Property tax rates, building permit fees, wastewater rates and fees for trash collection all will be on the rise in 2002 after Lawrence city commissioners completed work on a host of budget-related items Tuesday.
Commissioners signed-off on a $101.01 million budget for 2002 that will increase the property tax mill levy by 3.6 percent. The levy will rise to 24.77 mills from 23.9 mills currently. A mill is one dollar in tax for every $1,000 in assessed property valuation.
Mayor Mike Rundle said he was pleased the commission was able to limit the tax increase to less than a mill but did warn that tough decisions still loom on the horizon.
"I'm glad we kept the increase limited, but in light of all the projects that we have under construction but don't yet have bonds issued for, I think we can expect the need for a mill increase in future years," Rundle said. "But I definitely think we need to have a gradual increase rather than waiting and increasing five or six mills at once."
The budget, up in spending from the $95.5 million allocated in the current year, does allow for some growth in city services. Among the new items are four civilian positions in the Police Department, which will allow uniformed officers to return to the streets; two neighborhood inspectors to enforce the city's new rental regulations; and $200,000 to begin planning for a new public library annex.
Commissioners Tuesday also dealt with several other fee issues for 2002 including:
A 6 percent increase in wastewater fees, which increases the monthly minimum charge residential customers pay to $12.60.
A 3 percent increase for trash collection services, which raises the average residential monthly charge to $10.92.
A 27 percent increase in building permit fees in each of the next three years that will help cover additional operating expenses and create a revenue source for a new city Housing Trust Fund that will examine ways to create affordable housing.
All fee increases will take effect Jan. 1.
Several homebuilders spoke out strongly against the new building permit fees.
Tim Stultz, president of the Lawrence Homebuilders Assn., said his group adamantly opposed the increases. The fees, which would add approximately $500 on the permit fee for a $150,000 house, would not help with the city's affordable housing concerns.
"Those costs will have to be passed along to the homebuyer," Stultz said.
Commissioners unanimously agreed to the new fee structure, but also said they would direct staff to meet with homebuilders to discuss their concerns. Depending on the outcome of that meeting, commissioners said they could consider lessening the fee increase before it takes effect in January.