Proposed tax cap would benefit fixed-income seniors
The Kansas Legislature returned to Topeka this week for the 2004 session with lawmakers clearly focused on budget issues. Although not as dismal as last year, state revenue fell $160 million short of covering existing expenditures. Add to that, a preliminary court ruling that found K-12 education was underfunded by $1 billion and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' recommendation of a $304 million in tax increases.
All this doesn't appear to leave much room for tax decreases, but it is our hope one such proposal gets serious consideration. Two lawmakers, Reps. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, and Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing, are calling for an amendment to the Kansas Constitution that would give seniors some relief from ever-increasing property taxes eating away at fixed incomes. The proposal would fix the valuations of single-family homes for those 65 years of age and older and valued at less than $250,000 at 2004 levels.
There are few places the measure is needed more than in De Soto. De Soto home valuations have increased an average of 7.7 percent in 2000, 10.4 percent in 2001, and 5.5 in 2002. The city's attractive location on Kansas Highway 10 between Kansas City and Lawrence fuels yearly valuation increases. New homes (here and in west Shawnee) snapped up by young families create a demand for new schools.
Colorado excuses seniors from all property taxes on homes.
The words of consolation one too often hears is that the increasing valuations are good news o homeowners because their investments are more valuable. That's a good argument for a young homeowner to move on from a starter home, but it doesn't offer much solace to seniors finding it difficult to stay in homes built decades ago. Seniors are much more likely to want the security that comes with familiar homes and the people who surround them.
The proposed amendment would offer them some respite by freezing one side of the property tax equation. True, mill levies are likely to go up to meet the demands on increasing populations, but the built-in valuation tax increase would cease. Residents need only to imagine how much less their tax bill would be at 1998 valuation levels to appreciate just how valuable the cap would be.
The basic fairness of the proposal is evident. In our rush to provide for our children we shouldn't rid our communities of those who have done much to build them. We hope the Legislature acts on the amendment in time for Kansas voters to consider it in November.