February 25, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Prairie Village, other JoCo residents reject expensive taxpayer-funded community center

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Prairie Village Mayor Eric Mikkelson and most City Council members are promoting a new taxpayer-funded community center that would replace the Paul Henson YMCA, but residents overwhelmingly reject it based on the estimated cost, according to a public opinion poll.

71% of residents in the 66208 zip code, in which the vast majority of Prairie Village taxpayers reside, strongly or somewhat strongly reject a community center project that would increase their city property tax by 27%.  Only 26% support the project, and 4% say they aren’t sure.

The public opinion poll was conducted by SurveyUSA on behalf of the Sentinel’s parent company, Kansas Policy Institute, between May 5 and May 12.  It has a credibility interval of ± 5.5 percentage points, based on 450 adults participating across six zip codes in northern Johnson County.  The largest cities in those zip codes are Mission (66202), Shawnee (66203), Overland Park (66204 and 66207), Leawood (66206), and Prairie Village (66208).

A strong majority in each zip code oppose an expensive taxpayer-funded community center, averaging 67% opposed and just 23% supportive across all zip codes.   Opposition is also consistent across ideological lines, with conservatives the most opposed (84% to 11%) and liberals showing the least opposition but still a majority (58% to 33%).

Prairie Village officials point to their own survey that purports to reflect strong support for the community center, but those responses were only based on the costs being “reasonable” with no quantification.   But two estimates were offered by council members at the April 17 City Council meeting; the lower estimate of five additional mills of property tax (equating to a 27% increase) was used in the SurveyUSA poll.

Support for a community center flips to a strong ‘yes’ when asked if the facility was paid for by operating more efficiently and reducing other costs (72% to 20% overall and 65% to 32% in zip code 66208).

Taxpayers hit hard by property tax increases

Johnson County homeowners and businesses have been hit hard by property tax increases imposed by elected officials.  Taxes paid to support county operations (excluding parks and libraries) jumped 310% since 1997, which is 2.6 times as much as the combined change in inflation and population.

In the City of Prairie Village, the 245% increase is 3.5 times inflation plus population.

Among survey participants, 56% said property taxes are too high, and 64% said they are at least somewhat concerned that property tax hikes may force them to change spending habits or may not allow them to stay in their homes.

Taxpayers oppose property tax reductions for businesses competing with government

A controversial piece of legislation recently vetoed by Governor Kelly would have reduced property taxes for businesses like fitness centers and restaurants.

Unless cities and counties reduced spending to offset the tax breaks to fitness centers and restaurants, the cost of those breaks would be passed on to all other taxpayers, so it’s no surprise that 62% of survey participants oppose those tax breaks and only 22% are supportive.

Even conservatives are opposed by a 52% to 28% margin.


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