By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
As a farmer and rancher in Southwest Kansas, Gary Hittle faces many challenges, and now, he is looking to challenge the incumbent in his district for a seat on the Seward County Commission.
Hittle recently filed to run against commission chair Joyce Hibler in the race for District No. 2, and he believes one of the top priorities facing the county is its tax situation.
“Some of our property and stuff throughout the county is not being taxed equally in fair shares on residential, farm, ground,” he said.
The commission recently approved a change in fees for usage of fairground facilities, with charges of as much as $500 being used for some events and facilities such as the rodeo arena. Hittle feels the board made the wrong decision, and he would like to propose new ideas to get more and better use out of the fairgrounds.
“If we would update it and lower the prices on it so everybody could use them, I think more people would use it,” he said. “Our prices are much higher than the surrounding counties are. We need to get in the same range so we can compete with them.”
With local, state and federal economies all facing a budget crunch, this makes it more difficult for entities to bring in more revenue. Hittle believes he has a simple solution to at least part of the problem.
“If we bring all of our taxes in line and get them up where they should be,” he said. “On our property taxes, we have some people who only pay $20 and $30 for their acreage and their house, and the next one is paying $300. If one’s paying $300, the other one should be paying $300. It should all be the same. We’d increase our revenue a lot.”
Commissioners are currently working to bring wind energy to Seward County. Hittle agrees bringing the source to the area would be good for the local economy.
“They’ll bring in more jobs and taxes for the county,” he said. “It’s also green fuel. It would help cut some of the costs in the other fuels.”
Hittle also believes there needs to be more cooperation between local officials from not only Seward County, but also the City of Liberal, USD No. 480 and non-profit agencies.
“We’ve got to work together with all of them to find out the best solutions for everybody,” he said.
Above all, Hittle wants to fulfill the needs of the constituents in his district and in all of Seward County.
“I don’t think the voice of the people and their opinions are being heard,” he said. “Some of the county commissioners are ignoring what the public is saying, and they need to be listening more to the public to make the right decisions.”