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County to join suit against state
Officials believe new law will create property value inequities
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 Barton County will join with Johnson County in a “mandamus action” lawsuit against the state regarding a newly minted statute that county appraisers across Kansas feel will create unfair property values.

In this instance, Johnson County has filed action against the Property Valuation Division of the Kansas Department of Revenue asking the courts for a clarification on KSA 79-1460 which was passed by the Legislature this past session. This statute deals with maintaining values after a hearing. 

“This really ties our hands behind our backs,” County Appraiser Barb Esfeld said. “It will create inequities among properties.”

In essence, the statute states if a property owner is successful with an appeal and has the tax bill lowered, that lowered rate must apply to the current plus the next two successive years, Esfeld said. It had been the current plus one year.

Generally speaking, the counties’ stance is that this statute violates Article 11 of the Kansas Constitution, which, in part, calls for uniform and equal property values, Esfeld said. Should the property market go up, the property owner mentioned above would have unfairly lower taxes than neighbors with similar properties.

Johnson County is spearheading and paying the legal costs and has invited other counties to join at no expense. Over 30 counties have signed on so far.

“It’s very important to value all properties uniform and equal,” Esfeld said. She said her staff tries its best to arrive at equitable values in line with the constitution and this would make that much more difficult.

The statute is hugely unpopular with county officials and even with the Property Valuation Division itself, Esfeld said. “This is a friendly lawsuit.”

A “mandamus action” is a lawsuit used to compel someone, in this case the State of Kansas, to act on an administrative matter that is not discretionary; where they have a legal duty to do so and have not. 

In other business Monday morning, the County Commission”

• Approved Neighborhood Revitalization Plan interlocal agreements with Ellinwood and Great Bend. A Neighborhood Revitalization Plan provides tax rebates for qualified new improvements with the County performing the administrative tax functions. In order for the cities to continue to offer this incentive, the county must continue to perform the administrative tax functions. The provisions of the program are outlined in the interlocal agreements and in the plans. Ellinwood’s plan is for 10 years and Great Bend’s for one year.

Ellinwood City Administrator Bud Newberry and Great Bend City Attorney Bob Suelter presented details.