Archive for Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Questions arise on sales tax proposal

August 1, 2006


The idea of a new 1 percent sales tax may face an uphill battle at City Hall.

One week after Mayor Mike Amyx proposed the additional tax to pay for streets, stormwater drainage projects, sidewalks and property tax reduction, three city commissioners balked Monday.

"I don't think I can support a whole penny," said City Commissioner David Schauner, who was joined by Commissioners Mike Rundle and Boog Highberger in questioning the tax proposal. "I just think that is too much."

But the idea of a smaller sales tax increase could live on. Schauner said he was interested in discussing a smaller sales tax that would be more focused on taking care of immediate road needs.

His support could be enough to form a majority on the commission because Amyx and Commissioner Sue Hack have said they want to strongly consider the sales tax idea.

"The comments I've been hearing from the public have really been positive," Hack said. "I think people believe it is an intriguing idea to really go after our infrastructure issues, and I have heard people express support for the idea of potentially lowering our property taxes. Those really hit people hard who are on fixed incomes."

Amyx said he wants city commissioners to have a "serious discussion" about the tax increase proposal at their next meeting, which is one week from tonight.

"I think there is enough good in this proposal that I would hope people will seriously consider it," Amyx said. "I think it promotes some good fiscal management."

Any new sales tax would have to receive voter approval, but city commissioners must agree on the idea first. Amyx's plan also calls for the 1-cent tax to sunset after a 10-year period, meaning the only way it could be extended is if voters approve it again.

Based on current projections, the tax would generate about $120 million over the 10-year period. Amyx has proposed that $60 million be used to fund street, sidewalk and storm drainage projects. The use of that new money should allow for property tax rates to also be reduced by anywhere from 4 to 6 mills, Amyx said. A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The remaining $60 million would be used to create a city "endowment" fund that would generate interest income that the city could use for a variety of projects.

The endowment provision has created concern for Schauner.

"If you have a $60 million fund, it becomes the target of everybody who has a good idea," Schauner said. "To call it a lockbox would be a little misleading because I don't think there's any good way to truly lock it. I'm not very excited about that part of the plan."

Amyx has proposed creating a city ordinance that would require a super majority vote of the city commission to tap into the principal of the endowment. City staff members are still studying, though, how much protection that would provide the endowment. An ordinary ordinance can be repealed by a simple majority vote. A charter ordinance would take a super majority vote to repeal, but such ordinances can only be used for certain purposes.

Several city commissioners, though, were wrestling more with the philosophical issues of a sales tax and whether it would be too regressive.

"I want to see some numbers about how an increase would affect average families," Highberger said. "I want to see how it affects homeowners versus renters, students versus families. I don't want to rule it out, but I have some concerns about it."

Rundle said he wasn't yet ready to support the sales tax idea because he's not convinced that more money can't be squeezed out of the current budget.

"I'm a little cool on the sales tax idea right now," Rundle said. "I still think there's some money we left on the table during the budget process."

The proposed budget for 2007 would require a 0.98-mill levy increase, primarily to increase the city's street maintenance budget by about $2 million. The property tax increase - along with expected increases in property values - would amount to an extra $50 to $60 per year in property taxes for the average homeowner.


lunacydetector 11 years, 9 months ago

can we pay the extra sales taxes in the form of 'boog's REAL dollars?' i still have a william s. burroughs "queer as a" $3 bill -isn't that a derogatory statement against the gays, or do most gays laugh when someone says that old saying?

here's a link about boog's currency:


Sigmund 11 years, 9 months ago

Could someone, anyone, show me one example where increasing taxes ever led to more prosperity, more or better jobs, or a lower cost of living? I wonder if the voters in Lawrence will remember why we are in this position? The problem, as you may remember, is the City Kommission already spent OUR budget on THEIR pet projects. It's hard to sell $12 million of used roundabouts on eBbay, or so I have been told, although used buses (near new condition, barely used) might bring in a pretty penny.

This isn't just about tax RATES as it is about Kommission SPENDING. Quit wasting our money! $1 million per roundabouts, $2 million subsidizing nearly empty buses, anything with "homeless" other than "more jail cells for", and quit hiring consultants to do your job. Sill runningshort? Then consider ("horror of horrors!!!!) layoffs of city personnel. Afterall we are still paying the former City Manager (you remember the one who told you were going to face a budget crisis if you continued wasting money) his full salary even after you fired him. Are you telling me a Lawrence couldn't afford a 3-5% reduction of middle level management?

This isn't so much about tax RATES as it is about tax REVENUES. How much in tax revenues have been deferred because Walmart was illegally delayed? How much in tax revenues would have been gained if bars and restaurants were able to maximize their sales and profits by allowing them to make their own business decisions on smoking or non-smoking for instance? (Don't tell me it hasn't had an impact, every bar that can has added a smoking patio at tremendous expense for a reason!) How much sales tax revenues will be lost in the future because of the new "Business Czar" who will decide if new businesses should, or should not, be allowed to open? How many businesses won't even consider Lawerence because of the reputation of the current City Kommission?

