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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Commissioners entrench positions as session nears end

  • With the end of the Kansas Legislature's scheduled 2013 session near, it was starting to seem like the Leavenworth County Commission was opposing more legislation that it was supporting.
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  • With the end of the Kansas Legislature's scheduled 2013 session near, it was starting to seem like the Leavenworth County Commission was opposing more legislation that it was supporting.
    That, at least, was the sentiment from Commissioner Clyde Graeber at the end of an almost hourlong discussion of a number of bills County Administrator Pat Hurley has been tracking as they make their way through the Legislature. This week, that legislation passes a specific signpost.
    “Per their schedule, they are no longer going to have committee meetings,” he said of the Legislature.
    This week, Hurley said lawmakers will only consider those bills that have already passed one of the two chambers in joint conference committees. However, Hurley said the Legislature could amend its rules and hold committee meetings for some bills or amend conference bills with germane parts of the committee legislation.
    Hurley said among the legislation considered still alive but in committee were a number of proposals that could affect Leavenworth County in one way or another.
    The first was a bill that the commission had first discussed last Thursday ― one that would exempt facilities defined as “health clubs” from local sales and property taxes, though an amendment in the Kansas Senate eliminated the sale tax exemption. Hurley said the exemption was estimated to potentially cost Leavenworth County more than $58,000 in property tax revenues, a move that could result in a shift to local property owners or a hole in local budgets.
    “If we have to take a $58,000 loss... I would have a hard time cutting the county's budget,” instead suggesting that the county could terminate its contract with Genesis Health Club to make up the difference, Commissioner Dennis Bixby said.
    Another bill the commission has discussed at length was House Bill 2285, which as originally introduced would have reclassified fixtures from real property to personal property, exempting it from property taxation. It's a move that at one time officials believed could result in a 14-mill deficit in the city of Leavenworth's property tax levy alone.
    According to the Kansas League of Municipalities, that bill had been struck from the House calendar, Hurley said, though he again reminded the commissioners that parts of it could return as amendments to other bills.
    The third major bill that the commission considered taking an official stance on was House Bill 2047, which would force local governments to cut property tax levies in years when valuation increases to keep taxing levels static in real dollars.
    “This is the way the state is saying 'tails we win, heads you lose,'” Bixby said.
    The commission agreed to take an official position opposing all three bills, though Graeber wondered aloud how much an official stance could do as the Legislature closes in on its adjournment.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I'm not sure what good that does with some of the current legislators,” he said.
    Hurley said in the past the county's official opposition has made a difference with the local delegation.
    “When we have communicated opposition, which we did earlier on House Bill 2285, I know that Senator (Steve) Fitzgerald and Representative (John) Bradford both responded back to that communication thanking us for the explanation,” he said.
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