Archive for Thursday, August 24, 2006

County to drop 2007 tax rate

August 24, 2006

Leavenworth County commissioners are proposing a 2007 budget that slices more than 7 mills from property tax bills.

County Commission Chairman Dean Oroke said the reason for the mill levy cut -- more than 20 percent from a year ago -- was simple: "We're staying on top of the finances."

In actuality, several factors, including stingy spending, are contributing to the county's rosy fiscal forecast. Assessed valuation is up 8 percent from a year ago, meaning the county has a larger tax base from which to draw funds; fees related to the sale of real estate or refinancing of mortgages continue to outpace projections; and interest generated on idle funds continues to grow.

The commission has scheduled a budget hearing for 10 a.m. Sept. 6 on a 2007 county funds budget that calls for overall spending of $41.6 million and a levy of 28.232 mills. Both overall expenditures and the mill levy rate are down from the 2006 budget, which forecast spending of $42.9 million with a levy of 35.951 mills.

Residents living outside of the county's cities would pay an additional 7.088 mills to fund the county's 2007 local services budget.

A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in assessed valuation.

Oroke said he was pleased the commission could slice more than 7 mills from the budget.

"Taxpayers might say we've increased valuation by 8 percent, but we've still decreased the mill levy by 20 percent," Oroke said. "That's a net gain of 12 percent for taxpayers on the county budget. ... We're not just riding the wave of valuation."

Even though the budget proposes to cut overall spending, Oroke pointed out spending for bridges and roads and social services are slated for increases in 2007.

For example, the budget line for elderly services in 2007 calls for expenditures of $1.465 million, up from $1.291 million this year, a 13.4 percent increase.

Spending increases also are on tap for the county's Emergency Medical Services and employee benefits.

Decreased expenditures of note include bond and interest payments on the Justice Center, which was paid off in 2006 with final payments of $3.17 million, and spending in equipment and capital improvement reserve funds.

The Justice Center was paid off using receipts from the countywide sales tax, which expires at the end of this year. A new 1 percent countywide sales tax goes into effect Jan. 1, 2007, with funds earmarked for road improvements and upgrades in emergency workers' communications equipment.

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