It was cricket-chirp quiet when Louie McElhaney, Douglas County Commission chairman, asked if anyone from the public wanted to comment on the 1994 county budget Wednesday.
The empty benches had nothing to say.
Within a minute and 45 seconds after the meeting convened, McElhaney and Commissioner Jim Chappell had passed the largest Douglas County budget in history.
The $22.6 million of expenditures requires $11.9 million in taxes, also a record. However, individual property owners most likely will pay a lower county tax rate than they did to support this year's budget.
Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug, who wrote the original version of the budget, and Commissioner Mark Buhler were not at the meeting.
Since hearings began, the budget was the subject of little debate. From the outset, commissioners expected a slight tax rate decrease for property owners.
Growth in the last year has pushed up total property valuation by more than 6 percent, giving commissioners a larger tax base from which to draw.
Based on the current valuation numbers, the 1993 county levy will be 29.855 mills, a drop of 0.07 of a mill from 1992. A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 in assessed valuation.
The owner of an $80,000 home, for example, will pay $274.67 to the county in 1993. That is a $12.64 savings over last year, assuming the property's value stayed constant.
Other tax rates, however, will increase for the city and Lawrence public schools.
The city's $48.7 million budget -- and its 28.657-mill tax levy, nearly a half-mill increase -- awaits final approval Tuesday night from the Lawrence City Commission.
The Lawrence School District adopted its $50.37 million budget Aug. 9, along with a nearly 9-mill tax increase. The overall expenditures, but not the 57-mill levy, may drop depending on enrollment.
Taken together, the owner of an $80,000 home in the city would pay $1,076.51 in property taxes this year to the state, city, county and school district.
However, most residential property gained value. The Douglas County appraiser's office estimated that residential real estate went up an average of 5 percent in value over past appraised levels.
Cuts in public works and the transfer of Valley View Care Home to a private provider offset increased expenditures in the areas of law enforcement and social services.
Two approved budget requests could mean more traffic for residents in the neighborhood of the courthouse. Money has been set aside to build a parking lot on New Hampshire Street and to add a fifth division courtroom for Douglas County District Court.