Officials representing Barton County communities including 22 civil townships were on hand for a funding and legislative update Friday morning at the Great Bend Events Center.
Among budgetary issues discussed was the eight-page State Senate Bill 13 which concerns property taxation related to tax levy rates and establishing notice and public hearing requirements prior to approval by a governing body. The bill proposes discontinuing the city and county tax lid; prohibiting valuation increase of real property solely as the result of normal repair, replacement or maintenance; and establishment of a payment plan for the payment of delinquent or nondelinquent taxes.
“In terms of budgeting, the primary concern with this bill is the revenue neutral rate (RNR) and its impact on operating budgets,” said Barton County Clerk Donna Zimmerman. “For cities and counties, this bill eliminates the property tax lid that required a public vote for property tax increases.”
Zimmerman noted that Barton County never conducted such an election. Revenue neutral rate is the rate at which tax revenue remains the same despite giving credit of duty paid on inputs and other factors.
Getting the word out
Much of the concern of the proposed legislation is the requirement it would place on townships that lack any web presence to adequately post public notices via website.
For example, according to the bill, taxing subdivisions would be required to publish any notice of intent to exceed the revenue neutral rate through a public hearing on the governing body’s website at least 10 days in advance.
“My guess is that most townships don’t have a website,” said Zimmerman. “So unless we receive different guidance from the state, the thought process at this point is for townships to send their notices to the county to post on its website.”
She added that budgets cannot exceed their RNR without the county being notified of the governing body’s intent and date of a public hearing.
In 2022, the clerk’s office will be required to send notices to affected taxpayers from all taxing subdivisions intending to exceed their RNR. Following the public hearing, a majority vote is required by the governing body during a regular meeting. Zimmerman said failure to hold a public hearing could result in a taxing subdivision having to refund taxes.
How Senate Bill 13 impacts budget timelines
Zimmerman said when school districts were added to Senate Bill 13, the districts could find themselves in a difficult situation in regard to budget timelines. “This bill would change the earliest possible date for a taxing subdivision considering exceeding its RNR from Aug. 10 to Aug. 20. and the latest possible date from Sept. 10 to Sept. 20,” said Zimmerman. “As most of you know, this is started by Aug. 25 but this pushes the timeline back well over a month.”
She stated that another concern of the amended timelines is the negative impact on the mailing of tax statements. “We’ve had some struggles waiting on information from neighboring counties to get tax statements out,” said Zimmerman. “We were excited that we were going to get that done quicker this year but with the change in the calender, I’m not sure that’s possible.”
When asked if school districts, who have no intention of exceeding their RNR, would stay with the original budget timeline, Zimmerman said the issue was not specifically addressed in Senate Bill 13. “But in the trailer bill they would be bound by the Aug. 25 timeline,” she said.
On the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act
During his presentation at Friday’s legislative update, County Administrator Phil Hathcock discussed issues surrounding townships receiving funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, signed into law by President Biden on March 11. The ARPA provides an estimated $1.9 trillion in stimulus to aid in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve heard two different reports – that townships will be receiving money and that they will not be receiving money,” Hathcock told Friday’s gathering. “Whether you do or do not get these funds, we want to help prepare you on how to handle this money in the event you do.”
Hathcock said those entities receiving money from ARPA have until 2024 to spend it and must return the funding if not used within that timeframe. “A lot of this is very fluid in terms of stipulations and how much funding everybody is going to get,” said Hathcock. “If you do receive this money you will be required to submit periodic reports to the U.S. Treasury.” He added that Barton County was required to submit monthly reports after receiving CARES Act funding in 2020 and the same requirements apply to ARPA.
All federal funding from the CARES Act received by Barton County was distributed by the state. “With ARPA, some of the money will come directly from the Treasury,” said Hathcock. “Other parts of the funding will be funneled through the state.”
According to figures in ARPA, local governments are calculated to receive $130.2 billion. “That’s split evenly between cities and counties,” Hathcock said. “In Barton County, we use the per capita formula since our total population is under 50,000 as per the 2018 census.”
According to information from the National Association of Counties (NACO), Barton County’s estimated allocation from ARPA (including consolidated funds) is $5,038,754 and $622,474,392 for the State of Kansas. “Those are just estimates,” said Hathcock. “We don’t know yet for sure. Again, this is a population-based formula being used in these allocations.”
Estimated ARPA allocations for Barton County communities:
Albert - $30,673
Claflin - $113,085
Ellinwood - $363,831
Galatia - $6,837
Great Bend - $2,803,105
Hoisington - $463,796
Olmitz - $19,771
Pawnee Rock - $43,054
Susank - $5,913