Holeman wary of tax bill

By Maura Wery

Riley County commissioners are preparing to fight a measure likely to resurface in the 2014 Kansas Legislature that would reshape operations of the Court of Tax Appeals, jeopardizing county tax receipts in the process.

County counselor Clancy Holeman told commissioners that the bill, which was introduced toward the end of the 2013 session, is being heavily backed by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. Holeman said its primary effect would be to change the court back into a Board of Tax Appeals, and concurrently to make it easier for businesses to win appeals. That is due to the bill’s stipulation that cases not settled within 120 days would automatically be judged in favor of the taxpayer unless both the governing body and taxpayer waived the 120-day requirement. There was no immediate indication how many cases from Riley County have exceeded the 120-day limitation in recent years, nor was the dollar value of those cases known.

“The county is the one who really loses with this,” Holeman said about the bill. He and commissioners are concerned that if businesses get behind the bill, passage will become more likely.

“It could be an uphill battle with business support,” added county clerk Rich Vargo.

Commissioners instructed Holeman and county appraiser Greg McHenry to attend an upcoming Judiciary Committee discussion of the pros and cons of the bill. Holeman also asked commissioners to address their concerns with lawmakers at the county’s legislative luncheon in October.

Manhattan improvements

Manhattan City Manager Ron Fehr updated commissioners on current construction projects going around Manhattan. Fehr said the downtown beautification project on Poyntz Avenue is on schedule for completion in October. He said the project is currently in the 300 block of Poyntz and will be moving to the southeast side later this week. Workers will start brick repair on the sidewalk on that side, as well.

“It’s going to have a lot of eye appeal,” Commissioner Bob Boyd said.

Fehr said another construction project, Bluemont Avenue, isn’t going along quite as planned. The project is slated to be finished in November but has hit several road bumps with rain in the beginning of August. Fehr said it took several weeks for the clay and dirt to dry out before the concrete could be poured in the area. He said around Sept. 23 the traffic will be switched back to two lanes and work on the median will start. New traffic signals and a bike lane will also be added to the area toward the end of the project.

Another major project, the Manhattan Airport terminal expansion, went out to bid and Fehr said those bids were higher than expected. He said the entire project will cost around $15.8 million to complete.

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