Commissioners of the Wyandotte Unified Government approved the 2023 budget with a 2-mill reduction in the county tax mill, far less than the mayor hoped for. The budget does shift funding to several items identified as important to WYCO residents.
Despite a lengthy plea from Mayor Tyrone Garner for commissioners to make cuts in the city budget and deeper cuts in the UG’s property taxes, the Wyandotte County Commission approved a $432 million budget for 2023 on a 9-to-1 vote. At-Large District 2 Commissioner Tom Burroughs was the only commissioner who sided with the mayor.
The mayor does not have a vote, only the power of veto, which he used on several budgetary decisions. Each of his vetoes was overturned.
The 2-mill cut in the county general fund tax rate was the first cut in the county tax rate since 2006. The city’s general fund mill rate, which was not cut, was last cut in 2019.
In property taxes, 1 mill is equal to $1 in property tax levied per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.
The 2-mill tax rate cut will result in a reduction of $41/year for residential properties valued at $150,000. Since its a county tax rate reduction properties in Bonner Springs, Edwardsville and Kansas City, KS, will be impacted by the reduction.
“Don’t be fooled, you are going to see an increase in your taxes,” said Garner, turning his messaging to the Wyandotte County residents who were watching the commission meeting online.
The mayor is right, most property owners in Wyandotte County won’t see a reduction in their tax bills, despite the 2-mill reduction in the tax rate. That’s because property taxes are based on the value of the property and increases in the marketplace drove up the value of most homes in the county during the past year. For most properties, the increase in the property taxes they owe, based on their higher rate, is much more than the savings they gained from the 2-mill tax rate reduction.
Mayor Garner had pushed for a “revenue-neutral” tax rate, which would have reduced WYCO’s mill rate to a level that most homeowners would not have had an increase in their property tax bill.
“People have told me, ‘enough is enough,’” Garner told the commissioners. “No, we’re not raising taxes, but you’re not allowing taxes not to be raised.”
Commissioners Andrew Davis was among the nine members of the commission who did not see “revenue neutral” as a realistic option.
“We were having conversations about opening a fire station, putting more money in the parks, about street preservation and giving nonunion UG employees a raise,” said Davis. “Those four or five things couldn’t coexist [with revenue neutral].”
Davis says he supports investing in our cities. “We have to put real dollars in if we want to see the results we want.”
“Change is hard and it takes time,” said Cheryl Harrison-Lee, interim county administrator. “The Unified Government is at a crossroads and the 2023 Budget represents a new day. While every issue cannot be solved within a single budget cycle, this budget process has taught us what it will take to protect the financial integrity of our organization.”