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Archive for Saturday, July 16, 2005

County commissioners grapple with mill levy

July 16, 2005

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The dust hasn't settled yet on Douglas County budget making, but taxpayers could see an increase in their 2006 county tax rate.

Commissioners ended a budget working session Friday with a projected 2006 budget of about $48.9 million. That would require the commissioners to levy 30.209 mills in property tax to pay for it.

"I can live with that the way it is," Commissioner Bob Johnson said.

Commissioners have been wrestling with what budget requests should be funded or cut.

County Administrator Craig Weinaug said the budget still is a working document and said he expected commissioners to continue work on it at a meeting Monday.

The three commissioners had previously indicated they wanted the mill levy to remain steady.

Johnson and Commission Chairman Charles Jones had said they would be willing to increase the mill levy to collect $200,000 to help build new commercial laboratory space and hire an executive to oversee the community's bioscience development efforts.

The current projected budget would mean an increase of .353 mills compared with the 29.856 mills levied to support the county's actual 2005 budget of $47.5 million.

A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed valuation.

Funding for the community's bioscience initiative by $200,000 is in the projected 2006 Douglas County budget.

The initiative is a joint project between the county, city of Lawrence, Kansas University and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

Johnson and Jones said they consider the bioscience venture an opportunity for the community. But Commissioner Jere McElhaney said he couldn't support the idea. At one point, he asked Johnson and Jones if they would be willing to fund half of the $200,000 request.

"I need you guys to help me out," he said. Johnson and Jones said they were unwilling to budge on the matter.

Johnson suggested cutting $80,000 from the county's special building fund and $80,000 of a $244,000 request to build up the Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical department's ambulance reserve fund.

All three commissioners agreed to Johnson's proposal. But Jones said he worried the cuts would leave the county in a vulnerable position.

"My concern is that those cuts will come to bite us next year," Jones said.

The commissioners may do more trimming on the budget at Monday's commission meeting.

The meeting is at 8:30 a.m. in the commission chambers at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Mass.

Commissioners will take a final vote on the budget in August.

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