Archive for Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Western Shawnee library a goal as part of 2016 proposed county tax increase

The Johnson County Library Board is considering a robotic book-dispensing kiosk at this western Shawnee site, where construction of a permanent branch awaits funding.

The Johnson County Library Board is considering a robotic book-dispensing kiosk at this western Shawnee site, where construction of a permanent branch awaits funding.

August 11, 2015

The Johnson County Board of Commissioners will consider a budget resolution on Thursday that includes funding for a new Johnson County Library Monticello Branch in western Shawnee.

The funding proposed will come from a proposal made by both the county library and parks and recreation district to incrementally increase the county mill levy rates which are taxes assessed on every $1,000 of property value. The taxes, supporters say, are necessary to maintain service levels and meet the demands of the growing community.

The budget proposal for 2016 includes a .75 mill levy increase that will raise more than $5.2 million for the Johnson County Library next year. The county Library’s 20-year strategic plan would add two new branches, including the one in western Shawnee that has been promised for years, as well as the expansion of three other branches and the creation of an Operations Center that would be a centralized hub for library materials. The library’s plan will cost an estimated $400 million, which would require a mill levy increase of 1.15 to fully fund.

Christopher Leitch, the Community Relations Coordinator with the Johnson County Library, said the library doesn’t have a specific timetable as to when the Monticello branch would be constructed. He did say that the project is still the top priority on the library’s list of capital improvements.

“We really want to make sure that community is served,” Leitch said. “Once we know the scope or scale of the resources available, then we can implement plans.”

He said the library is continuing to move forward with a $1.15 million project to be completed by the end of 2016 that will see a lending machine installed at the 22435 W. 66th St. location. Leitch said the library is conducting research and development on the current lending machine at the Mill Creek Activity Center and is making various improvements for the Monticello location. The lending machine is budgeted to cost so much because the library will be constructing a shelter for the machine.

Lietch said the new lending machine is a way for the library to meet the current demands in the area.

Shawnee City Councilman Jeff Vaught, who has been vocal for years about getting a brick and mortar Monticello library built, said he is happy to see the county is taking steps to eventually put up a building.

“I’m supportive of the county taking action to raise the revenue needed to build an actual library in western Shawnee,” Vaught said. “While I understand its not going to be overnight, I’m pleased that it’s a priority.”

Also tied into the budget resolution proposal is an additional .75 mill levy increase to raise $6.3 million for the Johnson County Park and Recreation District. The department’s strategic plan includes the development of 4,400 acres of unused park land and the improvement to existing parks. The parks plan will cost an estimated $255 million and would require a mill levy increase of 1.34 to fully fund.

County Commissioner Jim Allen, who represents Shawnee and Lenexa, said he will likely support the budget proposal. He said the County Commission saw support from a majority of the community that appeared at a public hearing in July on the budget. Allen said the county is at a point where it can’t cut anymore and needs to find create ways to fund necessary public improvements.

“These are not easy decisions,” Allen said. “But people are generally supportive if it’s done thoughtfully and correctly.”

Allen said the hikes will directly affect local services and will result in improved quality of life for residents across the county.

While he said the county should have the lowest mill levy rate in the state of Kansas, the county s also at a “crossroads” following the recession. He said that over the past six years, the county has been able to maintain its mill levy rate because it has reduced the budget and personnel expenditures. During those same six years, the county was also the fastest growing county in the state yet people paid an average of $668 in property taxes in 2009 and $660 in 2015.

The total hike would raise the county taxing district mill levy to about 19.5, still the lowest county mill levy in Kansas.

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