The recommended 1991 Lawrence city budget would require a 1.51-mill property tax increase, but a proposed sales tax would more than offset it, according to City Manager Mike Wildgen.
In a memo to Lawrence city commissioners Friday, Wildgen recommends a budget of $44,000,604, which would require a local levy of 31.84 mills. Last year's budget of $37,234,591 required a levy of 30.33 mills.
A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed property valuation.
But Wildgen said in the memo that an additional half-cent sales tax, if approved by voters Aug. 7, would generate 5 mills for property tax relief. That would effectively drop the levy below last year's, to 26.84 mills.
Wildgen is basing the levy figure on an assessed valuation of $246,500,000.
WILDGEN PREPARED the recommended budget under the assumption that the sales tax will be approved. The sales tax revenue will raise an estimated $2.7 million, $1.465 million for police and fire department manpower and equipment improvements and the remaining $1.235 million for property tax relief.
The sales tax money is especially needed to offset the loss of $373,000 in motor vehicle personal property tax money, which accounts for all of the 1.51-mill levy increase. The loss in motor vehicle revenue was triggered by reappraisal.
"This budget will achieve commission priorities at a very reasonable cost to taxpayers. Public safety is strengthened, infrastructure is maintained and quality of life is enhanced," Wildgen said in the memo. "I continue to believe that basic city services need to be the first priority to maintain adequate service levels for our community growth."
NEARLY HALF of the city budget is not supported by property taxes, but instead comes from other sources, such as water, sewer and trash fees and gasoline tax money.
A little more than $24 million in the budget is supported by the mill levy. In that category is the general operating fund, which is increasing from $10.9 million to $13.2 million.
Wildgen is recommending a 4 percent salary increase for most city departments. Employee benefits have seen state- or federally-mandated increases in pension rates, Wildgen noted, which include a 9 to 9.6 percent increase in police and fire pensions, an increase in the social security base and a 60 percent increase in the unemployment compensation rate.
With the exception of the library, no new personnel are budgeted in city departments supported by property taxes. The library request was fully funded in the recommended budget, to pay for two new full-time and two new part-time employees.
THE INCREASE in the minimum wage, from $3.85 to $4.35 an hour, will be felt most by the recreation division, which has more than 200 seasonal positions that must meet the new pay rate.
Most agencies outside the city operating fund are recommended at the same level of funding as 1990. The only agencies in line for more money are Douglas County Legal Aid, at $14,129; Salvation Army Safe House, $2,000 if it meets statutory requirements for the service it provides; and The Shelter Inc., at $19,564. If approved, Wildgen recommended The Shelter's funding level be considered a base and that future increases be limited.
A total of $25,000 is budgeted to begin the planning process for Horizon 2020, which will succeed Plan '95, the official planning guide for the Lawrence area.
Funding for a trolley to link the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza with downtown has been eliminated from the '91 budget.
An upgrade in the city's computer capability is recommended and budgeted. The upgrade would cost $389,400, not counting trade-in.
Wildgen is scheduled to present the recommended budget to commissioners during a study session at 3:15 p.m. Monday at city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts.