Would a tax break lure you to rural Kansas?

The state is hoping to lure new residents to less-populated areas with student-loan aid and income-tax forgiveness.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Jul 21, 2011 3:36PM

© Bob Witkowski/Getty ImagesIf you ever get tired of traffic, crowds and the other stresses of urban life, you may dream of moving somewhere for a smaller, simpler, quieter life.


Kansas has a deal for you.

In an attempt to draw new residents to rural counties with shrinking populations, Kansas has put together an incentive package for people who agree to move to designated "rural opportunity zones" from another state.


The deals include a five-year vacation from state income taxes and a chance to get up to $15,000 in student loans paid off, if you stay five years. The average Kansas pays $1,800 a year in state income tax.


"This is a risk-free opportunity for us to draw attention to parts of our state that are losing population and offer another incentive to get people to move to Kansas," said Sherriene Jones-Sontag, spokeswoman for Gov. Sam Brownback, in the Kansas City Star.


But is it enough to draw any new residents?


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A handful of other rural areas, including some in Kansas, offer incentives to attract new residents, including free land, utility-bill forgiveness and tax abatement.

Even some residents of the Kansas counties that want to lure new residents are skeptical that the financial incentives are enough to woo new people.


"It’s unproven," Republic County Commisioner Frank Rytych said in the Star. “It’s not that we’re against the program. We don’t know that it’s going to pan out OK. We don’t want to get caught holding the bag.”

One problem with the incentives is that income tax doesn't necessarily motivate many people to move.


"People simply do not make migration decisions based on income-tax issues," Laszlo Kulcsar, a demographer at Kansas State University, said in the Star.


The Census Bureau recently reported that the most common reason people had for moving in 2010 was to find a better, cheaper or different house, followed by family and employment reasons. Taxes were not anywhere on the list, and only 11% of those who moved went to another state.

Kansas officials have said that they want to compete against popular states that have no income tax, such as Florida, Tennessee and Texas. But that raises the question of why someone would choose a small town in Kansas over popular areas of Texas, Tennessee and Florida.


What, if anything, would motivate you to move to rural Kansas? Let us know below or on our Facebook page.

Aug 4, 2011 8:51PM

Kansas is really not that bad, granted the wind sucks, and western Kansas is a little sparsely populated, but I have never met such nice, honest people. I grew up in the central Kansas area, and have since moved to the Little Rock area, where everyday the traffic is ridiculous and not to mention the humidity is absolutely unbearable (especially this time of year).  People are dishonest, there really are "hillbilly's", and quite honestly I would take the wind over the humidity any day of the week. There is bad and good about EVERY place, and I hate to hear people saying such horrible things about Kansas because a good majority of it has no basis and in my opinion a bunch of crap =). 


Giving people tax incentives to try and draw them to a particular state is unrealistic and it will never work to really draw in more people. Focusing on creating more jobs for the rural areas might be a better way to go, although as we have seen in recent days not much the government does is smart or makes sense, that would be too easy =D.   

Jul 29, 2011 7:28PM
this is crap, where are the breaks for those of us living here, wake the hell up, quit giving stuff away
Jul 29, 2011 12:40PM
I grew up near a small town in southwest Kansas, where my dad farmed.  Since my dad farmed leased ground, and there would never be anything to inherit, I bolted from that town as soon as I graduated from high school at 17.  Reasons for staying were few; no jobs, not a lake, mountain, tree that hadn't been planted, or river with water in it for 100 miles, flat, flat, flat, but mainly, the wind blew constantly.  I now live in Wyoming, and Wyoming wind has nothing on southwest Kansas.  My parents still live there, and once they are gone, I will never return.  Let's just say it's a good place to be from.
Jul 29, 2011 10:32AM
blueeyedbird - Kansas is a very safe place to live. Many good people there. I know it doesn't seem right for the small towns to be shrinking, but a new right size population will emerge. Most of the safest and nicest places in Texas are the tiny rural areas, which were until recently mainly shrinking. New people have come in, but crime and other problems have risen with the new people. So careful what you wish for. More people does not equal a better quality of life.
Jul 29, 2011 7:33AM
Quite honestly I am appalled by some of the comments about Kansas. How many of you that have negative comments about Kansas have actually been here? I grew up in Republic County in North Central Kansas. Yes, there are cliques. Yes, there are religious conservatives. Yes, some people lack sophistication. If you are aware of a state that does not have ANY cliques or ANY religious conservatives, and that only has highly sophisticated people, please let me know. I live in Kansas City now, but I had the greatest childhood growing up in a small town, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Though Western Kansas in a bit bare, the majority of the state is beautiful, and it's peaceful. Are you saying every sqaure inch of the remaining 49 states is absoutely perfect? I owe my success to my small-town upbringing. You may think this state lacks sophistication and class, but judging from some of your comments, you may very well be the ones lacking sophistication and class. Your hypocrisy is astounding. The small-town way of life may be different from the city, but that certainly doesn't make it wrong.
Jul 29, 2011 6:42AM

