Greater collaboration among the Lawrence City Commission, the Lawrence school board and the Douglas County Commission could lead to more-informed decisions and the sharing of resources among the three bodies.
However, collaboration efforts probably would not lead to a long-range capital improvements plan among the three.
That was the conclusion Thursday after a 90-minute discussion among city, county and school officials.
Representing the city were City Manager Mike Wildgen and Mayor John Nalbandian. County Administrator Craig Weinaug and County Commissioner Mark Buhler participated, as did Lawrence School Supt. Al Azinger and School Board President Barbara Ballard.
Buhler said there already are excellent examples of how cooperation among the three bodies can produce better results.
He cited a recent land swap that the city and school district worked out with local developers. The swap will allow the replacement for India School to be built closer to Lawrence Prairie Park, which was a desire of several India School parents.
"That's a wonderful example," he said. "All our needs don't have to do with real estate, but more do than I thought when I took this job. ... If we knew a little bit more about your needs and wants, we'd be a lot smarter."
The officials noted that local population growth is forcing all three bodies to look at building new facilities. The county needs more jail space. The school district just passed a $29.9 million bond issue for new schools. And the city just purchased land in west Lawrence for a future fire station and police substation.
Weinaug said the officials wouldn't want bond issue referendums for a new jail and a new school competing on the same ballot. He said that's another good reason for the three bodies to collaborate.
But Azinger said he could not envision a long-range capital improvements plan that would tie each body to building certain facilities in certain years.
Should one body deviate from the plan because of unforeseen circumstances, Azinger said, "It seems you've given the opposition a big help in being opposed to what you're doing."
Ballard said a good example is Quail Run School, which became crowded only three years after it opened in 1988.
"We thought we had five good years on that building. We didn't," Ballard said. "How do we allow for those kinds of things?"
Nalbandian said that even without a long-range capital improvements plan, the city and county should cooperate in seeking funding from other than local property and sales taxes. That would lessen those bodies' competition with the school district, which has property taxes as its only source for funding capital improvements, Nalbandian said.
The officials said the three bodies also might collaborate by purchasing commodities such as paper and fuel in bulk to get a greater discount than they now receive individually.
Nalbandian requested that the three administrators develop a list of topics that city, county and school officials could discuss in greater detail in a series of meetings over the next several months. Weinaug said he would coordinate that effort.
Weinaug said he thought the three bodies could collaborate without the risk of any one body stepping on another body's toes.
"We're talking about what our needs are and how we get there. ... That's where I see the value being," Weinaug said. "I don't see any risk in talking things out and making sure we're doing things logically."