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Derby mayor calls for apology over opponent’s campaign flier claim in commission race

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, July 16, 2014, at 7:17 p.m.

Rep. Jim Howell says in a campaign flier that he passed legislation to freeze Kansans’ property taxes.

“Because of Jim Howell, when property valuations increase, the mill levy now must decrease,” a flier for his campaign for the District 5 seat on the Sedgwick County Commission says.

That claim is overstated. Under HB2047, cities and counties can accept and use property tax money generated by increased valuation up to the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index. If increased valuation is higher than inflation, a municipality could lower its tax rate, but nothing would prohibit it from approving an increase with a majority vote and a legal publication of it.

Howell’s opponent in the Republican primary, Derby Mayor Dion Avello, has called for an apology from Howell.

“It is simply untrue that property valuation increases automatically force the mill levy to drop,” he said in a news release. “While we are all concerned about high property taxes, I find it very upsetting that Mr. Howell doesn’t understand the bill he voted for and that he would mislead voters in his mailings. Attempting to appeal to voters on a hot-button issue with untrue information is simply unacceptable. He owes the voters an apology and an explanation.”

Howell said he didn’t want to “get into the weeds” on the flier. He said he wanted to provide a “simple explanation” about the law. He considered including an asterisk to denote more information, he said, but decided against it.

Howell said appraisers are “incentivized to overvalue property” because higher valuations bring in more taxes.

“The purpose of that bill was to stop the subjective overvaluation of property,” he said.

Contributing: Dion Lefler of The Eagle

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SGCountyDeb.

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