We’re hearing a lot about taxes this election cycle. From the impact of the proposed school bond to the city commission candidate promising to spur development by making Hays a “tax haven,” local taxes are a hot topic. Putting aside the political invective, what is the tax situation in Hays?
The City of Hays has kept its mill levy at 25 for several years by using sales tax to fund its general fund, and as a result, our municipal mill levy continues to be lower than any city in Kansas outside Johnson County. Ellis County’s mill levy is also comparatively low, and even USD 489’s levy is low compared to other districts. In fact, according to data compiled by the League of Kansas Municipalities and KU (verified with other data sources), we have the lowest combined mill levy of any first- or second-class city in the state of Kansas.
Perhaps more surprising, even our sales tax isn’t high compared to other cities. In fact, among Hutchinson, McPherson, Salina, Great Bend, Dodge City, Garden City, Topeka, Wichita and Kansas City, only Wichita and Great Bend are lower than us, and in a statewide sales tax comparison, we fall near the middle.
None of this paints the grim picture of crushing taxes that we’re led to believe, yet we still seem to buy into it. Hays’ tax rate is incredibly low. In other words, Hays already is the tax haven of Kansas. It follows that if our economy is still struggling despite our low tax rate, the problem lies elsewhere.