Hearings set Tuesday and Wednesday on bill to hike statewide school mill levy

The House Taxation Committee has scheduled two days of hearings on a bill that would nearly double the statewide 20 mill levy over the next three years. 

The committee holds hearing Tuesday and Wednesday on HB 2740, which would raise the statewide levy from 20 mills in 2018 to 26.76 in 2019, 32.82 mills in 2020 and 38.43 in 2021. 

Based on current assessed valuation reported by the Kansas State Department of Education, the bill would raise an additional $220 million in 2019, over $400 million in 2020 and nearly $600 million in 20121. However, those numbers would likely be somewhat higher as statewide valuation increases. 

By some estimates, $600 million might be required to comply with the Kansas Supreme Court’s school finance adequacy decision in the Gannon case, including proposals from the plaintiff school districts and Kansas State Board of Education budget request. 

KASB has noted that school funding, when adjusted for inflation, has fallen approximately $600 million since 2009 when funding to settle the Montoy school finance case was nearly phased in; that Kansas school funding is approximately $600 million below the average percentage of total Kansas personal income spent on K-12 education since 1990; and that Kansas is approximately $600 million below the average of “peer” states that have better overall student achievement results. 

However, strong opposition is expected for raising property taxes, which are often considered the least popular major tax source. 

The bill would actually return the statewide levy to much closer to its original level. In 1992, when the Legislature first adopted a system for base state aid, pupil weightings, a statewide mill levy and local option budgets, the levy was set at 32, and rose to 35. However, the Kansas Legislature reduced the levy from 35 to 27 and then to 20, replacing the cut in property tax revenue with general state aid. 

The reduction in the statewide mill was eventually offset as local school districts increased local option budgets because of small increases in base state aid. This year, local property taxes for the LOB are over $600 million, with LOB state aid contributing $480 million. 

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