When it comes to property taxes, Pottawatomie County is playing in a very different league from either Riley or Geary counties.
According to a Manhattan Mercury analysis of government data, Pottawatomie County has three times more taxable property value per person than does Riley County — and nearly four times more than Geary County. That has a major impact on the way local governments go about setting their budgets, an annual exercise that’s happening right now.
In essence, it forces tax rates higher in the Manhattan and Junction City areas and helps keep them lower in Pott County to raise the same amount of money to fund government operations.
The reason it’s that way: an electric plant, a university and an Army post.
Pott County’s assessed, taxable property is $711 million, according to 2020 data obtained from the Kansas League of Municipalities, which compiles the information annually. Its population was 24,383. That works out to about $29,175 in taxable property value per person. That’s the fourth-highest number of Kansas’ 105 counties.
Riley County’s per-capita number is $9,018, ranking 98th, and Geary County comes in 102nd, at $7,709. Both counties, which are much larger by population than Pottawatomie County, have total taxable property value that’s lower.
Simple: Pott County’s taxable property value is driven up largely by the presence of Jeffrey Energy Center, the electric plant. Riley County’s biggest entity — Kansas State University — owns property that’s not taxable. Same — to an even larger degree — in Geary County, where the United States Army owns a major chunk of the real estate. Worth noting that Riley County also contains some of the housing areas for the Fort Riley Army post, too.
As a result, Pottawatomie County can fund its county budget with a lower tax rate. Its county property tax mill levy, at 27.636, was the second-lowest in the state. Only Johnson County has a lower county tax rate. Johnson County has $11.7 billion in taxable property value, more than twice as much as the next-highest, Sedgwick County.
Geary County’s tax rate, at 70.711 mills, ranks 40th, in the middle of the pack, statewide. Riley County’s, at 42.292 mills, ranks 90th. A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 in assessed, taxable property value.
Using those rates, the owner of a home appraised at $100,000 would pay $813.18 to Geary County, $493.58 to Riley County and $317.81 to Pottawatomie County.
A homeowner’s property total tax bill also includes taxes paid to city governments and school districts, plus other various taxing districts that might apply.