Commissioners favor flat mill levy

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

Leavenworth County commissioners have reached a consensus to keep the county government's mill levy flat for next year.

The mill levy is used in determining property taxes.

While the mill levy may remain flat, a property owner could end up paying more in property taxes to the county next year if the valuation of his or her property has increased.

The County Commission has not yet voted on the 2022 budget. Another budget work session is scheduled for July 7.

Commissioners reached a consensus to keep the mill levy flat Wednesday during a budget work session. The work session followed the commissioners' regular weekly meeting.

Commission Chairman Mike Smith said at least three of the five commissioners supported keeping the mill levy flat for 2022.

Commissioners began their series of budget work sessions Tuesday. At that time, Smith said he would like to reduce the mill levy is possible.

But he said at the conclusion of Wednesday's work session that he is comfortable with leaving the mill levy flat.

Smith said he believes some of the actions being taken by the county will lead to an increase in property tax revenue in the future. And he would look at reducing the mill levy in the future.

Commissioner Mike Stieben argued in favor of reducing the mill levy by 1/4 of a mill.

"I think it's easy to spend other people's money," he said. "I think it's hard to reduce expenditures."

He suggested the county could reduce the mill levy by giving employees only a 3% raise next year instead of the proposed 4% raise.

Stieben said he still considers a 3% raise a good raise.

He said this is one way to reduce spending in order to have a 1/4-mill decrease. But he said there are other places in the budget where spending can be cut.

Commissioner Jeff Culbertson said a 1/4-mill reduction would save the owner of a $150,000 home $43 next year in property taxes. But Culbertson said he does not believe the county can afford to reduce the mill levy.

Culbertson said he does not feel like the county has funded everything that needs funding.

Commissioner Doug Smith asked if money county officials are awaiting from the Federal Emergency Management Agency can be used to lower the mill levy.

County officials are awaiting FEMA funding related to two 2019 disasters, flooding from the Missouri River and a tornado in the Linwood area.

County Administrator Mark Loughry said that would be banking on the money becoming available next year.

He also noted that the money from FEMA would be one-time funding. He said a mill levy reduction resulting from the FEMA money would have to be made up the following year.

In addition to keeping a flat mill levy for the county's main budget, commissioners reached a consensus Wednesday to maintain a flat mill levy for a separate local service road and bridge fund.

The local service road and bridge fund pays for the maintenance of rural roads that are not designated as county routes. The mill levy for this fund is charged only to people who own property in unincorporated areas of the county.

Loughry had recommended increasing the mill levy for this fund by 1.158 mills. He said the fund currently has to be subsidized with money from another source.

Mike Smith said Wednesday that he cannot support increasing the mill levy for this fund.

Stieben said it is not a good time to increase the mill levy.

Loughry said at the end of the Wednesday's work session that it appeared commissioners want to the keep the mill levy for this fund flat.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR

In other business

The Leavenworth County Commission:

• Approved a five-year agreement with Murphy Tractor, Topeka, for the lease of two articulating high-lift wheel loaders. The county will pay $49,470 per year to lease the loaders.

• Discussed the makeup of the Leavenworth County Planning Commission.