Johnson County Commissioners authorized Chairman Ed Eilert to write a letter to the Kansas Legislature opposing proposed legislation that would shift a tax burden from some commercial properties to residential property taxpayers.
Specifically the commission is opposed to the proposed House Bill 2501 and Senate Bill 317.
Commissioners said the bills, if passed, would cause commercial property values to decrease by excluding “trade fixtures” from manufacturing appraisals.
They said that would require residential property owners to pick up the slack.
“It’s going to be a tax shift, not a tax cut,” County Appraiser Paul Welcome told commissioners on May 3. “…This is huge. A major shift in tax policy.”
Commissioners said Johnson County stands to lose the most because one-third of the state’s commercial value is located within the county.
The bills originated from a Court of Tax Appeals case involving a nitrogen plant in Montgomery County, Kan.
Montgomery County assessed the plant as real property, but the plant owners claimed most of the property was tax-exempt machinery and equipment.
The case went to the Court of Tax appeals, and Montgomery County won.
The nitrogen plant owners then pushed for the bills which exclude “trade fixtures” from real property appraisals.
Commissioners also expressed displeasure with redistricting plans that have created a stalemate in the legislature regarding new representative boundaries to account for population changes.
Several commissioners said they would only support a redistricting map that gives Johnson County an additional senator.
“To deny the county the representation in the legislature it deserves and requires is beyond the pale,” Eliert said.
Commissioner Jim Allen suggested legal action in federal court to get appropriate representation for Johnson County.
He said if the legislature can’t agree on a map that would give Johnson County an additional senator, “We will find remedy in the courts.”
Eilert said he believed it was too soon for litigation, and he preferred to pursue other options first.
The office of Senate President Stephen R. Morris issued a press release on May 4 stating that courts are likely to intervene in the process.
The Kansas House this week voted down redistricting maps for the House, Senate and State School Board.
“Legislators in both chambers put a lot of work into drawing these bipartisan maps,” Morris said. “There’s no reason Kansas Taxpayers should have to pay for a lengthy court battle because one or two people want to play games with the maps.”