When they met Monday, Leavenworth County commissioners discussed whether they should lower the property tax rate for the county government.

When they met Monday, Leavenworth County commissioners discussed whether they should lower the property tax rate for the county government.

The discussion came as commissioners talked about the process they will follow for preparing the county's 2020 budget. The discussion came during a work session that followed a regular meeting.

Commissioners typically meet on Wednesdays. But this week’s meeting took place Monday because one commissioner will be unavailable this Wednesday.

Commissioners could begin a series of meetings about the proposed 2020 budget as early as next month.

County Clerk Janet Klasinski said that by June, she should have information needed to create a budget spreadsheet for commissioners that will include an approximate mill levy for 2020.

The mill levy is used in determining property taxes.

County Administrator Mark Loughry asked commissioners Monday if they are wanting to keep the mill levy flat, reduce it or use the maximum amount possible.

He said county officials need to know if commissioners are adamant about reducing the mill levy.

Because of an increase in property valuation in the county, Klasinski said the mill levy likely will be lowered automatically because of a state tax lid law.

The law places restrictions on cities and counties when it comes to collecting increased property tax revenue that exceeds the rate of inflation.

Klasinski said commissioners can call for an election to ask voters for authority to increase the mill levy beyond what is allowed under the tax lid. But the county clerk said she does not believe such a ballot measure would pass unless there is a push for a specific budget item.

Commission Chairman Doug Smith said he would like to reduce the mill levy by 0.25 mills.

Commissioner Vicky Kaaz said commissioners should go into the budget process with the idea of keeping the mill levy flat and a goal of reducing it.

Commissioner Jeff Culbertson said he believes budgets for individual departments within the county government are lower than what they should be. He said department directors were asked each year for about 15 years to prepare budgets with 5% cuts.

Commissioner Mike Stieben said he campaigned on reducing the mill levy.

Stieben said county officials should look at the budget numbers and determine if the county can still provide services while providing a little relief to taxpayers.

“And I think we can,” he said.

If commissioners reduce the mill levy, the lowered mill rate will be the county’s new budget cap under the state’s tax lid law, Loughry said.

The county administrator also argued that people may not notice a mill levy reduction unless it is a significant amount.

Stieben said people are watching the commissioners this year.

“I think people are upset about their valuations,” he said.

Klasinski said even if the county government reduces its mill levy, other taxing entities in the county may not lower their levies.

Culbertson said a small percentage of the property taxes people pay goes to the county government. But he said the county takes the heat for overall property taxes.

Commissioner Chad Schimke questioned whether people are mad because of the amount of taxes they pay or because they see no improvement resulting from the taxes.

Smith said commissioners need to know how much money the county will be collecting in 2020 compared to this year.

Kaaz said commissioners need to be more aggressive with state legislators to get money returned to the county. She accused state lawmakers of cutting off money that was supposed to be given to the county.

Klasinski said county officials do not yet know how much insurance costs will increase for next year.

“There’s a lot of uncontrolled factors out there,” she said.

Loughry said he has heard commissioners comment about possible budget enhancements. He asked commissioners to let him know what they would like to include in the proposed 2020 budget.

He asked commissioners to provide this information to him in the next week.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR