By Russ Pankonin, The Imperial Republican
With a hot real estate market for agland and residential property in Chase County and Imperial, it should come as no surprise that assessed valuations of those properties jumped again this year.
After little increase during the drought in 2012, property values shot up when commodities like corn hit $7 per bushel and wheat $8 per bushel.
Buoyed by record commodity prices, farmers re-invested in what they know best—land. As the competition for land heated up, so did the prices.
Irrigated pivots that were selling for $800,000 were suddenly selling for $1 million-plus. The same happened with dryland.
In 2012, property valuations showed very little movement, going up just 4.8 percent. That changed in 2013 when the market sales history of property pushed valuations up more than 22 percent in Chase County.
With more sales data, the valuations climbed even higher for 2014, jumping more than 40 percent. For the first time in history, property valuation exceeded $1 billion, going from $898 million in 2013 to $1.267 billion in 2014.
But just because property valuations continue to rise doesn’t mean that taxes have to rise along with it.
For a long time, local board officials hung their hat on the tax levy. Even with taxes going up, increased property valuations will almost always drop the levy. So when they assured us they had dropped our mill levy, they acted like they were doing us a favor when in reality, they’d hiked our taxes again, not cut them.
People are beginning to see through that scam, especially as property values rise and levies artificially go down.
The determining factor to your tax bill rests solely with the tax requests made by our elected officials.
As property valuations increase, it increases the amount a taxing entity can request without bumping into mandated levy lids. The secret to lower taxes is not in higher property valuations but controlled spending.
This year, it appears several boards have elected to take advantage of those increased valuations by requesting more tax dollars for next year than the year before. Across all the taxing entities in Chase County, taxpayers will be asked to shell out $1.64 million more in 2014 than requested in 2013.
But guess what—we all let it happen! How’s that, you say?
Each and every taxing entity in Chase County is required to publish a legal notice in the newspaper after Aug. 1, showing citizens just exactly how much they are requesting in taxes for next year.
In addition, they must hold a public hearing to take input from taxpayers on the proposed tax request. That’s our chance to have a voice on local property taxes.
Unfortunately, whether it’s the fact that people don’t really care or they don’t believe they can affect any change, people don’t go to these hearings to have their say about taxes.
In more than 30 years of covering school and city budget meetings, I can count on both hands how many people I’ve seen actually come to a hearing to speak out on their tax bill.
If we want these elected officials to keep our taxes in line, then it’s our job to get involved in the process long before a budget and tax request is ever made.
Left unchecked, your tax bill is never going to stop growing.