More People does not equal a better State.

I have no idea why they would want to pay people to move there. Farmland values are on the rise. You don't need many people in modern agriculture.

More people would just tie up more possible productive land through roads and housing for them.

If anything, Kansas needs less people. They need to consolidate the smaller farms into larger, more efficient ones.

A successful state has low taxes and high pay for it's people. That results in the maximum discretionary spending. If you double the size of your economy, but the population also doubles - you have no improvement.

People forget that China curbed it's population growth and the people there are much better for it.

Kansas - why do you want more people?

Jul 29, 2011 6:10AM
I grew up in SW Kansas, and would really prefer to keep the "urban" people out!
Jul 29, 2011 4:15AM
I grew up in Rural Western Kansas. Weather, temps, and humidity can be extreme. But there is beauty in there too. My problem is that they need to motivate the people already living in these small towns to create and preserve the character of "Main Street America"   that I think people would want if relocating to rural areas. There's beautiful old buildings and churches in many of these areas and old, quaint "Main streets" that are lined with old brick, limestone buildings screaming for stores. However, there's no incentive for opening independent business and THAT'S what they need to be offering. Grants to restore Main Streets and grants for business startups. Then people might be motivated to move there. It is a haven just waiting to be discovered for anyone wanting to learn a more organic way of living outside of a city.
Jul 25, 2011 1:21PM

JAD, no jobs if you aren't willing to work in certain industries.  Low unemployment is documented and the nations lowest in the high plains regions with the Dakotas and Wyoming rated the lowest unemployment.  If you want a job that provides a fair living it may not be in the industry you want.  That is the theme of sparsely populated/rural states as they currently have 9 of the 12 lowest unemployment rates in the country with Alaska being the only real statistical outlier amongst the sparsely populated states (for obvious reasons).  May I ask what business he had because I wonder if he lacked market research before venturing into something that did not have a market demand? 


As far as education goes you will be hit and miss which is often dependent on the community you choose as some do better than others attracting and retaining but that can be said for much of the country.  Universities are decent and know of a California girl looking at Kansas universities because the large state schools are limiting student numbers even with a good academic resume.  Sport the same at a Kansas U. as an in state student and you would get accepted easy. 


Kansas State and KU are not academic slouches.  From a KSU facebook page:

K-State is the only research university in the United States to have three national CASE/Carnegie professors of the year.  (and are currently serving)


Kansas State University since 1986 has won 124 Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater and Udall scholarships.


No other public university has won more.


K-State trails only 5 private insitutions in top scholarship awards: Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, and Duke. [Not a bad group to be in the ranks thereof]


Kansas State University is the only public university since 1986 to rank among the top 10 of all U.S. schools for all five major scholarship programs.


Difficult for me to write about positives of KU because they are tea sipping losers.Wink  Ranked #33 in public universities by U.S. News with many highly touted undergraduate programs.  That was truly painful for me to write...Devil


Even a mediocre high school program in Kansas should easily get your child into either state university that are both superb bangs for the almighty buck. Try to bag on that public education.

Jul 25, 2011 12:50PM
The state may be promising Dorothy and Toto.   But be careful, the Wicked Witch of the "Westwing" is always out there lurking somewhere.
Jul 25, 2011 12:33PM

Kizz22 sums it up well including the employment industries.  Likewise could be said of other states in the high plains areas (western half of KS) including Nebraska, the dakotas, eastern regions of Wyoming and Montana.  Three hour drive to find a spot to put a ski boat on and you should be prepared to tolerate some very windy days/weeks.  Chuckle at one story on an oil field fellow transferred to SW Kansas by his company.  His second day on the job was a windy one with winds 25-40 mph and he immediately handed in a request to transfer out.  The weather can be extremes of the seasons which many can't/won't tolerate but one small note is low humidity.  If you move to a town of less than 5K then you will find most have remnants of a Mayberry appeal. 


