In 1925, a small fee of $0.25 cents per 100 dollars of mortgages filed was legislated by the State of Kansas to basically protect a newly developed mortgage industry against defaults on mortgages. In 1990, one cent was added by the State legislature to the mortgage fee for the purpose of funding the new State Heritage Trust Fund.  The department of revenue of each  of the 105 counties within the State collected the mortgage registration fee and forward that revenue to the State’s Revenue’s office.  However, all county funds exceeding one-hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) paid to the State were to remain with the County.

In 1991, in response to the State’ initiative to create the Kansas Heritage Trust Fund,  the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) passed a resolution creating the Johnson County Heritage Trust Fund (JCHTF).  The revenue for the JCHTF was derived from the one-cent increase in the mortgage registration fee that was in surplus of the amount Johnson County is required to contribute to the state fund.  The establishment of the Johnson County Heritage Trust Fund demonstrated the BOCC’s value placed on preserving the valuable heritage and history of Johnson County.  The JCHTF was used to promote, recognize and/or preserve the history and heritage of Johnson County.

Imagine the consternation among Johnson County Heritage groups and our Johnson County Commission when that fee was dissolved by the Kansas State legislature in what was its present form.  Not only for the State of Kansas was this fee a highly regarded and longstanding revenue source, but also for Johnson County.  It is understood the legislation which dissolved the mortgage registration fee was attached to another piece of legislation and quickly passed in December of 2014, without due regard to unintended consequences, nor with a viable alternative plan in place.

Never knew about any of this? That’s not surprising.  That ‘one penny’ was from the $0.26 cents per $100.00 fee on mortgages in Johnson County.   The loss of that one penny will have a tremendous impact going forward on most of the non-profit Johnson County heritage groups which no longer have the opportunity of grant funding from the JCHTF. Unfortunately, the County did not reformulate an alternative grant funding program for historic preservation, considering its own revenue losses due to the State’s dissolution of the mortgage registration fee.  It was in response to the loss of the Johnson County Heritage Trust Fund that an estimated (15) different museums, historic sites, preservation societies, and associations actively engaged in Johnson County, came together as a coalition to seek and develop a plan forward for preservation funding in our County………thus, was borne the JOHNSON COUNTY KANSAS HERITAGE FOUNDATION !

The State of Kansas is currently attempting to reformulate a funding program to support historic preservation, yet there is question about future availability of adequate State funding, and concern with the County’s future budgeted allowances, beyond its funding of the Johnson County Museum system, to provide grant support for ALL historical and cultural preservation, education, and advocacy within the County.

The benefits which had been derived for Johnson County though the JCHTF, cannot be overstated. Those  estimated (15) different museums, historic sites, preservation societies, and associations actively engaged in preserving the County’s rich heritage and cultural past are reliant upon funding from various sources to support facilities management, operation, maintenance, and programming.  From its inception, the JCHTF has been a significant and valued funding resource to these groups, through its effectively administered matching grant program. From 1992-2014/15, an estimated 126 preservation projects were funded by JCHTF, supporting 35 different grant applicants, and providing $2,934,375 million dollars in matching grant funding. (Note: As required through the JCHTF matching grant program, each museum, historic site, and preservation interest, as a grant recipient, contributed a minimum matching sum of $2,934,375 million dollars, or other in-kind resources, to preserve and interpret our County’s past.)

Non-profit heritage groups have been applying for grants from these funds for special projects.  Grants were given from the fund for projects that ranged from filming  by the Overland Park Historical Society of the DVD, ” Rails To Suburbia”, the story of the Strang Line Interurban and Overland Park, to the several  DVD’s created by the Olathe Historical Society that have been the recipient of three EMMY awards. There were grants to refurbish and add to the trails markers in Johnson County and many more projects that you may have seen or visited but did not know how they were funded. We will miss future grant funding opportunities through the JCHTF which were typically for special projects, unforeseen repairs, and programs to enhance each organization’s public presentations.  We will continue to operate our organizations but with limited and shrinking resources, limited public access, significantly reduced educational programming, and with limited funds for unforeseen, out-of-budget expenses.

As a matter of public record, recipients of these grants from 2002-2015 include, but are not limited to, the historic Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm, Johnson County Community College, the Johnson County Museum, the Shawnee Indian Mission Foundation, the Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association, the Gardner Historical Museum, Shawnee Town 1929, the Deaf Cultural Center Foundation, the Monticello Community Historic Society, the Overland Park Historical Society, the Olathe Historical Society,  and the Mid-America Nazarene library. These organizations have used grants from this fund for many special projects which have added to the cultural experience, education, and enjoyment for both residents and visitors to Johnson County.  In addition, and also as a matter of public record, Johnson County municipalities of Lenexa, Mission, Westwood Hills, Desoto, and Olathe benefitted from the JCHTF, including the Johnson County Library System and the highly valued Johnson County AIMS mapping project!

Those grants, when added to the efforts of dedicated volunteers in these organizations, did some pretty amazing things benefitting the very residents whose mortgages helped it grow, to enhance the quality of lifestyle valued  in Johnson County. Many homes are bought, buildings built, and businesses thrive in Johnson County not just because of the lure of our excellent schools, and well administered municipalities, but also due to the cultural advantages available here. “Thank you” to all who helped pay for some of those advantages through the years by their mortgage fees.

In Mid-July of 2015, the Shawnee Indian Mission Foundation was notified that the due to continual  State budget cuts, Shawnee Indian Mission’s (SIM) budget was cut over 50% and the hours of operation cut to 2 days a week, starting Sept 8th, 2015.  This State Historic Site was be closed from November 1 until April 1st. As example, since 1992, SIM benefitted from receipt of over $450,000 awarded through the JCHTF!!!!!   The Foundation and Staff of SIM is devastated by the development caused by the loss of the mortgage registration fee, and cannot raise funds fast enough to stop the bleeding.   Bloody Kansas!

This loss of the mortgage fee change will not only affect non-profit heritage groups, but the loss to Johnson County’s general fund over the next five years is estimated to be as much as 45 MILLION DOLLARS!!.  The County will now need to pick up the funding previously obligated to by the State.    A portion of that fund supports the Johnson County Library and Johnson County Museum. The loss of the mortgage fee in this form will impact the entire community in one way or another.

It will take the support of the entire Johnson County community, both public and private sectors, to come together in a partnership to secure a solution that will effectively preserve the LEGACY and heritage that is JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS!