Kansas school property taxes lower than most other states

Kansas school property taxes lower than most other states

Local property taxes for public schools in Kansas are lower
than most states in the region and nation, even including the state 20 mill
levy.

Property taxes are usually considered the most unpopular tax
among voters and taxpayers, and concerns about higher property tax rates have
been cited by some as a reason to amend the Kansas constitution’s school
finance provisions. However, national data shows Kansas schools rely less on
property taxes than most neighboring and Plains states and the national
average.
Data from the most recent Public Education Finance report
for 2016 from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that Kansas raises $2,191 per pupil from
local property taxes, 37th out of the 43 states that reported revenue
from local property taxes. That is lower than all bordering states (Colorado, Nebraska,
Missouri and Oklahoma) and other Plains states (Iowa, Minnesota, North and
South Dakota).
That number for Kansas does not include the statewide 20
mill levy, which is mandated by the state legislature, collected by the state
and redistributed to school districts as state aid. National data does not
indicate if other states fund schools with state aid from property taxes.
However, even if including $1,212 per pupil from the statewide mill levy is
added, Kansas school property taxes are still below all neighboring and Plains
states except Minnesota and Oklahoma, and over $600 below the U.S. average.
Why are Kansas school property taxes so low? First, because overall
Kansas school funding is relatively low. In 2016, total funding per pupil ranked
30th in the nation, over $1,500 below the national average; lower
than Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and North Dakota in the region, and just $120
more than Missouri.
Second, property taxes are also lower in Kansas because of deliberate
state policy to rely more heavily on state revenues. Kansas schools overall
receive just 27.4 percent of total revenue from local sources. That is a lower
percentage that any state in the region, compared to Colorado (49.5 percent),
Iowa (39.1 percent), Minnesota (29.2 percent), Missouri (49.2 percent),
Nebraska (58.7 percent), North Dakota (34.8 percent), Oklahoma (41.0 percent)
and South Dakota (56.3 percent), as well as the U.S. average (44.5 percent).
This fact also explains why Kansas ranks high in state aid per pupil (as
opposed to local revenues) and K-12 aid amounts to about 50 percent of the
state general fund budget, as it has since the mid-1990’s. Relative to other
states, a portion of state aid effectively functions to lower property taxes
rather than increase school funding.
Third, school property taxes are lower due to state
equalization aid. Three major state aid programs – Capital Improvement aid for
bonds ($190 million) Capital Outlay aid ($60 million) and Local Option Budget
aid ($480 million) do not provide districts with any additional spending power;
instead, they offset local property tax requirements. Without this funding,
property taxes would have to be much higher in low wealth districts or spending
in these areas reduced.
A significant amount of state equalization has been passed
by the Legislature because of Kansas Supreme Court rulings on funding equity.
Other states have different constitutional language and court opinions.