The Legislative policy priorities of the Butler County Commission were continued in their discussion on Tuesday morning.
Issues such as increased tax abatements, delinquent tax publications and the mortgage registration fee recall were the main issues.
A bill that would increase the amount of tax exemptions for not only refineries and concrete plants, but also railroad facilities and grain elevators was one of the main sources of anxiety for the commissioners.
“This issue has the power to impact all of Butler County,” said County Administrator Will Johnson. “It will affect the Butler County mill levy and even the college mill levy. It is based on the bill that was proposed in the 2013 legislature for an impact of $10.59 million county wide. Last year, when the bill was proposed, it came out of committee and died on the house floor, but it has picked up momentum once again. The way the bill was written, it would have abated all railroad facilities, grain elevators, refineries and concrete plants. The priority that we have set is a specification of exemptions with this issue.”
The discussion also included the need for long-running publications of tax delinquencies in the local newspapers in the county.
“We also have included a proposal to only publish the delinquent property taxes in the newspaper, instead of the standard three-run publication. They would also be published on the Web site. The publication of these delinquencies costs the county about $15,000 annually.
The possibility of the changing of the requirements for their publications has been proposed once before.
“The proposal to only publish the delinquent taxes in the newspaper died right out of committee when previously proposed,” said Johnson. “Butler County is just a tough place to get things out in terms of the local papers. For the National Press Association, legal publications are a huge revenue source. It might not be the case for the larger papers, but for the very tiny papers, this is what keeps the doors open.”
The final priority discussed was the mortgage registration fee issue. With the threat of losing a little over one million dollars in the Butler County budget, the commissioners began discussing the state’s role in helping to renew those funds.
“What we need to come up with is a solution. If they do this, then they need to do something else to fill those lost revenues,” said Commissioner Peggy Palmer.
“I don’t have a lot of faith in state government in regards to offering a funding source,” said Johnson. “They haven’t exactly been consistent in the past in similar issues.”
Page 2 of 2 - “The state is saying that other states don’t charge this registration fee, but they charge for everything else,” added Commissioner Dan Woydziak. “We’re actually lower fee wise than most of the states surrounding us.”
“Other states charge those other fees, but it’s uniform on everything across the board,” added Johnson. “With the registration fee, some home buyers do not have to pay it. I don’t think the registration fee even factors into a homeowner’s decision of buying. The game I’m seeing now is everybody is trying to get sellers to pay closing fees so that they can close the transaction without any cash influence.”
The commissioners began to think of possible solutions for the loss of revenues.
“What is a good option?” questioned Commissioner Jeff Masterson. “What is the best option for our county? We cannot absorb that and we can’t offset this large of a loss. It is my impression that this is a very real threat.”
“They need to come up with some solution that doesn’t put this on the backs of the property taxes,” said Palmer.
“What you really mean is that any changes resulting from the legislative decision are revenue neutral to the counties,” said Commissioner Ed Myers.
Following the revision of the legislative agenda for 2014 to include the addition from Myers to suggest a budget neutral solution to the mortgage registration fee, the commission approved the agenda 5-0.
The commission also:
• approved the purchase of an automated fuel access management system for the Public Works Department from PB Hollydell Inc., of Wichita in the amount of $43,203.53.
• approved Central States Capital Markets to serve as county financial advisor for a period of three years.
• approved amendments to the budget for Fire District 1, 5, 7, and the Self-Insurance fund.
• approved a policy for the County Commissioner mileage reimbursement.
Kari Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.