John Richmeier Leavenworth Times
During this week’s County Commission meeting, a commissioner made a motion to freeze property valuations in the county.
No vote was taken on the motion. And Commissioner Jeff Culbertson appeared to offer the motion Wednesday only to make a point about the authority, or lack of authority, commissioners have over the county appraiser.
Appraisals of properties for tax purposes has been a frequent topic of discussion among county commissioners in recent weeks.
In February, County Appraiser Bob Weber told commissioners that the total assessed value of property in Leavenworth County has increased by 15.16% this year.
Commissioners have argued there may be misunderstanding among members of the public regarding their role in appraisals.
Culbertson complained Wednesday about what he characterized as misinformation. He said there is a belief that commissioners can tell the county appraiser to increase property values in order to generate more tax revenue for the county government.
Based on this idea, Culbertson made the motion for commissioners to tell the county appraiser to freeze property values from 2021 to 2022.
County Counselor David Van Parys said the motion would be considered null and void under state law.
“As noble as the effort might be, it’s unlawful,” Van Parys said.
He said commissioners cannot direct the county appraiser to do anything except to follow county personnel policies.
Van Parys said the county appraiser falls under the direction of the Kansas Department of Revenue.
The county counselor suggested Weber would probably disregard the motion if it were passed by the commission.
Culbertson withdrew the motion.
“We have to follow the state statute,” he said.
Commission Chairman Mike Smith said he believes Culbertson only made the motion to get the word out regarding commissioners having no control over appraisals.
“The point was made though Jeff,” Smith said.
Commissioner Mike Stieben argued the system for appraising properties needs to be changed. Stieben argued the county appraiser does not control this system.
“He has to follow the law,” Stieben said. “He has to follow the state guidelines.”
Commissioners did approve another motion offered by Culbertson.
This motion concerned potential funding from what are referred to as demand transfers.
Culbertson’s motion specifically addressed state laws concerning the transfer of money for a local property reduction tax fund and a county and city revenue sharing fund.
Commissioners have argued the county should be receiving money from the state in accordance with these laws.
“This money has been withheld since 2001,” Commissioner Doug Smith said.
He said the funding for the county should total about $2 million per year.
Culbertson’s motion stated that if the state provides this funding to the county, the commission will use 100% of the money to reduce the county’s mill levy. The mill levy is used in determining property taxes.
Culbertson said he made the motion because there apparently is some question as to whether commissioners would use the funding for that purpose.
Van Parys said the law requires the money to be used for tax reduction.
Mike Smith said Culbertson’s motion was intended to make it clear to the public that the money would be used for tax relief.
“We know what the law says,” Mike Smith said.
This motion was approved unanimously.
In other business
The Leavenworth County Commission:
• Voted to dispose of surplus Public Works Department property by posting it on an online auction website.
Bill Noll, infrastructure and construction services director, said most the surplus property is equipment that has been replaced.
The surplus property includes a dump truck, wood chipper and portable welder.
• Approved a letter in support of a Kansas Department of Transportation application for a federal Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant. The Kansas Department of Transportation is seeking the grant for funding for a replacement of the Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth.
• Reviewed submitted drawings from Tonganoxie students for a county challenge coin.
County officials invited students from across the county to submit artwork to be used for one side a new challenge coin for the county government.
Only artwork from Tonganoxie students was submitted.
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