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Tax break idea alarms the county

By Maura Wery

“There are a lot of creative ideas floating around in Topeka,” County Counselor Clancy Holeman told Riley County commissioners Monday. Holeman’s reference was to the idea that the 2013 Kansas Legislature might exempt large corporations from state and county property taxes that are levied against equipment . 

The possibility of such an exemption, which county officials project could have a multi-million impact on local government, is a topic commissioners want to stress when they confer Thursday with members of the area delegation. Commissioners requested that Holeman get numbers ready to present about the potential loss to the county.

“It’s a lot of numbers on a spreadsheet,” County Clerk Rich Vargo said. “But it really tells the pictures to the legislature about what it’s doing to us.”

Holeman projected that the loss for Riley County alone would be around $1.8 million, and said the total loss to all county governments could hit around $6.5 million.  Commissioners also want to know whether the city or school districts within Riley County have talked about this possibility.

The exemption would allow businesses to decide what parts of their property can be chosen as their real property and taxed.  The county could then lose tax revenue from whatever area the businesses decide are not part of the real property. Local governments would be required to either raise their mill levies or lose revenue.

“If the county and cities raise their mill levies, it impacts these entities, too,” Commissioner Karen McCulloh said.

The legislative conference will be at noon on Thursday, and is expected to involve State Sen.-elect Tom Hawk along with State Reps. Sydney Carlin and Tom Phillips.

New project on McDowell Creek Road

Commissioners gave public works director Leon Hobson a consensus directive to move forward on a three-mile project on McDowell Creek Road. Hobson wanted to get a jump on the project in order to keep that $3.5 million project from bumping up against others. Hobson asked the county to keeping a bond issuance in mind for the project, even with the new sales tax revenue that will be available in June.

“We probably won’t have the $3.5 million accumulated by the time we get there,” Hobson said. “So, at that time, we may want to look at bonding that project out since we are early in the process.”

The project will go for around two to three years and will fix two bridges and two culverts.

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