In case you missed my point, SALES TAX REVENUES are related to SALES! If businesses were allowed to maximize their sales without constant interference they would automagically maximize the City's sales tax revenues. Unless the City Kommission banned both basic math and economics when I wasn't looking, they are kind of related that way. The PLC has baked us a no-growth pie chock full of frivolous projects and filled with hostility to business, and now they want a bigger slice? I don't think so.

Election time is just around the corner and the three worst offenders are up for re-election. But because they are cowards and they have to face the voters at the same time they are unlikely to approve a full 1% tax hike. I can see their slogans now, *"Vote the PLC!! Born Again Fiscal Conservatives Every One of Them!!* Don't be fooled, you are only safe for just one year folks. This is a critical and pivotal election coming up Lawrence. It may be the best chance you have to free yourself from the Socialistic Fascist Lunacy that is the Lawrence City Kommission.

Sigmund 11 years, 9 months ago

Oh, and while you're at it be sure to enact the living wage, no job should pay less than $30,000 per year, no matter how unskilled.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 9 months ago

"Although I agree that the roundabouts are not really adding too much value to the community while costing quite a bit of money"

Anyone who uses the one at 19th and Barker can tell you that it has improved traffic flow by 300% over the 4-way stop.

And as far as expense goes, can any of you who constantly say how much money they have cost tell us exactly how much of the city's general revenues have been spent on them?

erichaar 11 years, 9 months ago

When Dukkakis proposed tax increases during the '88 election, he got creamed. I hope the PLC liberals fight for one prior to the '07 election.

MWIV 11 years, 9 months ago

Think round abouts are expensive? Look at the cost of installation, power and maintenence of signal lights at intersections over years and years and years. If possible, calculate the cost to us all of fuel while waiting at a red light when there is "NOT ONE CAR" coming in the other direction at $3 per gallon. That's stupid and expensive. If you can't manuever a round about, turn in your drivers license.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 9 months ago

"When Dukkakis proposed tax increases during the '88 election, he got creamed. I hope the PLC liberals fight for one prior to the '07 election."

This tax increase proposal didn't come from the PLC commissioners. Do you suppose that Hack and Amyx are proposing this in order to saddle the PLC candidates with an anti-tax backlash in the next election?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 9 months ago

"1. Eagle Bend"

Until the bonds are paid off, it'd be more expensive to close it than keep it open.

"2. Pesticide Free Parks (cost more to maintain)"

This is a very restricted programmed, primarily done with volunteer labor. Little if any savings to be had.

"3. The Em -T Bus System"

Greatly subsidized by federal grants, and though you don't use it, a lot of people do. As fuel prices rise, more and more people will ride it, especially once it has been integrated with KU bus system. Closing it would be extremely short-sighted.

"4. Traffic calming devices other than roundabouts"

I agree to some extent. While the traffic calming devices have helped slow down things on Barker a bit, there are still plenty of idiots who drive like they aren't there.

But the roundabout works great, even though there are quite a few people who don't know how to use, although they are likely the same people who are just as clueless at a 4-way stop.

And kmat, from my observations, large trucks, including fire trucks, have no problems negotiating it.

Wilbur_Nether 11 years, 9 months ago

And, again, I recommend that Marion put in for the City Manager position. If he doesn't get an interview, no harm done. If he gets hired, he can implement his ideas on city policy.

BigAl 11 years, 9 months ago

The round-a-bouts/traffic calming devices that were installed on Harvard between Monterrey Way and Wakarusa cost the taxpayers approx $450,000. Try pulling a trailor through one of these things.....

jayhawks71 11 years, 9 months ago

Yep, cut the pork. Tell the government that NO you will not be paying 60% of your income in taxes any longer!

End government subsidies PERIOD.

jayhawks71 11 years, 9 months ago

Sigmund said: "every bar that can has added a smoking patio at tremendous expense for a reason!'

Yeah, so they can have MORE customers at a time and make MORE money. They were able to use the smoking ban to do something that most of them wanted to do all along, but were unable to. The smoking ban actually helped these businesses to increase the number of people they could serve at once. The result was happier customers (non-smokers and smokers) from shorter waits, and a choice in whether to dine inside or out.

Amazing that for once, government actually facilitated innovation.

jayhawks71 11 years, 9 months ago

The differences Republicans and Democrats.

Difference #1 Democrats spend and spend and spend and tax you for it. Republicans spend and spend and spend and borrow it so you can pay it later, with interest.

Difference #2 See Difference #1, no really, that is it. They are both about maintaining the bureaucracy and using force on citizens.

Janet Lowther 11 years, 9 months ago

Not another penny, not another mill of sales tax!

