MARION: Barker, Wilborn challenged

Marion County Commissioner Dan Holub (right) and Sen. Rick Wilborn of McPherson exchange views during the legislative coffee in Marion. Members of the public pushed Wilborn and Rep. John Barker on a variety of issues during the session.About 20 people attending the legislative coffee in Marion Saturday gave Sen. Rick Wilborn, R-District 35, and Rep. John Barker, R-District 70, an earful on the property tax lid, school funding and other concerns facing rural communities.

Mayor Todd Heitschmidt explained how angry he was regarding the tax lid issue and how there wasn?t a hearing on it.

The bill puts a lid on a city?s ability to raise property tax and from that other issues will arise.

This bill, Heitschmidt said, will prevent planned increases in the city budget and hurt continued services.

Signed into law, the bill says that if cities or counties want to increase revenue at the rate of inflation, they can, but if they want to go beyond the rate of inflation they have to have a vote of the people.

Heit?schmidt said if this goes to a vote and fails, then people will question coun?cilors why streets aren?t being taken care of, why sew?er lines are broken and why the quality of water is poor.

?Somebody looking long term has got to fix that for the betterment of the community,? he said. ?The tax lid takes away from that.?

Heitschmidt said he hoped both Wilborn and Barker will go back to the leadership and ask to have a specific hearing to take this bill off and allow cities to address it.

?I don?t think that will happen, and when we look at four years from now, these guys will have very little to say because the population is going to the bigger cities.?

Heitschmidt said it is time to sound the alarm bell.

?It was a trial balloon with school consolidation,? he said, ?but four years from now it will pass because of redistricting, and the tax lid will be worse. The winds are here.?

With five school districts in Marion County, Heitschmidt said wouldn?t it better to have decisions made at the local level than being forced by those in Topeka..

?Where is this tide taking us? Wherever that is, it?s not good for rural Kansas,? he said.

Elected officials in Marion County don?t want to see anybody?s taxes raised, but if the county wants to see businesses here, it is necessary.

?It is your friends, families and children moving to big cities because we can?t offer what they want here,? he said.

Barker said he voted for the tax lid because it did not harm rural communities initially and wouldn?t take effect until 2018.

?I anticipate that next year we will have a new House of Representatives, and a new House speaker,? Barker said.

?Presently, the leadership is from Johnson County, not that anything is wrong there, but I just don?t live or represent Johnson County.?

Barker said it has always been about rural versus urban and more so in the future.

?As those counties grow,? he said, ?we will have less influence, and I?m not sure where that will take us. It won?t be fair.?

Other constituents spoke up, too, about the bill concerning properties that would expand a city?s ability to deal with abandoned residential property. The Kansas League of Municipalities supports the bill and plans to monitor its progress.

Commissioner Dan Holub asked why the counties cannot be given the same consideration on abandoned property.

According to Holter, this bill will hopefully lay the foundation for the Kansas Association of Counties to act.

?Some counties don?t want to make the investment or don?t have an established process,? Holter said.

Regarding school funding, Jeremiah Lange, USD 408 Superintendent Lee Leiker and former Rep. Bob Brookens took issue with the school funding formula and the Kansas Retirement System for Public Employees, or KPERS.

Lange explained that when Barker said the formula is problematic and vari?able, he offered his own opinion.

?It is my understanding the way it is set up is being based on prior, current or an average of the previous three years,? he said.

?My guess is that most districts are relatively stagnant.?

Barker explained examples of variables to include bond issues and the state?s obligation to pay a portion of those and pay raises for teachers and the state having to come in and add additional funds to the KPERS account.

?These are real families and real towns and not just dollars on paper,? one constituent said.

Another constituent noted that USD 408 lost $50,000 last spring when the legislature went to block grants.

When asked if the district would get that money back, Barker said, ?No.?

City officials were also not in favor of a bill to prohibit inclusionary zoning, which would prohibit price controls on the purchase or sale of private residential or commercial property.

SB 365, which is the redevelopment of certain contaminated property, would provide a mechanism to allow real property with environmental contamination purchased after July 1 to be bought without the purchaser becoming liable for cleanup costs.

The DUI administrative procedure bill was also opposed by the city.

The reason was previous language would have allowed people who failed or refused a DUI test, during a DUI check lane, from being subject to administrative procedures.

Written By
More from Patty Decker
Commission hears that wind farm road situation may be improving
The Marion County Commissioners were cautiously optimistic when the county engineer provided...
Read More