Phillip Brownlee, my favorite liberal Eagle editor (there’s only two left apparently) has come out against Proposition K which would simplify property taxation in Kansas by setting property values on January 1, 2010 and increasing them by a set 2% each year as long as the property is not improved.
In a post entitled, “Plenty of reasons to be concerned about Proposition K“, Brownlee claims that Prop K may not be good for areas that don’t appreciate in value as quickly as others.
…it also could significantly benefit wealthier, growing neighborhoods while disadvantaging homeowners in poorer areas, because some neighborhoods and cities have much higher property appreciation rates than 2 percent.
Like many arguments that are made by the left, the problem seems valid on the surface until further investigation is conducted. Such is the case here. The very problem Brownlee claims to want to avoid has already propagated itself through the system.
Property tax valuation changes from 1997 to 2007 by county courtesy of the Kansas Meadowlark
For Brownlee’s argument to be valid, he should show areas in the state where property tax valuations have risen below the 2% per year mandated by Prop K. The map to the right provided courtesy of Kansas Meadowlark shows that overall, property tax valuations have risen by significant amounts over a ten year period from 1997 to 2007.
Unfortunately for Brownlee, 104 of 105 counties in Kansas saw rises in tax valuations greater than 2% per year over the specified ten year period. This means that had Prop K been passed in 1997, taxpayers in every county but one in Kansas would have benefited from the 2% per year rise in tax valuations.
The one exception to the rule is Coffey County where property values have actually gone down according to the county appraisers office. Coffey County is where Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant is located which provides a significant portion of property tax revenues.
Further, Brownlee ignores a critical component of Prop K, that valuations rise at a set 2% as long as improvements are not made. It seems obvious to me that if an area is rising in value quicker than another, it’s due to property improvements and new buildings. This is accounted for in Prop K and Brownlee’s argument ignores this.
Over time, this proposed system could result in significant disparities and a disconnect from actual market values, thus likely violating the Kansas Constitution’s requirement of a “uniform and equal basis of valuation.”
Again, this statement ignores what is happening with valuations already. Johnson County, the fastest growing county in the state, saw a rise in values of 111.8%. It’s easy to argue that Johnson County certainly has been a leader in building improvements that raise property values in comparison to other counties in the state. And yet counties such as Wabaunsee (116.3%) and Osage (123.9%) saw a higher increase in values than Johnson. Disparity is already present.
Like many arguments made by the left, we’re led to believe that an idea must be rejected outright based on the idea that it may harm someone somewhere in the future while ignoring the vast majority that are currently being harmed by a defective system.
Prop K is not a perfect system by any means, no system of taxation will ever be perfect or viewed as completely fair by everyone, but it is certainly a large improvement over the current valuation system in Kansas. Certainly it is not something that should be rejected outright by baseless, thoughtless “problems” that already exist and are currently harming the vast majority of property taxpayers in Kansas.