It’s budget time again, and the county, cities, school districts and other taxing entities are releasing their estimates.
A large portion of local budgets are funded by property taxes. To calculate property taxes, taxing agencies rely on the property valuations released by the county appraiser’s office.
The appraised value of each property is then pegged to the mill levy that each taxing entity sets.
One mill is the equivalent of one dollar of property taxes per $1,000 of taxable value.
The Gardner Edgerton school district, for example, has set its mill levy at 65.569, a slight reduction from last year’s levy of 65.969.
Property values have been going up in the county, and the appraisers’ office has steadily increased the assessed values of real property over the last few years.
In Gardner, the average appraised value of a home is now $217,855 up from $191,303 in 2017. In Edgerton, the appraiser’s office pegs the average home at $148,593 compared to $127,978 in 2017.
Predictably, property owners often express disbelief when they get the appraisal notices and many take advantage of the appeal process to challenge the values.
According to the Johnson County Appraisal Office, the assessed values are derived from a variety of sources including figures provided by realtor organizations and the county’s Economic Research Institute.
For local taxing purposes, the more important number to look out for is the mill levy. Taxpayers, while challenging the upward trajectory of the appraised values of their properties, could be better served demanding a reduction in the mill levy.
Cities and school districts tout how fiscally responsible they are by keeping the mill levy steady, but are silent on the increased valuations which, without a corresponding decrease in the mill levy, simply increases the amounts collected.
It’s a sleight of hand, an old trick especially since the increased revenues are rarely accompanied by a marked increase in the level or quality of service provided.
Instead of being mad at the appraiser, we suggest citizens have a word with their mayor, councilmember, or school board member. These elected officials set the mill levy, and it is on them to reduce the local tax burden.
A good indicator of increased taxes raised can be seen by viewing how much budgets have increased over prior years.
The mill levy may stay the same, but the revenues entities collect will most likely still increase.