2022 Budget Vote
Prior to last night's meeting, our City Council was considering an 8.94% increase in property taxes for 2022 (see the table below), based on a 5.24% increase in assessed valuations and a 3.51% increase in the total mill levy. This would have resulted in an 8.77% average increase in property tax revenues, every year, over the past five years.
The motion to approve the budget included a modification to capture all the valuation increase as planned (the 5.24%) but left the total mill levy rate unchanged from its current 24.440.
Most people I talk to understand the need for additional tax revenues to address the challenges of things like our aging infrastructure and rising costs to provide services. But when we continually demand increases in property tax revenue that far exceed the rate of inflation, the rate of our growth in population, and the rate of increase in the average per capita income of our citizens, we need to stop and ask if this is the prudent thing to do and/or is it sustainable.
Every other local taxing jurisdiction within our city limits has either already voted to reduce their mill levy rates for 2022 or appears poised to do so. They face the same challenges as our City yet they are able to raise revenues while reducing their mill levy rates. I think the City of Olathe should do the same.
Many in our City continue to face the stress of economic challenges and the fatigue of rapidly rising property valuations, especially those on fixed and lower incomes.
Our City has successfully navigated the shift towards a greater reliance on commercial property tax revenues and that has contributed to the increase in assessed valuations. We've implemented incentive programs to accelerate this kind of development at a pace ahead of what would otherwise occur, with the promise that such actions will grow employment and help to reduce the tax impact on residential property owners in the future. But... tomorrow never seems to come.
Even though I was pleased to see the Council move away from the concept of increasing the mill levy for 2022, I voted "no" on the motion to approve the modified budget proposal because I believe we could have gone further and taken steps to also reduce the mill levy while continuing to increase revenues at a reasonable level.
If I am provided the opportunity to continue serving our community in the At-Large position, I will continue to address these challenges, including the need to thoroughly examine our level of reserves (i.e. fund balances).
I believe we can continue to meet our operating needs while limiting the growth in our budget to a reasonable level and I look forward to that discussion with my Council colleagues.