in the country and to do so would jeopardize our economic prosperity.

 

 

 

 

Mark Hamill

Mark Hamill headshotOver the past ten years we have continued the trend of declining enrollment. Inversely our budget has gone up year for the past ten years. We cannot continue to put our mismanagement of the budget on the backs of taxpayers. Particularly while our current trend has been declining enrollment. This year we are projecting another three percent loss of students. At minimum we should be staying revenue neutral.

Paul Snider (incumbent)

Paul Snider headshot

JCCC is fortunate to be in a County with a strong tax base, however, the current burden on property taxpayers is too high. We’re collecting more and more from property taxpayers at a time when enrollment is declining. Property tax funds 67% of the college, tuition and fees fund 17%, with 14% coming from the state. The college should work toward reducing the property tax burden to closer to 50% by advocating for better state funding, working to increase enrollment, considering modest adjustments to tuition, and carefully watching what we spend. The College also has reserve fund levels that are too high (about 40% of budget). The amount we put into reserves each year can be reduced, which would allow the property tax rate to be reduced.

In 2022 we’re estimating $111M in Property tax revenue. In 2013, that amount was about $70M. When I ran in 2017, we collected $90M. That’s why I’ve supported three reductions in the mill levy to flatten out that growth while still protecting the College’s finances.

Wayne H. Sandberg

Did not respond. 

Dawn Rattan

Dawn Rattan headshot

JCCC should continue to evaluate the mill levy and any decisions to increase/decrease the levy should be transparent, ensuring that the purpose is understood.

Currently, 67% of the budget is Ad Valorem Taxes and 18% is from student tuition. Assessed values of homes continue to increase but that is outside of our control. Voters should know that the mill levy was 9.46 in 2015 and has decreased steadily to 9.12 in FY2020, and was reduced again for the upcoming budget.

Also, of the different taxes that citizens pay, the JCCC tax is likely the 3rd or 4th highest tax. The median home sale price in Johnson county is approximately $327,000 and the amount paid for JCCC Mill Levy is $350/year, which is less than $1/day to support this community asset. (https://taxbill.jocogov.org/)

The institution is funded by taxpayers and the founders of the colleges wanted the community to support it financially. I think there is a good return on that investment as the college:

  • Provides a local affordable education option
  • Responsive to local labor market needs/Produces future qualified employees for local businesses
  • Assists local businesses
  • Contributes to the arts
  • Assists in small business development
  • Enforces the strong link between education and quality of life
  • Is a means to secure economic stability
  • Produces and educated workforce contributes to the greater good of the community
  • Less crime, better health, less dependence on government resources, higher contribution to tax revenue.

On Wednesday, we will publish the candidates’ responses to the following question:

The pandemic has upended the regional and national economy. Many businesses still claim they are having trouble finding enough skilled workers, and many workers are either reluctant to go back to full-time work due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19 or are re-evaluating their career choices. What role should JCCC play in developing Johnson County’s post-pandemic workforce?