City commission considering mill levy increase

Tim Hrenchir
Hays Daily News

After 12 years in which the city of Hays' property tax levy has stayed roughly the same, four of the five city commissioners said last week they support raising that levy and arranging for the increased income to go specifically for economic development.

That move would send a message to the Hays community that the city is committed to economic development, said Mayor Sandy Jacobs.

Jacobs, Vice Mayor Mason Ruder and Commissioners Shaun Musil and Michael Berges all took that stance at a June 3 work session of the commission, which took no official action. Commissioners also discussed implementing an additional property tax increase to go specifically to aid social services.

The commission's other member, Ron Mellick, said he opposed increasing the mill levy.

Last week's discussion came during the early stages of efforts aimed at bringing about the approval later this year of a 2022 budget for the city of Hays.

The city levy is part of a total property tax bill that includes levies for other government entities, including Ellis County and the State of Kansas.

Each year for the past 12, the city of Hays has imposed an annual property tax levy of about 25 mills, which amounts to an annual property tax bill of $575 for the owner of a $200,000 home.

Jacobs at the June 3 work session suggested raising the city's levy by one-half mill for economic development while Ruder, Musil and Berges said they supported an increase of three-quarters of a mill for that purpose.

Berges was absent but shared his thoughts in a letter, which Jacobs read aloud.

Jacobs said that if the city put in place an economic development mill levy increase, it could also take the $100,000 it has been providing annually to the Grow Hays economic development organization and put that back into the city's general fund to help finance purposes that would include public safety.

City Manager Toby Dougherty told commissioners the economic development mill levy increase would be part of the budget workbook he would provide them for a work session planned to take place July 1.

Berges' letter to the commission said he supports the city's putting in place an additional mill levy increase of three-quarters of a mill for the CARE Council, which funds a number of local social service programs.

"I believe stabilizing the annual funding for the agencies' requests to CARE Council will eliminate some of the unknowns of available funding that can come in fluctuations in general operating funds, which in turn stabilizes the budgets of our most dedicated and important non-profit organizations caring for the most vulnerable in our community," Berges wrote.

An increase in the city's property tax levy by three-quarters of a mill would amount to an additional $17.25 in property taxes for the owner of a $200,000 home.

An increase of 1.5 mills would amount to an additional $34.50 for that home.