|Middle Republican NRD asking court for direction on returning unconstitutional property taxes|
By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
During the legislative session, Senator Mark Christensen of Imperial thought agreement had been reached on a way to get the unconstitutional property tax in LB 701 returned to taxpayers.
He believed it would be possible to do it through a tax levy refund on next year’s property tax statements.
However, that solution began to unravel because it was unknown whether the natural resource districts (NRDs) had the authority to do so.
Another consideration was to have county treasurers write checks back to property taxpayers, but the legality of the option was unknown as well.
The NRDs also feared any action to disburse the money may trigger further litigation.
Christensen noted the NRDs were unable to get any clear direction from the state as to what, if anything, could be done to get the money back to the taxpayers.
A Lancaster County District Court judge ruled the property taxes collected under Christensen’s LB 701, passed in 2007, were unconstitutional.
The judge said the local property taxes were collected to pay for a state purpose, in this instance compact compliance with Kansas.
The property taxes were levied and collected in 2008 and remain in escrow with the respective NRDs in the Republican Basin.
Request for return of taxes
Tuesday night, board members of the Middle Republican NRD received a request from a taxpayer in their district requesting a refund of the additional property taxes paid in 2008 under LB 701.
The requesting party threatened litigation if a refund was not made.
In response to the request, the MRNRD board passed a motion to hire legal counsel to file a motion in district court asking for some direction on how to make the refund.
Bob Merrigan, assistant manager at MRNRD, said the fact that the board was threatened with litigation and the fact that the issue remains unresolved, the board wanted some direction from the courts on how to proceed.
Jasper Fanning, manager of the Upper Republican NRD in Imperial, said his board has not yet received such a request. He added he wouldn’t be surprised to see some file a similar request to the URNRD.
He said it would be likely the board may direct counsel to file a petition in court asking for direction, as well.
However, he noted the board has taken no formal action and the board is not scheduled to meet until early July.
Christensen said Wednesday morning he hopes the court will hear the MRNRD’s petition so this issue can finally come to a close and the money distributed back to the taxpayers.