The Johnson County Board of Commissioners last week pproved a budget that keeps its property tax rate steady.

The $794 million budget includes expenditures of more than $648 million with 18 percent in reserves, or $146 million.

By unanimous vote, the Johnson County Board of Commissioners adopted the county’s FY 2011 Budget with an estimated mill levy set at 23.213 mills, the same as the existing mill levy, which is the lowest among the 105 counties in Kansas. One mill equals $1 on every $1,000 of a homeowner’s assessed valuation.

That translates into approximately in $455 for the owner of a $170,000 home in Johnson County. The county’s 23.213 mills show up as three separate lines on a homeowner’s tax bill with separate levies for the county, for Johnson County parks and for the Johnson County Library.

The final setting of the FY 2011 mill levy, however, will be established by the end of October with the 2011 property valuations by the Johnson County Department of Records and Tax Administration. By state law, the Board must adopt the new budget each year by August 25.

Chairman Annabeth Surbaugh said the new budget reflects a “steady-as-you-go” approach in the county’s five-year budget planning process.

“We are holding our own with no dramatic reduction in core public services, no layoffs, and no tax increases,” she said. “We have taken the necessary steps to address economic and budgetary challenges by working hard to keep a firm grip on the budget reins resulting in a FY 2011 Budget that’s fiscally prudent, that carries us through the current tough times, and that maintains a rock-solid government.”

In crafting the new budget, the county, like many local governments in Johnson County, faced a balancing act of crafting a bottom line while dealing with the ongoing challenges of state and federal funding reductions, lower assessed property valuations, and less revenue from mortgage registration fees and sales taxes.

In the FY 2011 Budget, county government has:

•Reduced expenditures by $15 million with minimum impacts to public services and programs;

•Eliminated 159 vacant positions with no employee layoffs;

• Proposed a 1.5 percent salary merit increase  in 2011 for county employees.; and,

• Cut the salaries of the Chairman and the six District Commissioners by 5 percent.

The FY 2011 Budget sets the maximum number of full-time equivalent county employees at 4,013.66.

• The FY 2011 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) totals $94 million. Excluding stormwater ($10.7 million) and wastewater projects ($55.6 million), which have dedicated funding sources, the CIP features approximately $27.7 million for various capital projects, including:

• $5 million for bus replacement by the Transit Department;

• $12.9 million for the County Assistance Road System (CARS) program. That’s approximately a $1.8 million reduction from 2010;

• $1.9 million for the County’s Bridge, Road, and Culvert Program. That’s down $400,000 from 2010; and,

• $2.8 million for land acquisition and capital improvements by the Johnson County Park and Recreation District. In 2010, the district received $5.1 million.

The FY 2011’s levy of 23.213 mills for Johnson County Government involves the county’s three taxing districts: County, Library, and Park and Recreation District.

The estimated mill levy for the county taxing district next year is 17.716 mills, 3.151 mills for the Library taxing district, and 2.346 mills for the Park and Recreation taxing district.

Ad valorem taxes, or property taxes, are expected to generate approximately $167.1 million, or approximately 25.8 percent of the county’s revenue. One mill of tax is estimated to generate $7.4 million for the County in 2011.
Johnson County’s fiscal year begins on Jan. 1.

Expenditures and CIP

The county’s new budget reflects a general lowering of appraised property values in Johnson County because of the current economic downturn. The average home in Johnson County was valued at $249,000 in 2010; the average residential property appraised value in the FY 2011 Budget was set at $244,000.

The new budget projects that the owner of the average home in Johnson County, valued at $244,000, would pay approximately $54.25 per month in 2011 for the county’s portion of their property tax bill. In 2010, the average home of $249,000 paid approximately $55.42 a month in property taxes.

The FY 2011 calculations are only for Johnson County Government and do not include other taxing entities, such as the state of Kansas, cities, or school districts.