Archive for Thursday, September 1, 2005

Property tax outlook gains focus

Overall levy to drop 7 mills for Lansing property owners

September 1, 2005

Among the 16 office holders sitting on either the Lansing City Council or Lansing School Board, Shelly Gowdy holds a dubious distinction.

Gowdy, vice president of the Lansing School Board, will see her property taxes rise by a higher rate this year - 5.77 percent - than those of any of her elected colleagues.

It's not because mill levies are going up. A hold-the-line-on-taxes mentality by governmental agencies will bring the combined levy in Lansing down 7.391 mills from a year ago. A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The county appraiser, however, raised the value on Gowdy's house on 4-H Road by nearly $17,000, negating any benefit of the lower levy. The increased valuation will mean a 2005 property tax bill of $2,219 compared to the $2,098 she and her husband, Mark, paid in property taxes a year ago.

Gowdy is taking her tax increase in stride.

"I think it's a good thing if property increases in value," she said. "We plan on staying here for some time, but when market value goes up, your property is that much more valuable when you go to sell."

Budgets for 2006 now have been set by all of the area taxing units - city of Lansing, Lansing School District, Leavenworth County, Leavenworth County Fire District No. 1 and the state of Kansas - and the combined mill levy is down from 132.461 mills to 125.07 mills. The only entity to raise its levy is the fire district, up .18 mills to 3.691 mills.

Like Gowdy, Lansing Mayor Kenneth Bernard also will pay higher property taxes this year. His house on East Lois Street saw its valuation increase nearly $10,000 from a year ago. Bernard protested the new valuation to no avail. His property taxes will go from $1,986 a year ago to $2,015 this year, a jump of just 1.48 percent.

"It's fine with me," Bernard said of the increase. "Most of the entities did a pretty good job of holding the line."

Bernard noted costs are going up on most everything.

"We've got inflation to worry about, too," at the city, Bernard said. "Gas costs hit us hard; insurance rates are going up. It's the same things that homeowners are putting up with."

The value on Council member Andi Pawlowski's home on Canyon View Drive is holding steady from a year ago, a fact she credits to her successful appeal to the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals.

Pawlowski and her husband, Tom, will pay $4,125 on the property this year, down $242 from 2004.

"We have great streets, great schools, good city services : I still think it's a bargain," she said.

In all, eight elected officials will see the property taxes on their residences fall this year. The decreases range from 5.6 percent for Council member Harland Russell to .91 percent for Council member Kenneth Ketchum.

Eight of the elected officials will see their property taxes increase. The higher tax rates run from Gowdy's 5.77 percent to a .39 percent increase for School Board member Gary Courtney.

The figures for elected officials reflect what's in store for the public at large, Bernard said.

"It all goes back to the state's valuation formula," he said.

Even though the 2006 budgets are certified, the state still could have an effect on the final mill levy, said Leavenworth County Clerk Linda Scheer. That's because statewide valuations aren't scheduled to be certified until Sept. 30. Scheer's office bases the final mill levy on valuations certified in Topeka.

"Normally there's very little change in real estate valuations," she said.

The county will mail 2006 property tax statements in early November, Scheer said, with first-half taxes due Dec. 20.

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