Latest Updates from the Campaign
Questions for County Commission Candidates
Jeff Meyers District 2
Question 1 : Property values have increased in many parts of the county over the past decade, but the property tax rate has held largely steady. This means many homeowners have seen their annual property tax bills increase faster than the rate of inflation. Are you comfortable with this trend? If so , why? If not, how should the county address it?
Property taxes are the major source of revenue for our county government. I know residents are looking for relief in their tax bills. I am one of those residents who also does not like to see my tax bills rise. Seniors want to stay in their homes and it is hard to do with property tax increases. Looking for ways to address this issue is important.That being said, the county is waiting on a decision on an appeal from commercial property tax that has been issued in the past that could have a major effect on the county budget. As a commissioner you always have to be mindful of the services you are providing to residents and weighing them with the amount of revenue you have to spend. Whether it is safety services, mental health services, transportation issues, business, parks and recreation, environment or the many other responsibilities of this position, you want to provide the protection and services that county residents want and deserve. I believe county staff and current leadership are doing a great job and are constantly looking at ways to solve these issues. The ways to address this are to first look for cost saving measures. I believe looking at consolidation of services is a good way of finding cost savings when possible. Reform property tax formulas or change other taxing entities such as reducing the mill levy for relief are other ways of addressing property tax increases. Residents also have the possible remedy of appealing your property tax bill if you feel your property has been unfairly appraised. As a commissioner when making these decisions you must be ready to explain the expenditures you are willing to change or delete. I will not make promises that I cannot keep but I can promise that I will be prudent and frugal when it comes to taxpayers money. I want to emphasize that I know residents are looking for relief at this time.
Question 2 : Mental health issues are a continuing concern in Johnson County as evidenced by teen suicide rates and calls for police service. What can the county do to improve residents’ access to mental health services and ensure that mental health calls don’t divert police resources from crime prevention?
Mental health calls to the police are many times made to prevent crime or because of crime related issues as evidenced by the recent call from the Truman Sports Complex for a person armed and shooting at employees. This was a person having a mental health crisis. Mental health crises seem to be more and more common. Continuing education of the county services for mental health is vital in helping residents be aware of opportunities for help. These services can include: Mental Health: Pediatric Services, Prevention Services, Mental Health: Adult Rehabilitation Services and Outpatient Use Services. Also, COVID-19 information is important for resident awareness. As a retired high school and middle school educator I can tell you it is imperative to educate teens about suicide. It is important to provide and receive as much information from our teens as possible. We need to continue providing encouragement to our school districts and support through providing programs for teachers to be able to use if needed. My experience was overwhelming with positive results and prevention of teen suicide because of programs I presented to students. It needs to be ongoing and not just a one time shot. Feedback from students was extremely positive and they wanted to participate. Education can be used to help divert the calls to police for crime prevention by eliminating and helping people receive attention prior to crime issues arising. Another important item is the partnership that Johnson County mental health has implemented with many area police agencies. They must be expanded. It has been highly beneficial having a mental health professional available to respond with police officers.
Question 3 : Unlike the majority of the state, Johnson County continues to add population. What kinds of planning for public transportation should be taking place right now to ensure that we can accommodate the needs of residents 20 years from now?
Vision is a very important characteristic of elected officials. It is hard to think about future needs that are going to require funding when you are experiencing a tough economy. I believe planning for public transportation is important for future needs of residents. I know we have been experiencing low gasoline prices but I think everyone knows that can change very quickly. Two groups of people due to population growth that are going to have the greatest needs are seniors whose population is definitely growing and college students' population is going to grow and have a need for increased public transportation if fuel costs increase and more students attend schools closer to Johnson County.
In years to come it could be possible and likely probable for additional electric charging stations to be added throughout the county. More and more the automobile industry is going to turn to alternative fuels. Also, I think expanding the Micro Transit/Ride KC program will be required. More routes to meet the needs of residents and travel for services in and near Johnson County.
Continuing to address traffic regionally is ideal. Consolidating Johnson County’s transit program with the Kansas area transportation in 2015 gave county residents with jobs outside the county more transportation options and allowed employers to recruit from a wider area. Having a voice in regional transportation is important to our continued success. Planning, preparation, performing and reflection is the best way of approaching all types of problem solving.
Question 4: Are there any areas of public service where you believe the county is currently not investing enough, or is at risk of underinvesting for the future?
One area I think could have a positive effect in helping safety services across the county and it also deals with mental health is expanding the Johnson County mental health agency teaming with the police that allows a mental health professional available to respond with police officers. This program is called the Co-Responder program. This is a great example of collaborating with our surrounding communities and an opportunity to consolidate services to reduce costs. A statement from the Assistant County Manager reads “Not only does the co-responder program save local officers time that they can dedicate to law enforcement activity, but the person with a mental illness receives the assessment and treatment they need”. The program began in 2010 but I think everyone knows there is a growing need for this type of engagement because of the growing mental health concerns and the number of police calls that are being received with mental health issues. This is a win/win scenario for the police and the Johnson County mental health department.
This is an example of how I would look for cost saving measures, consolidate services and explain decisions that I would make as a commissioner.
Question 5: Johnson County Government has the authority to veto applications for tax-increment financing (TIF) districts developers submit to cities --- but has not exercised that power in recent years. Critics of TIF suggest it diverts tax dollars that governments could use on services to private entities. Proponents say TIF is a net benefit to communities by increasing tax revenues in the long run. Do you think the board of commissioners should consider using its TIF veto power more frequently? Why or why not?
Tax increment financing is a development tool used to encourage development of obsolete or challenging sites with higher project costs than a shovel-ready green field site. Some of the goals are to create future economic stability, revitalize older commercial areas and bring vibrant dining, shopping and entertainment to name a few. I would approach these situations as I did when I was the Mayor or City Councilman when development wanted TIF, TDD, CID or tax abatements. I would not be a rubber stamp but would judge each one on its own merits. I have been for and against some of these developments in the past and have relied on common sense decision making that I felt was either beneficial or detrimental to my community and its residents. Much goes into these decisions which includes listening to residents, cities, developers and following policy and laws. I am ready for these challenges because of my experience.