October 25, 2014

Editorial: It’s not just summer; It’s budget season too

It’s not just summer. It’s budget season, too.

Memorial Day weekend doesn’t only signify the start of longer days, warmer temps and vacation from school.

In Kansas, the summer solstice also ushers in budget season. All local taxing entities in Kansas, including cities, counties and school districts must have their budgets published and submitted to the state no later than Aug. 25 by state statute. A state budget is adopted during the legislative session which wrapped up in May.

Typically, councils and school boards spend their summer meetings discussing budget initiatives for the following year. This year, those conversations are starting earlier and expected to last longer, in part, due to difficult economic conditions.

Cities and school district don’t have to look beyond the borders of Kansas to know how tight budgets are. The state’s budget, which includes a 1 cent sales tax increase – a tax increase of 18 percent, is already in peril.

The state collected $24 million less in taxes than expected in May. A Kansas Department of Revenue report showed that Kansas collected $332 million last month though estimates suggested the state would collect $356 million. For the fiscal year that ends June 30, the state is currently $89 million short.

Due in part to the challenging nature of the current economy, school boards and city governing bodies will likely take an extra long look at ways to balance the budget. And many will seek additional public input. For example,

Gardner Mayor Dave Drovetta will host the second of a series of budget townhall meetings on June 5.

Taxpayers should take extra interest this year. Funding is already tight in home budgets. And it’s about to get tighter. That 1 cent sales tax increase courtesy of the state will likely squeeze an extra $36 out of the average pocket each month.

And city and school officials haven’t been shy so far in considering dramatic property tax increases. For example, budget discussions in Gardner have included potential tax increases of 8 mills – a nearly 30 percent property tax increase.

Take the time to relax and enjoy the summer, but keep your eyes on what’s happening in city hall and school district offices. They’ll be deciding how much and how they’re going to spend your money next year in the upcoming months.

Stay tuned.

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