While paying property tax is like having a tooth pulled, sales tax is like being nibbled to death by mice. (Not to mention the Feds subsidize property tax by being deductible, while sales tax is not, at least in states like Kansas which charge income taxes.)

xtronics 11 years, 9 months ago

The tax increases are needed to pay to expand the sewer system the real-estate developers didn't want to pay for with impact fees. This is a transfer of money from the tax payer's pocket to real-estate developers.

How about a new special tax assessments on all the new neighborhoods instead? Why should the infrastructure be gifted to them?

justthefacts 11 years, 9 months ago

Property values can increase without the mill rate going up. The tax owed/paid will go up, but not with any direct mill raise action by officials. So, property value can rise, and tax money generated go up some, without any tax raising decision by officials.

That said; I am vehemently oppossed to any action that increases the tax burden upon citizens. The city (and county, state, and federal) authorities have apparently decided that the well never runs dry. They spend on "good" causes (like the aforementioned sculptures etc) and do not save or plan for rainy days. Much like all of this country, they rob Peter to pay Paul.

That cannot continue. It is time to tighten up belts.

I suggest to anyone who has not already done so that they read the book "Atlas Shrugged". While I do not generally condone Ms. Raynd's religious views, she was spot on with regard to what can and may happen if a society keeps putting its hands in the pockets of those who have money (of their own) to pay for government sponsored projects they do not support.

The Boston tea party was a mild example.

Anyone who does not want any more new taxes imposed (and - horror - would even like to see a tax decrease) should (a) Let their elected officials know their views; write, call, attend meetings; and (b) warn - and then follow through - that no person raising taxes will get their votes. If 50% of the city did that, we'd soon end any spending spree by local officials.

lunacydetector 11 years, 9 months ago

Amen sigmund. you should run for city commission. you hit the nail on the head.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 9 months ago

"I've seen traffic jacked up more than once from a semi getting tangled up in whatever they call that thing in the middle of the street around 16th and New Hampshire(?)(Northeast of the Dillon's on Mass)-

It's at 17th, and while it's certainly not high on my list of best uses of a roundabout, one of the primary purposes of that roundabout is to keep commercial vehicles out of the residential neighborhood. Dillon's needs to make sure trucks either head south on NH, or go west out of their parking lot.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 9 months ago

As usual, it would appear that the previous posters didn't bother to read the article.

kmat 11 years, 9 months ago

Two comments -

Amyx wants to raise taxes. Those that don't like it should ban his barber shop. Hurt his business and he may start actually caring about what the citizens want.

2nd - the darn roundabout at 19th and Barker (which I have to unfortunately use to often) hasn't improved traffic flow. Maybe if the idiots in this town understood how to use the roundabout it would help. I have seen so many close calls at that thing it's ridiculous. I've also seen a fire truck, on a call, have one hell of a time getting through it. If my house is on fire, I don't want the truck delayed because they're trying to navigate the damn roundabout.

Spend some time just sitting there and watching the traffic and see if you really think it helps.

lawrencephilosopher 11 years, 9 months ago

It was reported that Lawrence Kansas suffered another tax attack and died. Arrangements are pending. The liberals have screwed us! Bye Lawrence..............

MWIV 11 years, 9 months ago

xtronics - could not have said it better. Unfortunately, those who tax will not see the light. Thanks anyway.

Jamesaust 11 years, 9 months ago

'"The comments I've been hearing from the public have really been positive," Hack said.'

Now, I've long noticed that Sue Hack and I move in different social circles. But not in isolated ones.

The only "positive" words (let alone "really positive") I've heard on hiking the sales tax have come from persons who believe their property taxes will go down - a lot!

Since no one believes that will happen for longer than a politician can hold their breath, the only real question is: will extra revenue inspire more spending or will a 'moment of accountability' (with emphasis on accounting) arrive and lead to some clarity in what government's role is ... and is not?

I for one do not find that raising taxes on the POOR is a SOLUTION to OVERSPENDING. The only discussion the City should be engaged in is how much to reduce sales taxes and with it the City's spending appetite.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 9 months ago

20 years of bad planning cannot be wiped out overnight with a one cent sales tax increase. Lawrence has approximately $122 million drawing some kind of interest sitting in financial institutions as it is.

The road repairs can be done over a five year period or so. No need to panic. Work these into the budget. Not only that perspective new business or residents do not make a locating decison based on city streets.

New companies are more interested in a good public school system and an educated work force. New residents are more concerned with a good public school sysytem, nice park system and excellent paying jobs that do not include a commute. Neither will likely be impressed with inflated property taxes.

MWIV 11 years, 9 months ago

Sigmund - tell us how you really feel. :) RIGHT ON! You have my vote. Why don't you run for political office? I would, but I am afraid there might be a skeleton in my closet that I don't know about.

BTW, I am one of the few that like round-abouts. To me it is both a time and gas saver. Sorry.

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