County commissioners clash over state-imposed tax limitation

Tension over what to do about a state-imposed property tax limit boiled up at Monday’s Sedgwick County Commission meeting, including a terse clash between Commissioners David Unruh and Karl Peterjohn and laughter from county staff members that visibly frustrated commission Chairman Jim Howell.

At issue is a law passed by the Legislature last year that limits the amount counties can raise from property taxes each year without putting it to a public vote.

Unruh said it’s a terrible idea that infringes on local control and prevents growing counties from gathering money from increased property values to support services to new residents and businesses.

“I need to say that I am very much opposed to this whole movement,” Unruh said. “I, along with at least 99 percent of the county commissioners in the state of Kansas, are opposed to this.”

Peterjohn, who favors it, said it shouldn’t be called a tax lid but rather a “voter empowerment provision.”

“I think that this is a provision that is overwhelmingly popular with the people,” he said.

“If you say apply this to home rule, Mr. Unruh, will you apply it also to the sales tax … where you have to get local approval for a county sales tax increase? That’s basically all we’re trying to do with the property tax part of this.”

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