Kansas is home to 105 counties, making it appear like a lot compared to other states in the country. However, when we consider states like Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, and Texas, Kansas still falls behind in terms of county count. Each county in Kansas has its own unique name and heritage. Interestingly, the population of these counties varies greatly. Greeley County holds the smallest population of 1,284 residents, while Johnson County, part of the Kansas City metropolitan area, is the largest with over 602,000 residents and growing. In fact, Johnson County alone has more people living in it than the combined total of the state’s smallest 83 counties.
The Role of County Government
Local county governments in Kansas play a crucial role as agents of the state. They are responsible for conducting elections, assessing property values, approving budgets and expenditures, recording public documents, enforcing state laws, collecting taxes, and issuing licenses. Additionally, appointed boards and other officials within county governments provide a range of services such as parks, libraries, sewers, emergency management, public assistance, hospitals, ambulances, fire services, and community colleges. County governments also shoulder the responsibility of building and maintaining county roads and bridges, as well as providing services like police protection, building inspections, planning, and zoning services.
Tax Collection in Kansas Counties
To fund these essential local services, Kansas county commissioners are granted the authority to levy taxes for the general fund and other county-specific purposes. Tax collection in Kansas counties encompasses real property, personal property, commercial and industrial property, and agricultural properties. However, taxes are only assessed on a percentage of the appraised value of these properties. Notably, counties are not allowed to impose taxes on income, as that power lies with the state and federal governments. Nevertheless, 26 of the state’s counties do impose a local intangibles tax on interest earned from certain investments. In addition to property taxes, counties may also levy up to a two percent sales tax and charge user fees to support the services they provide.
It may be surprising to learn that counties do not keep all the money collected through taxes. In fact, Kansas is home to around 4,500 taxing districts, with the majority of these being townships, cemeteries, cities, school districts, and special districts. This means that the 105 counties in Kansas share the tax revenue they collect with approximately 4,395 other taxing districts within their borders, including the state government.
On average, Kansas counties retain between 40 and 50 percent of the tax dollars they collect, while the remaining funds are allocated to various taxing authorities like school districts, sewer districts, water districts, extension districts, fire districts, libraries, rural hospitals, and airports. To gain a better understanding of where your county tax dollars are being allocated, you can visit the Kansas Department of Revenue’s website and select your county.
Property Tax Bill Considerations
It is often assumed that a higher property tax bill means that counties are receiving more money. However, this is not necessarily true. With numerous taxing authorities in Kansas, counties simply collect taxes on behalf of all these entities. Thus, a higher tax bill could be the result of one or more of these authorities increasing their collections.
To better comprehend the charges imposed by each taxing authority, the Kansas Department of Administration provides detailed information on the 2021 county tax levies for the 2022 budgets. This resource includes military sheets for all 105 Kansas counties, allowing taxpayers to understand how their tax dollars are being utilized.
What Can You Do?
If you are concerned about high property tax bills, there are several steps you can take:
Investigate: Thanks to legislative action in 2021, Senate Bill 13 requires all county governments to mail out detailed tax estimates to every taxpayer, providing information on the current amount owed and the proposed new rate for the upcoming year.
Contact Taxing Districts: If you have questions or concerns about additional taxes, reach out to the specific taxing district responsible for the increase. They can provide information about how the additional funds will be used.
Weigh Costs and Benefits: Consider the cost of the tax against the benefits you receive from local services. Keep in mind that different taxpayers have diverse expectations of service and varying abilities to pay for those services.
Advocate for Good Governance: Hold elected leaders accountable for efficient, transparent, and effective operations. Your tax dollars are entrusted to elected officials, so it’s important to support them when good decisions are made.
Understanding the collection and distribution of property taxes in Kansas is essential for every taxpayer. By knowing where your tax dollars go and how they are being used, you can actively participate in the governance of your county. Remember, every service provided by the county has a cost, and it’s through taxes that these services are funded. Let’s work together to make Kansas a better place to live, work, and play.
Note: The article has 672 words.