Wholesome towns with good people that may be leery of a strange face in town as these people like to get to know their neighbors as they want to make sure you aren't a sex offender moving to town before letting you into their circle.   The commenter about 30 people stopping to help with a flat tire is on the money.  Will note however, cliques do exist in any town but degrees vary.


Would highly recommend it for someone in a large coastal metro that is looking to scale back into retirement and reduce how much money you have wrapped up in your residence.  Sell your mediocre size urban home on the coast and have a quarter to half the cost in building one brand new while the spare equity can be invested in a revenue producing vehicle.  HVAC bills for a well built 2-3k sq.ft. home will run you $80-$300 or less given the season with the high end for just few months in the summer. 


Mayberry didn't have a strip mall or an Olive Garden but a good cafe or two can be a centerpiece of many of these towns while many general stores have been choked out by Wal-marts in trade center towns of 20k-30k populations while many small town grocers still surviving. 


Jul 25, 2011 12:09PM
I grew up in Kansas and would only go back to be closer to family.  If you choose to live there and raise a family, be sure to have your kids involved in sports, etc. because there is alot of pressure by peers for drugs, alcohol use, sex.  Believe me, the conservatives there are not as goody too shoes as they want you to believe.  They go to church on Sunday and start drinking on Monday.  Secondary schools/teachers are terrible.  Closed minded, cliquish individuals.  KSU and KU pretty good colleges and the wheat and sunflower fields are beautiful.  
Jul 25, 2011 12:01PM
Born and raised in Kansas, Left 20+ years ago and glad I did. Back then it was actually a "Normal" place. Now it is as backward as they come, Just look at all the changes to the education system, Either already passed or proposed. There aren't any "Incentives" they could offer to get me to move back.
Jul 25, 2011 11:58AM

You know, I'm thinking, what about those of us that already live here? What's our incentive to stay? I know that I would love help paying on student loans and I would also love a "vacation" from paying state taxes. Who wouldn't? Why is it the people who already live here don't get any breaks and the ones coming in get a free ride, just like illegal's? It is so unfair. Kansas residents deserve a tax break too.

Jul 25, 2011 11:56AM

School taxes are just as bad in Ohio. The county auditors keep raising our values to feed the schools, even though houses here are worth a minimum of 30% less than  they were a few years ago. Something has to be done about the money sucking schools.

Jul 25, 2011 11:48AM
We left NW Kansas 3 years ago because the economy was so bad there.  My husband closed his business and we moved closer to a more urban area for jobs.  Where were the handouts when we were trying to keep a business afloat in one of these rural zones that the governor is now trying to pump money into??   There are no jobs, schools are average at best and not much for entertainment.   It is just another one of Brownback's very bad ideas. 
Jul 25, 2011 11:41AM

After reading some of the comments here it sounds lovely.  That sounds like some place I would love to move to.  They can promise you all of this but I did not see any promise of a job in the article.  It sounds like that there are not too many jobs out there at all.  :(

Jul 25, 2011 11:39AM
My family moved to far western KS when I was in grade school from out of state and we really enjoyed it there.  I still live in western KS but the problem is there is not a lot to offer, unless you're in farming, oil, gas or education, there's not much out here (and they do have a shortage of teachers).  Even though my hometown was a pretty small town (less than 5,000), I thought people were friendly, I did not see any religious cliques and I don't even think my high school was that cliquey.  You definitly run into some ultra-conservatives, but you'll find the majority of people are much more open-minded than you might think. 
Jul 25, 2011 11:28AM
Before you leap, look first. Why are people leaving the rural areas? H-m-m-m-m.Coffee cup
Jul 25, 2011 11:28AM
anyone that would move to western kansas for a tax break is nuts first its a dying area that has mexicans and old people and cows , that's about it, the weather sucks, hotter than hell in the summer, and colder than hell in the winter you couldn't pay me enough to live there  the western half of kansas should go back to the indians and buffalos
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