Leavenworth County commissioners sought a meeting with public school superintendents and school board members to discuss property tax and mil levy issues in an effort to reduce the tax burdens on homeowners and businesses. But some school board members say their superintendents didn’t tell them about the meeting invitation.
Leavenworth County schools increased property tax by 351% since 1997, which is much worse than the 256% hike imposed by all other local taxing authorities in the county. Total property tax, including the small portion for state operations, is up 292% — or nearly four times as much as population plus inflation.
After meeting with Leavenworth and Lansing city councils, commissioners invited school officials to a similar discussion in their effort to dialogue with the largest property tax collectors. County Administrator Mark Loughry describes the intent of the gathering:
“Similar to our meetings with the City of Lansing and Leavenworth, I believe the County Commissioners wanted to discuss the challenges the current way of assessing valuation creates and that only the State has the ability to fix the underlying problem.”
To that end, each superintendent received the following invitation on May 6th:
“Greetings. As some of you may have heard the Board of County Commissioners has expressed interest in hosting a Work Session with the largest property tax collecting entities in the County. The intention of the meeting is to have an open dialog about property tax collections and the flaw in the current appraisal and taxation system. They would like to invite you and your elected officials to attend.
In an attempt to find a date that will work around other already scheduled meeting dates it appears Wednesday, June 27th is the most likely date. I have reserved the community room at the Lansing City Hall from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM on June 27th. If you could review this date and time with everyone on your end and let me know if it will work and how many are interested in attending I would appreciate it.”
But on June 9th, the invitees received this email:
“The Board of Commissioners has decided to cancel this meeting.”
Only President Judi Price of Leavenworth was advised by Superintendent Mike Roth. No other board members were made aware of the invitation. Board member Vanessa Reid was critical of Price as a recent meeting:
“Judi Price kept this to herself. As board president, she seemingly had responsibility to ensure each board member was timely aware. This tax work session was an important opportunity that should not have been thwarted. There are several reasons I was elected by the good people of Leavenworth and unfortunately this type of behavior is one of those reasons.”
Superintendent Roth told The Sentinel:
“It was an oversight” that all board members were not made aware of the invitation.
We asked the other superintendents in Leavenworth County if they passed along the email to board members.
Douglas Powers of Basehor responded to our email but did not answer the question.
Tim Beying of Easton:
“I did hear of the meeting. I did invite any board member who wanted to attend. It is my understanding that that meeting was canceled.”
Board member Amy Cawvey of Lansing says fellow members were not made aware of the meeting:
“Mary Wood (another member) asked Dan (Wessel), our superintendent, about the meeting during open session. Dan said he did receive the invite and planned on attending but received notice that the meeting was canceled. As a board, we did not receive notice of the meeting. It sounded like the invite went to the superintendent. I am not aware of the contents of the invite and if the board was also invited. I would like to know that myself. I was not aware of the meeting until Mary asked me about it and then also addressed it at the meeting.”
We did not receive a response from Tonganoxie Superintendent Loren Feldkamp. Ft. Leavenworth Superintendent Keith Mispagel refused to answer our question, instead suggesting we complete a Kansas Open Records Act request for documents.