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Commissioners want tax limit for extension district

Staff writer

Marion County Commissioners want either a limit on how much property tax a proposed extension district could levy or a requirement for county approval before any tax increase.

Dickinson County Commissioners voted 2-1 Thursday in favor of creating an extension district with Marion County. Marion County Extension Executive Board unanimously supported creating a district, Executive Board Chairman James Riffel said.

Marion County Commissioners said Monday they support the idea of sharing extension agents between the counties, but taxes were a concern. Commissioners Randy Dallke and Dan Holub said they were concerned that creating an extension district would increase property taxes. State funding reductions have forced county departments to reduce expenses, and they said they weren’t confident an extension board would be willing to make those difficult decisions.

District board members would be publicly elected, so they would have the same accountability to taxpayers that county commissioners have, extension agent Rickey Roberts said.

Dallke said several farmers with large operations told him they were worried about taxes. Those farmers said they do not use Kansas State Research and Extension services.

Large farms have enough resources to hire professionals, but extension services help small farms, Hillsboro resident Bill Fish said.

Roberts said the county extension office has endured cuts over the years. At one time the office had three agents and two office professionals, but now that is reduced to two agents and one office professional, Roberts said.

“There’s no fat left in that office,” Roberts said.

Holub asked whether an operation agreement could include a requirement that Marion and Dickinson county commissions approve any tax increase by a district, or if a cap could be placed on a district’s mill levy.

A property tax cap has been included in some district operation agreements, but its legality has not been tested, a Dickinson County agent said.

Commissioners asked Roberts to acquire an operation agreement that includes a tax cap. They said they would like County Attorney Susan Robson to review it before they make a decision.

Last modified Feb. 11, 2010

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