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The good news is Gardner’s mill levy is decreasing. At the same time the budget is increasing, primarily due to increased valuation.
According to the Kansas Policy Institute, Gardner’s property tax has increased more than 400 percent.
The 407 percent increase is due to valuation increases. Basically, the city is bringing in 407 percent more in property taxes than it was before.
At the same time, the mill levy has dropped from 31 in 2011 to the current 20, while the budget has increased from $55 million to $64 million.
The 2016 Gardner official/amended/final budget was $64,369,960 and final certified mill levy was 29.455. The 2011 official/final budget was $55,754,632 and the final, certified mill levy was 31.119.
That’s a more than $8.5 million budget increase between 2011 and 2016.
The 2017 approved budget is $64,454,864 and final, certified mill levy is 20.544. The 2017 budget no longer includes contractual services with Fire District #1 which began taxing residents directly for services effective Jan. 1, 2017.
“Quick analysis: larger budget with less mills,” according to Daneeka Marshall-Oquendo, public information officer.
In July 2016 Laura Gourley, finance director, gave a presentation on the 2017 budget and said as a result of Gardner becoming part of Fire District #1, the city will no longer pay $1.4 million for contracted fire protection services. The presentation noted a decrease in the mill levy equivalent to the $1.4 million payment; however, the city still saw an overall revenue increase due to increased valuation. At that time, Gardner’s valuation increased 8.2 percent compared to the prior year’s increase of 7.4 percent. In addition, a substantial special assessment was paid in 2016.
“The city’s 2017 mill levy will decrease from 29.455 to 20.544. Johnson County Fire 1 is responsible for 2017 and future tax levy for fire services,” Gurley said last July. Because Fire District #1 will now tax for fire protection, despite the city’s roll back equal to the contract payment, residents still saw an increase in overall property tax bills.
According to the KansasOpenGov.org, property tax history for 12 more cities underscores why so many citizens are upset with property tax hikes.  On average, those dozen cities increased property tax 2.6 times faster than the combined rates of inflation and population between 1997 and 2016.
The City of Andover had the highest tax increase at 510 percent but the City of Lansing had the most egregious gap, with property taxes increasing at five times the combined rates of inflation and population (413 percent vs. 82 percent).
Gardner comes in with a 407 percent increase, according to a report from the Kansas Policy Institute, although the mill rate has decreased to 20.54 from 31.13 in the last five years.
Johnson County’s property tax has increased about 200 percent since 1997, while the mil levy and inflation have remained relatively constant. Current mill rate is 28, according to the KPI.
The City of Hays had the narrowest gap, with property taxes increasing 66 percent, compared to a 56 percent increase in inflation and population.
Graphs comparing historical changes in property tax, inflation, population and mill rates are available on the Kansas Policy Institute website for 37 cities in Kansas.  Information on the state’s 105 counties can also be found online; county data is just for the individual county and does not include other taxing jurisdictions like cities and school districts.
A property tax lid passed last year will allow Kansans to begin voting later this year on whether, with many exceptions, city and county property taxes should increase by more than the rate of inflation.  Cities and counties are lobbying legislators to strip citizens of their right to vote in the current legislative session, and some are threatening residents with service cuts if they don’t get their way.