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Archive for Wednesday, July 6, 2005

County Commission considers bioscience funding

July 6, 2005

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Douglas County commissioners said Tuesday that they don't want to increase property taxes to cover the 2006 budget.

"I want us to have a level mill levy with a potential increase in the budget for biosciences," said Commission Chairman Charles Jones.

Commissioners have been presented with a $48.7 million estimated budget for 2006. That would require commissioners to levy 30.21 mills. A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed valuation.

The current 2005 budget was supported with 29.856 mills. The commission would have to cut about $367,640 in the proposed 2006 budget to bring the mill levy down from 30.21 mills to 29.856 mills.

"The budget at this time can easily change," County Administrator Craig Weinaug said. "Nothing is definite."

Commissioners began the budgeting process Tuesday, meeting with various groups and county departments. One of the largest funding requests was $200,000 for a biosciences initiative, which came from the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. The money would be used to build new commercial laboratory space and to hire an executive to oversee the community's biosciences development efforts.

The chamber has made the same funding request of the Lawrence City Commission. City and county officials have spoken favorably of the request, viewing it as a priority this budget season.

"I think it's important for us to let people know we have a commitment to this," Jones said of the biosciences initiative.

Commissioner Bob Johnson agreed.

Commissioner Jere McElhaney didn't say he was opposed to the funding request. But he questioned how long the county would continue committing funds to the initiative.

"We envision it to be at this level for a couple of years," said Ted Haggart, a member of the local biosciences initiative board. "This would be the support we need to get things started. We expect some funding from the state in the future."

In addition to the biosciences request, commissioners also discussed requests from Douglas County District Court, the Douglas County District Attorney's Office, Health Care Access, Emergency Service Council, Children's Shelter, Douglas County Conservation District, Watkins Community Museum of History and the Disability Rights Center, which is a statewide organization based in Topeka.

Commissioners today will discuss the budgets for the public works, sheriff's, and building and zoning departments and Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. The hearings will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Mass.

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