Archive for Saturday, August 21, 1999


August 21, 1999


Lawrence property tax rates will rise by 7 percent this year.

The property tax picture for Lawrence residents came into sharper focus this week when Douglas County commissioners held a mandatory public hearing and adopted the 2000 county budget.

Lawrence public schools and the city of Lawrence likewise have put ink to paper, signing off on their spending blueprints for 2000.

Together, the three budgets spell higher property taxes for Lawrence property owners.

After three years of overall decline, the property tax rate rose by 7 percent this year, from 98.428 mills in 1998 to 105.548 this year.

Lawrence public schools plan to take the largest slice: 54.76 mills to support the district's 1999-2000 budget of nearly $80 million. Douglas County's $35.1 million total budget for 2000 calls for a levy of 24.776 mills. Lawrence's $84 million budget calls for a levy of 24.512 mills. And the state collects 1.5 mills.

A mill equals $1 of property taxation for every $1,000 in assessed property valuation. Residential property is assessed at 11.5 percent of its market value. Complicating the calculation is a state homestead exemption for the first $20,000 of market value on the first 20 mills levied for the school district budget.

The picture is a little rosier than it appeared when the budgets were in draft form. The school board, finding room to cut in the district's capital improvements budget, lowered the district's proposed levy by 1 mill at the 11th hour in the budget process.

The numbers in the county budget also were changed when an accounting error was discovered. The error changed the total budget figure but not the levy amount.

Last year, the owner of a $100,000 home in Lawrence south of the Kansas River paid about $1,086 in property taxes. The average increase in valuation for Douglas County residential property was 5 percent, meaning that home is worth $105,000 this year. With the budgets being proposed, the owner will pay about $1,228 this year.

Lawrence residents north of the Kansas River also pay property taxes to the Douglas County Kaw Drainage District, which provides flood-control measures. This year's levy estimate is 1 mill, down from last year's levy of 1.497.

There remains one unfinished piece of the puzzle, that being the county's total valuation numbers.

Debbie Sparkes, county budget specialist, said valuation appeals and late personal property filings usually are processed by Oct. 1.

"It's going to change the mill levy just slightly," Sparkes said.

-- Kendrick Blackwood's phone message number is 832-7221. His e-mail address is

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