Written by Bob Brookens Tuesday, 10 March 2009 13:53
I appreciated the opportunities these past two weekends to discuss legislative matters in Marion County, and I look forward to the March 21 meeting in Chase County at the Farm Bureau office.
Thank you also for your feedback on this column. Let your paper know you read it, too.
Now for the topic that shows up this year on television: Proposition K. It is embodied in HB 2150 and is now being studied in a sub-committee of the House Taxation Committee.
Prop K proposes to change how homes are valued in Kansas. Instead of using our current fair-market valuation method, we would switch to automatically increasing all home values 2 percent each year, across the board.
Proponents suggest this is a cap to protect us all from mill-levy creep. My thought? Any time we slip an artificial factor in the mix, someone’s ox is going to get gored. The question is simply: whose ox?
Most Kansans want to know before forming an opinion—and that is the mark of a conservative: someone who is careful, slow to form an opinion, cautious.... Conservative.
Prop K proponents are spending an enormous amount of money on advertising to push this agenda. Why? And they are targeting Joe and Suzy Public—average folks who don’t want their house taxes to go up.
The problem is the valuation method won’t change the taxes raised, it only affects who pays the taxes in what proportion. Governmental units set the amount of taxes raised, and that should be the focus for lower taxes, not the way we value property.
The reason we use a fair-market-value system is that property values don’t increase evenly and to be fair, we adjust them all so we maintain comparative worth.
The artificial factor of a 2 percent increase for all changes the notion of “fair” and if we want to redefine “fair” we should intentionally do it, not by backing into a buzz saw.
Consider the homes in the Tallgrass or Vickridge areas of Wichita for a minute.
If we ignore for a minute we’re in a recession, we can anticipate those property values might increase by more than 2 percent annually since those homes are typically in high demand.
Now for comparison, consider homes in Sharon Springs, Ness City, or in the towns of the 70th District.
Do you anticipate values in these towns or in the countryside around them will increase 2 percent annually?
It doesn’t take long to see that in just a few years the Vickridge homes will be “valued” less than their fair-market value, but home “values” in some of the comparative communities will still increase by 2 percent, even when homes in some of our towns and our neighbors’ towns devalue.
There are other problems with Prop K, but my example is the easy issue to spot.
I understand our present system is not perfect; that is why our appraisers constantly aim to maintain fairness of value as between our homes.
The 2 percent artificial method may make determining home “values” easy, but over time it will create vast disparity in who pays the tax. The little guy will lose; the areas of Kansas that are not prosperous will lose.
I hope that is an unintended consequence of Prop K, but I fear it is precisely why Prop K was designed. I only hope that Joe and Suzy Public don’t buy into this simple fix. I think Proposition K is a bad idea, dangerous for Kansans, and unfair. I would vote no.
You may e-mail me at: Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at either 201 Meadow Lane, Marion, KS 66861 or at Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. If you are coming to Topeka, call me at 785-296-7636.