Some question Kobach's proposal to capping valuation hikes

September 23, 2018 - 10:46 am

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach is proposing capping property appraisal increases, which he said would give taxpayers a more predictable property tax bill, but some experts say the change likely would require changes to the state constitution.

Kobach's plan would cap property appraisal increases at no more than 2 percent a year, regardless of how much the property increases in actual fair market value, The Lawrence Journal-World reported. He said the change would especially help the elderly and those on fixed incomes.

"Those individuals need to be able to plan out their retirement and have some knowledge that their home value is not going to be jacked up by 50 percent over a four- or five-year period, which is not unusual in some parts of the state," Kobach said.

Property taxes determine how much tax each property owes, with the higher values meaning higher tax bills for property owners. The taxes are based on annual property appraisals.

Linda Terrill, a Johnson County attorney who has practiced property tax law for about 40 years, said Kobach's plan might violate a constitutional amendment that requires the state to have "a uniform and equal basis of valuation and rate of taxation of all property subject to taxation."

She said capping increases would mean properties that appreciate in value over time would no longer be valued or taxed at their actual fair market value, while others would be, and that could cause problems for local governments and some taxpayers.

"The more you move away from uniform and equal, the more difficult it is to fix it when you finally realize it wasn't a good idea," she said.

Kobach said he hasn't decided whether his plan should cap appraisal increases for all time, or whether the state should allow the sale of a property to trigger a new appraisal. He said the Legislature should make that decision.

It is also unclear whether the Kansas Supreme Court would allow any kind of variation from the fair market standard for any extended period of time. In 2016, the court struck down a law that imposed a similar kind of cap for people who successfully protested their appraisal values and had the values lowered.

Kobach said he doesn't believe that case would apply to his proposal.

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