Thursday, July 12, 2012

No property tax increase for 2013 budget, county administrator says


In the first glimpse of what the 2013 Unified Government budget will look like, Wyandotte County Administrator Dennis Hays said this year's budget will not include an increase in property taxes.

In making his budget presentation to the Unified Government Board of Commissioners Thursday evening, Hays outlined a budget that's more optimistic compared to the previous three years, but one that still faces challenges.

"The tax-rate will remain constant and will not be increased," Hays said.

Along with the "constant" tax rate, Hays also proposed the elimination of the PILOT (payment-in lieu-of-taxes) fee by 2014. The PILOT fee is an added charge that appears on utility bills from the Board of Public Utilities.

Instead, Hays is wanting the county to create the "Municipal Utility Enterprise Account," requiring the BPU to transfer a fixed amount of dollars annually.

Due to the county and utility having to meet mandates dictated by the Environmental Protection Agency, rate increases are likely on the horizon.

However, Hays said eliminating the PILOT fee will keep the rate costs down.

“This proposal will require cooperation between the Unified Government and the Board of Public Utilities. It also requires acknowledgment that the UG and BPU are not separate, independent institutions, but part of the same local government organization,” Hays wrote in his budget message presented to the commission. “It will require elected leaders to shatter the tried, true and traditional way of doing things and to be innovative and bold in their actions.”

By eliminating the PILOT fee and transitioning to the proposed account method, about $10 million would be saved over the next five years, according to Hays.

"We're proposing a different approach," Hays said. "This new enterprise will save millions of dollars for ratepayers."

The 2013 budget proposal also includes a $2 million allocation for the launch of a new program geared towards improving neighborhood infrastructure.

Called the "Commission Neighborhood Infrastructure Program," the program will give commissioners the option of selecting projects in their districts to fund.

The $2 million funding from this year's budget would fund projects in 2013; $2 million would be placed in next year's budget for construction projects in 2014.

Funding will be provided by the Public Safety and Community Improvement Sales Tax approved by county residents in 2010.

(More information later tonight)