Official: Nixing tax would cost county

By The Mercury

WESTMORELAND – Elimination of the mortgage registration tax in Kansas would cost Pottawatomie County about $1 million in revenue, register of deeds Betty Abitz told county commissioners Monday.

Abitz briefed the commission on proposed legislation by the Kansas Bankers’ Association and Kansas Association of Realtors to have the tax eliminated during the 2014 session of the Kansas Legislature.

“This will affect every taxpayer whether they can afford a mortgage or not,” Abitz told commissioners. “Every taxpayer in this county will be making up the money if this legislation goes through.”

The KBA opposes the tax, Abitz said, because mortgages issued through federal loan programs are exempt from the tax.

“The bankers and the realtors are claiming it’s not fair for some to be tax-exempt and others not,” Abitz said. “They want to level the playing field.”

In 2012, 1,377 mortgages were filed in Pottawatomie County, 26 of which were exempt from the registration tax. 

If the tax is eliminated, it will result in the loss of about $1 million annually in county revenue. Statewide, counties would lose approximately $47 million, she said.

“We’d have to raise our levy about 2 1/2 mills to cover it (the loss),” commissioner Stan Hartwich noted. “Wanting to make it an even playing field, they’re passing the burden onto the taxpayer.”

The Kansas Association of Counties has gone on record opposing elimination of the mortgage registration tax and has recommended its member counties adopt a resolution in opposition, as well.

Pott County commissioners reviewed that resolution Monday, but took no action.

“I’m not saying it’s right or wrong at this point,” Abitz said of the proposed legislation. “I just want everyone to know the facts –– how it’s going to affect our county.”

In other business Monday:

• Commissioners approved an annual contract with the Kansas Department of Transportation for spraying noxious weeds on state highway right-of-way within the county.

Noxious weed director Tim Eisenbarth said his department spends between 175 and 200 hours annually spraying KDOT right-of-way.

The county charges KDOT $25 per hour for labor, $39 per hour for equipment use, and is reimbursed for chemicals.

• Gregg Webster, zoning administrator, reported six building permits issued during December at a total cost of $1,132,600.

For the same period in 2012, the county issued 15 permits with a total cost of $3,407,740, although one of the permits was for a commercial building valued at $1 million.

• Austin Sexton, Pott County Extension director, reviewed upcoming Extension programs with commissioners.

• Leu Lowrey, public works director, said his department has no set policy on clearing paved roads in the county during a snowfall. He said the amount and duration of the snowfall, as well as drifting, are all taken into account.

Commissioner Pat Weixelman said he had received a call about clearing Flush Rd. in a timely manner.

“Unlike KDOT, I don’t have a second shift,” Lowrey said. “If you’re out there more than 10 or 12 hours, it gets dangerous.”

Following Saturday’s snowfall, county plow operators were called out at 11 p.m. and they worked through the night, Lowrey said. They were called back out Sunday due to drifting.

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