By L&T Publisher Earl Watt
It seems when any kind of a bond is proposed, not only do we have to do the hard work of learning exactly what upgrades will be made, how much will they cost, and how will we pay for them, but we also get distracted with a host of fear tactics that have nothing to do with the question at hand.
Through discussions, Facebook posts and even flat-out distortions of the facts, there are already a bunch of conspiracy theories about the upcoming bond election that requires some clarifications.
Myth 1 — half cent or full cent?
Some are saying that the City of Liberal is proposing a full cent increase, half for the school district and half for the city.
This is not true.
FACT — The City if Liberal is allowing a half-cent sales tax option for school improvements for the life of the bond. That’s it.
Myth 2 — More schools will run Liberal out of water
Yes, some people are actually saying we should turn down the bond because Liberal’s water supply won’t last.
While it is true we are in a drought with the rest of the entire Midwest and all the way to California, new schools will not create any more of a demand on our local water supply than schools now.
If anything, these naysayers believe growth of any kind will increase the draw on our water supply, and so they would also be against new businesses, new jobs and new housing.
FACT — Several years ago, the State of Kansas limited the number of new water wells available to protect the water supply. The City of Liberal secured several additional well sites prior to the restrictions.
Liberal’s water supply is in great shape for decades to come. We need to be smart about usage, but school expansion will not effect the supply.
Myth 3 — National Beef will close any day
Yep, Liberal’s leading employer that expanded the plant with an estimated $20 million refrigeration area a few years ago is expected to pack up and leave if you believe this conspiracy theory.
National Beef has been in operation in Liberal for more than 50 years, and several other companies have bought the profitable beef processor during that time.
Most recently there was a bid from a South American company. It seems there are plenty who want a cut of the action, and that sounds like a promising future.
Some will point to the beef plant closing in California as a sign that Liberal’s plant is next.
The beef being processed in California had to be shipped from Kansas and Nebraska at a high cost.
Because of the drought, cattle populations have dwindled, and meat prices have soared.
Sunday’s article indicated that cattle populations in the Midwest are the strongest.
The fact is National Beef in Liberal isn’t going anywhere, but they will never make a statement indicating that, nor should they, because it is the fear of a shutdown that helps them get the best incentives. If I owned National Beef, I wouldn’t show my hand either.
Myth 4 — Only $100,000-plus homes will pay the tax
The example in calculating how little the tax increase will be used a $100,000 home as a base to come up with the $9.75 per month. Homes worth more will pay more, homes worth less will pay less.
FACT — The average home in Liberal is valued at $87,000, so most homeowners will pay less than the $9.75 per month, but all property owners will contribute.
Myth 5 — Most of Liberal’s population rents their home and won’t pay
According to the U.S. Census, 63.7 percent of the homes in Liberal are owner occupied. Only 36.3 percent are rented.
Liberal’s ownership rate is higher than Garden City (62.5) and Dodge City (59.9).
Renting homes is a business like any other, and landlords have a right to make money off their investment. The property taxes on that business are no different than the property taxes on a commercial building, except that residential taxes (11.5 percent of value times mill rate) are lower than commercial taxes (25 percent of value times mill rate), so landlords already receive a tax break on homes they are using for a commercial purpose.
FACT — Most people do not rent in Liberal. Most own their homes. Landlords are operating a business and already pay lower property taxes than other commercial business property owners.
Myth 6 — Liberal’s sales tax will be the highest in the region
When looking at Woodward, Guymon, Liberal, Dodge and Garden, Liberal’s new tax rate would be right in the middle.
Woodward’s is the highest at 9.825 percent, and they are growing. Garden’s is the lowest at 8.4 percent. Dodge is 8.8, and Liberal would be 8.9 percent. Guymon is 9.5 and is also growing.
When considering the bond, make sure you are getting the facts and not conspiracy theories. Make sure you are aware that the State of Kansas will pay for half of the project, sales tax will pay for another 22 percent, and only 29 percent will be paid for by property owners.
If you hear any other myths that need debunked, let me know.