Friday, August 2, 2013

UG unanimously approves budget; no property tax, but fees will increase

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ---- The Unified Government Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the 2014 budget at Thursday's night meeting.

More information from the UG:
The Unified Government Commission has adopted a budget for 2014 which sets a path to confront difficult financial challenges without raising the property tax rate.

The budget deals with sizeable revenue shortfalls, while recommending a path to responsibly use increased revenues coming in 2015-2017 from the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway and the retirement of the STAR Bonds issued to build Village West.

The 2014 Unified Government Budget sets total expenditures at $296.8-million.The City general fund is budgeted at $136.9-million. The County general fund is at $53-million. The budget holds the Unified Government tax rate at the current level of 81.8 mills.

While the Unified Government property tax will not increase under the 2014 Budget, some fees will increase. Trash collection fees will increase $1.50 a month due to increases in the contract with Deffenbaugh Industries.

Sanitary sewer fees will increase 5% due to mandates from the Federal government. The 2014 budget sets  the Board of Public Utilities Payment-In-Lieu of Tax fee at 11.9% beginning January 1, 2014. This is a 1% increase over the current rate, but still lower than the 12.8% rate set two years ago.

The budget keeps Public Safety the top priority of the Unified Government, while balancing the expenses so other programs, services and needs can still be met. Public Safety consumes 45% of the total Unified Government budget.

The Commission approved spending to broadcast Unified Government Commission meetings on UGTV, the Unified Government cable channel, and increase the number of Citizen Newsletters available to residents every year.  The budget also includes funding for upgrades to the 311 Call Center which will allow improved operation of the system.

The budget continues the waiver of building fees for new home construction. The Unified Government began waiving building permit and sewer connection fees for new single family homes in August 2012. Wyandotte County routinely ranks in the top five in the Kansas City metro for issuance of new home permits.

“This budget represents a responsible middle path which takes a prudent, responsible and practical approach to dealing with the current financial situation, yet anticipates the benefits of increasing revenues,” stated County Administrator Dennis Hays.

The Unified Government will begin reaping the full financial benefits of the Village West development in the next few years. In 2015, the Hollywood Casino will be paying an additional 1% of gaming revenues to the Unified Government and the STAR Bonds issued to build the Village West development will be paid off in 2017.”

Wyandotte County had experienced nearly 20 years of steady growth in assessed valuations. The higher property is valued, the lower the tax rate can be to generate the same revenue. The recession of 2008 blocked that growth in property values.

The assessed value of all taxable property in Wyandotte County dropped from an all time high of $1.2-billion in 2008 to $1.09-billion in 2013. This loss of almost $200-million in value reduced property tax collections significantly. Had the recession and repeal of the machinery and equipment tax by the Kansas Legislature not stopped the trend in valuation growth, the Unified Government would have collected an additional $59-million in actual tax revenue between 2008 and 2013.

The Unified Government receives only 47% of the total tax bill paid by a Wyandotte County resident. Public schools, the Kansas City Kansas Community College, KCK Public Library and State of Kansas make up the largest portion of the tax bill-- about 53%. The current property rate is still much lower than before  the Unified Government was created. In 1997 it was was 97 mills. Now it’s 81.6 mills. That’s 16%  less than a decade and a half ago.

The  2014 Budget Message and the complete 2014 Budget document and other budget information can be accessed on the Unified Government website at