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The Shopper

The Shopper

Friday, October 12, 2012 8:47 PM

Photo By Matt Bristow/The Ottawa Herald

Maurice Atland, Hiawatha, and Don Covington, Rantoul, idle a boat up to the marina before going fishing Thursday morning at the Pomona Lake Michigan Valley Recreation Area, Quenemo. Kansans soon can vote on whether to allow a state constitutional amendment that would allow the legislature to separately classify and tax watercraft or to exempt watercraft from property taxes and impose another form of tax. Kansas residents can vote on the matter Nov. 6 during the state’s general elections.

Higher taxes on boats could follow election

By BOBBY BURCH, Herald Staff Writer

Kansans soon will have the opportunity to sink or buoy a state constitutional amendment that could allow future changes to property taxing on watercraft.

If it receives a favorable vote, the amendment would allow legislators during the 2013 session to classify and tax watercraft differently than other property, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism said in a release. 

“The amendment would not directly change how watercraft are taxed; rather, it is a required first step before legislators can make changes in the future, if they choose to do so,” the department said. “A vote for the proposition would allow the legislature to separately classify and tax watercraft or to exempt watercraft from property taxes and impose another form of tax. A vote against the proposition would not change the way watercraft are taxed, and they would continue to be taxed in the same manner.”  

While watercraft property taxes vary between counties, watercraft are taxed at a rate of 30 percent of a vessel’s value multiplied by the county mill levy, the department said. 

For example, if an Ottawa resident owned a $10,000 watercraft, he or she would pay roughly $515.53 in watercraft property taxes each year, according to the Franklin County Appraiser’s Office.

The 30-percent tax rate exceeds that of neighboring Oklahoma, Nebraska and Missouri, all of which do not maintain a property tax on watercraft. 

Rising taxes on watercraft are also deterring more Kansans, and potential tourists, from boating in the state, Randy Baker, Auburn, said. 

“The more taxes [Kansas legislators] raise, the less people they’re going to get out [on the lake,]” Baker said. “I know Kansas, and they don’t drop anything on taxes — they never have. If they change anything it will probably go up. But I’d like to see [watercraft taxes] go down so that more of these younger people and myself can afford to go out on [boats].”

Baker, who has been boating at Pomona Lake for more than 35 years, said he paid about $200 in taxes for his 30-year-old boat last year. While increased taxes on his vessel haven’t stopped him from boating so far, Baker said if rates continue to rise he might be forced to permanently dock his 20-foot ski barge. 

“[The state] wants more and more people to buy boats and spend money [on the lake],” Barker said. “But you’re damn sure not going to get people to buy boats when you keep increasing their taxes.” 

The property tax burden apparently also has caused many Kansas watercraft owners to register their vessels in neighboring states, causing the state to lose out on revenue. 

“When owners go out of state to register their boats and avoid paying property taxes, the state loses registration revenue and the counties lose property tax revenue,” the department wrote in a release. “An estimated 10,000 Kansas residents register their boats in other states to avoid paying higher property taxes in Kansas. Kansas has about 85,000 registered watercraft.”

The state currently defines watercraft as “any boat powered by gasoline, diesel, electric, oars or sail, including sailboards, personal watercraft, jet skis, kayaks and canoes,” according to the Kansas Constitution.

By law, watercraft powered by gasoline, diesel, electric or sail must be registered with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. Each year, the state sends a list of registered watercraft owners to each county appraiser. Registration and renewals cost 32.50 per vessel and are valid for three years after the registration date.

Along with matching federal funds, registration and renewal fees to support boating-related programs, including the development, improvement and maintenance of docks, boat ramps, marinas, sanitation, investigating boating accidents and thefts, and other initiatives, the department said. 

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism does not receive the property tax revenue and each county is responsible for how it uses its portion of the property tax receipts, the department said.  

Kansas residents can vote on the matter Nov. 6 during the state’s general elections. 

For more information, visit the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s website at

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