Proposal: As property value rises, taxes get reduced

A proposal by the Kansas Policy Institute and Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Bel Aire, would limit the amount of property taxes homeowners pay each year.

The move would force taxing districts, such as cities and counties, to reduce their tax rates at the same rate that their total appraised values rise.

So, if a city's total appraised property value rose by 5 percent, its tax rate would decrease 5 percent.

"It gives stability to homeowners," Brunk said at a news conference Friday.

Property tax rate increases would require voter approval.

But if overall property values fall, local governments could ratchet tax rates up without voter approval to collect the same amount in property taxes as the year before.

Governments would be left with only new construction and substantially changed property to count on for more property tax revenue.

Some homeowners have complained that rising property values amount to a stealth property tax increase.

Dave Trabert, president of the nonprofit Kansas Policy Institute, said property valuations have risen 92 percent statewide between 1997 and 2008.

"There's no justification for these types of tax increases," he said.

A survey of 602 people in August and September conducted by the Research Partnership on behalf of KPI found most people favor property tax reform.

In Wichita, about 72 percent of those polled disagree or strongly disagree that the current system is fair.

Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn, who has advocated for property tax reform for years, likes the proposal, even though it would limit growth in county property tax revenue.

He suspects local governments will fight it.

"Any effort to reform the property tax structure has been fought by the taxpayer-funded local government lobbies," he said.

The Kansas Association of Counties couldn't be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, who will soon become president of the Kansas League of Municipalities, questioned how the bill might affect tax increment finance districts, which rely on projected property tax increases to pay for development.

Brewer said city officials will have to analyze how the bill would affect the city.

"We need real numbers and real scenarios," he said.

City Council member Jeff Longwell questioned how remodeled homes and other reasonable valuation increases would be dealt with.

For example, he said, the Broadview Hotel is getting a multimillion-dollar makeover but isn't changing uses.

"It's nice to have something this simple," he said. "But there are so many scenarios to consider."