Leawood is currently in a transition phase from the high growth and development stage of the first 75 years to a more modest rate of growth now and into the future. That presents some exciting possibilities as well as some challenges: With less new development the city can focus more on improving the existing infrastructure; however, increasing property values and taxes can make it more difficult for long-time residents to afford to stay in the area that they have come to know and love. Addressing these possibilities and challenges will fall to a changing council, as three incumbent council members and the mayor are not running for re-election.
I feel the primary responsibility of a city council member from each ward is to represent the residents of that ward and that, because Ward 1 (all of Leawood north of 103rd Street) has been almost completely developed for some time, our experience can guide the transition to improving infrastructure. Your issues are my issues and I believe together we can make Leawood an even better place to live.
I will view every issue and every vote through the lens of whether it is good for the residents of Leawood in the long run.
Here are some of my priorities:
Property taxes have been on the minds of many of us as our assessments have risen dramatically for the last several years. It is good news that our property values are increasing but, for the many of us who don't plan to move soon (or ever), those increasing values do not help pay for the increases in taxes.
Here is the breakdown of how our property taxes are distributed:
- Shawnee Mission School District (45.6%)
- JCCC (8%)
- Johnson County (16.4%)
- JoCo Library (3.5%)
- JoCo Parks (2.8%)
- State of Kansas (1.4%)
- Leawood (22.3%)
The Leawood share accounts for approximately 44% of Leawood's revenue. About 26% comes from sales & use taxes & about 27% comes from fees, grants, and licenses.
So, the council needs to balance the need for revenue to retain valued employees and provide the services we want with the pressures increased taxes bring to residents. While I would like to reduce the mill levy rate overall, the city's costs are rising with inflation and labor costs are rising even faster. I would not vote to cut the services that we value.
However, I am committed to working with the other council members and the mayor, as well as the Johnson County Commission, to provide some relief for those who are affected most by increasing property taxes so they can stay in their homes, if they wish. That could be capping or deferring the increases until the property is sold for people over a certain age. Or, basing the increases for those folks to CPI, rather than increased home values, since Social Security is indexed to CPI.
Because Ward 1 has been mostly developed for some time we don't have a lot of new development. However, there is a new development across from Ward Parkway Center on State Line at 87th Street that has caused some concern. While any new development will likely cause controversy because it represents change it appears to me that residents sometimes don't feel that their concerns are heard, even though Leawood has a pretty open process for approval of developments. This can lead to misunderstanding and sometimes causes costly delays and doesn't necessarily end up with a solution that mollifies the residents. There are a lot of steps that developments go through before final approval and, it strikes me, that better education of the residents about the process could allow a better outcome for all. I would endeavor, as a member of the council, to provide that information.
Obviously, our environment is a crucial concern for all of us. Taking care of the place we live is healthy, economically prudent, and enhances all our lives.
Leawood, and some developers, have incorporated energy-saving features in some areas. I would like to see Leawood be even more in the vanguard of Johnson County cities encouraging and facilitating environmentally friendly practices.