Most local governments in Kansas are faced with quite a dilemma as they try and adopt budgets for next year. Influences beyond the control of most local elected officials have set the stage for some very tough decisions to be made. One such decision is the Shawnee County Board of County Commissioners deciding to cut funding to their Emergency Management program by 50%.
Property values have been suppressed since the financial crisis of 2008. Taxable property values are figured on a 3 year average for the most part, so basically it takes 3 years for the full impact of declining values to really start to hurt the budgeting process. In 2008 the budgets were already set for 2009. So 2010 was the first year of the crisis impacts to the local budgeting process. As housing prices remained suppressed the valuations from 2011 to the current year have steadily declined. In addition to this, sales tax receipts are also down as people are spending less money at local stores. These are the 2 primary items that are impacting the budget process, but there are more as the Federal and State governments shift burdens to local governments as they try to balance their budgets.
To maintain local government delivered services at the same levels as they were, the elected officials would need to raise taxes somewhere between 5 and 10 percent each year. I know quite a few elected officials and this is a tax increase that is not going to happen based on the fact they realize that most households can not absorb this level of tax increase.
Now is the time that we must engage in the political process to help our local officials set the proper priorities as to what we, as collective members of a community, expect the role of local government to be. We need to be vocal as to what level service we feel is a collective need and what services we are willing to provide for ourselves. This is the only way we make it through this mess with functional communities intact.
Unlike the Federal Government, Local Governments can not print their way out of this mess.