On its way to revealing the final piece of how much Lawrence taxpayers will pay in 1993 property taxes, the Douglas County Commission began its budget study in earnest today.
The rate that property owners will cough up for county services, what aficionados call a mill levy, may actually go down, Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug said Wednesday. However, the county budget is in its preliminary stages, and commissioners are at least 12 days from confirming or disproving Weinaug's belief.
Lawrence City Manager Mike Wildgen on Friday suggested a 1.54-mill increase to help cover 1994 city expenditures. The school board estimates about a 10-mill increase that will help pay for, among other things, a $29.9-million bond issue that voters passed in November. The county, city and school levies, plus a state assessment, combine for the overall property tax burden.
A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 in assessed valuation. For example, a home worth $50,000 has an assessed value of $6,000. So for each mill that is levied, that homeowner pays $6 in property taxes. Thus, in 1992 the owner of a $50,000 home would have been charged $647.10 to support the combined levy of 107.85 mills.
The reason no county mill-levy estimate is available yet, Weinaug said, is because his process for formulating a budget differs from the city's.
Whereas the city manager submits a complete budget for city commissioners to refine or expand, Weinaug said he has submitted several scenarios for departments that will require big changes, such as manpower additions or service expansion.
Starting today, Weinaug and county commissioners will meet in a series of public meetings with those departments.
"I'm encouraging (commissioners) not to make commitments throughout the hearings until they see the big picture," Weinaug said.
In previous years, commissioners met with every department throughout the months of June and July.
"It's taking a lot less of the commission's time," Commission Chairman Louie McElhaney said. "If this all works out this year, and I'm confident it will ... I love it!"
Commissioners will hold public meetings to examine the "big picture" beginning July 19. They will then consider budget approval July 26.