Local taxes, elections most misunderstood topics
Local taxes and local elections are two of the most misunderstood and under-explained local government topics, in my opinion.
For example, in a city newspaper recently, a front page news story told about how the city council there was planning to talk about lowering the city’s mill levy at its next meeting.
The story indicated that there was widespread support among city council members to possibly lower the city’s mill levy.
The page one story also stated that city council members planned to urge the eight other taxing entities in the community to also consider lowering their mill levies, too.
This news story, however, did not tell readers everything they needed to know in order to understand the topic of possibly lowering the city’s overall mill levy.
In the story, there was no mention of what the city’s total assessed valuation for next year will be set at.
The idea of raising or lowering the mill levy for a city means nothing unless you also know the total assessed valuation of the city.
The assumption raised, due to the lack of information provided, was that lowering the mill levy - by itself - would lower taxes for citizens. That is not necessarily true.
Generally speaking, if a city’s total property valuation is increased from one year to the next, then the same mill levy as the previous year will automatically generate more local tax revenue in the new year.
Also, if a city’s total property tax valuation is increased, and the city’s mill levy is decreased a little, citizens may or may not still pay the same amount of local tax as the year before. It depends on how much the total mill levy is lowered.
Before the city council members involved receive high praise for merely considering the idea of lowering the city’s mill levy, it is important to understand that the city’s valuation is also a factor in the formula used to determine city tax rates..
Local election statistics are also often under-reported and incomplete in the news you read from across the country.
The state of Kansas, however, does a much better and transparent job than most states when it comes to local election results.
A lot of times, news reports from other states tell readers how many people voted in the most recent election, without putting the statistics into perspective.
Before each election day in Kansas, each county election officer knows how many people have registered to vote in the election.
After the election is over, voter turnout percentage in the local elections is determined by how many registered voters actually cast votes compared to the total number of registered voters who were eligible to vote in the election.
Of course, it is impossible for there to be more votes cast in an election than there were registered (legal) voters eligible to vote in the election.
That is why it’s always important to know how many registered voters are eligible to vote in an election - before the election is held.
News reports that only tell how many votes are cast in an election do not give the public the full story.