A boat sinks drip by drip

Is KDOT cutting the amount it distributes to local governments by $30,000 the end of the world?

No. For as expensive as road projects are, the cut is just another drop in the bucket.

That follows drop, after drop, after drop, after drop.

It’s taken a while for these drops to start puddling up, but we now begin to notice them.

Last week we discussed a water protection program that was defunded but is now supported by the county.

In our school board article this week, we talk about how the state dropped payments for students using the state pathway program, one of the few successes implemented by the Brownback Administration, from $1,000 per student who earned a career certification in high school, down to $40.

That’s three small cuts to three local governments that have shown up in the news in two weeks.

Then there are the larger cuts, like the state being behind on Medicare payments to local nursing homes and hospitals. Those cuts put a damper on the local economy.

There are cuts made to the Department of Commerce staffing, meaning the state has fewer people to try to recruit business and industry to it or provide services to local governments.

Meanwhile, the sales tax stays high in Kansas.

And what’s happened to your property taxes over the last few years? Have they been steadily declining?

Nope. They’ve continued driving up.

State revenue rapidly declined with the Brownback tax cuts, and those declines got passed on to local governments.

That’s not giving local governments a free pass. They’ve done some great things to make due, and they’ve made some not great decisions, which we chronicle.

But it would be wrong to say that the increase in property taxes doesn’t have a little to do with the decrease in funding to so many programs from the state.

Now to some, that’s how government should work. More reliance on local funds, means more local decisions and less state interference, or at least that’s the thought process.

But currently it’s a negative for Harvey County. We’ll be honest, we don’t have a tax base like Sedgwick County or Johnson County. When we have to raise money for infrastructure projects locally, it hurts us here a lot more than counties with larger tax bases. We don’t feel it as badly as less developed counties, but still it’s important for us to understand where our interests lie.

Our interests lie in good schools and good roads and good water. And with the current structure of the state government, we’re less equipped to provide those things than we were seven or eight years ago.

If Kansas is going to move ahead as a state, it will do it together. That means working for a high tide to raise all boats instead of creating a few bastions of opulence and a dying prairie dotted with rusting towns that continue to fade.

You can still be upset at local legislators for property tax increases, but don’t be so naive to ignore the links between the state’s budget situation and what we’re seeing at home. Kansans voted for tax shifts years ago, and they got them—dropped right on many of their heads. It’s going to take a lot of work and education for state voters to rectify the mess we’re in.

So does the KDOT cut doom us? Nope. None of the cuts do.

Neither did the first few drops of water in the Titanic’s bulkhead.