Four days till the primary. I feel even more strongly now than when I started that a NO vote is the only responsible course of action.
Bob Agler and I recently took part in a KVOE on-air forum. Brian Creager and Roger Wells represented the vote yes side. Mr. Wells told everyone that the merger wouldn’t cost much at all. Brian Creager said that a NO vote might mean the elimination of 4H programs. Both complained about the numbers.
Was any of what they said true? No. Why were they saying it? They were using scare tactics designed to divert attention away from the central issues of this campaign – UNLIMITED, INDEPENDENT TAXING AUTHORITY AND LOSS OF LOCAL CONTROL!
Is 4H going away? Absolutely not! No one on our side of the issue has ever advocated the elimination of 4H or 4H programs. Lyon County has been generous and will continue to be generous to extension. We believe extension and the county commissioners can work together to achieve mutually satisfactory ends. That doesn’t require a merger.
What’s this really about? It’s about money – YOUR money!
Why us? When you compare Lyon County to Franklin and Osage counties, it’s evident we’re poorer than them. Based on 2010 U.S. Census data, the people of Franklin and Osage counties average household incomes are 25% higher than ours (about $50 thousand for them versus $37 thousand for us). When it comes to poverty rates, ours is 11 to 14 percent higher than theirs (22.4% versus 8.4% and 11.5%).
Why would a poorer county like ours be so desirable? It’s our total valuation. While Lyon County incomes are much lower, our total valuation is higher than Osage and Franklin counties. At the proposed startup mill levy, Lyon County would incur a significant property tax increase over its current level of extension support. The people of Osage and Franklin counties would be the beneficiaries of a decrease from their current level of extension support. We’d be paying more; they’d be paying less. Money will be taken from the poorer county and given to the richer ones. Further, Lyon County would be assuming the lion’s share of the financial load for the new district – about 40%. When the Westar peaking plant comes on the Lyon County tax rolls in 2014, the total valuation would increase by about $100 million and we’d be taking on an even bigger share of the load.
Merger proponents have said that mill levies would more than likely go down over time. Not true. Of the fourteen districts, only nine had measureable data. Of those, almost half had significant increases. They also claim that any tax increases or decreases would be fully equally because of a common mil levy. That’s not true! Why? Because of the huge gap in valuation. Ours are higher and will actually increase when the peaking plant goes on the tax rolls. Lyon County will always bear the brunt of the burden. The common mill levy and our higher valuation means the overwhelming tax burden will always be ours. The gap between the richer county and the poorer ones will increase, not decrease.
In their glossies they call this a “tax shift.” Well, to paraphrase Ross Perot, “that giant sucking sound you’ll be hearing is your money being “shifted” all the way to Franklin and Osage counties!
The numbers are as frightening as they are accurate. Bob Agler’s analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau numbers demonstrate that the merger is a bad deal for Lyon County.
We understand Frontier District’s current difficulty. One of extension’s field directors spelled it out in a response to us. When asked about the merger, he said that without Lyon County’s revenue, Franklin and Osage county’s “mill levy and ad valorem taxes would need to be higher to meet their current expense budget.”
They’re trying to stave off an increase for Franklin and Osage counties at our expense. We shouldn’t be used to solve a problem we didn’t create.
That’s why we believe a no vote on August 7th is the responsible vote.
There’s one last thing. Not once during this campaign did merger proponents express any concern about other county departments or, for that matter, you. Have they expressed any concern about the onslaught of sales taxes on your horizon? Have they expressed any concern about the future of Newman Regional Health, the road and bridge department, or the public library? No! They’d have you believe it’s all about them. Well, this vote is really about all of us. The citizens of Lyon County have a shared destiny. We all want a brighter future. We believe it begins with a No vote on August 7th. Then, on August 8th, the necessary work to ensure that our local extension and the people of Lyon County find mutually beneficial solutions can begin.