Archive for Thursday, August 17, 2006

Mayor touts sales tax to merchants

Downtown Lawrence Inc. members voice concerns about Amyx’s proposal

August 17, 2006


Mayor Mike Amyx hasn't given up on the idea of a new 1-cent sales tax to pay for infrastructure and property tax relief.

Amyx was out Wednesday touting the plan to members of Downtown Lawrence Inc. And he said he planned to make many more presentations to the various civic organizations in hopes of bringing the issue back up at the City Commission in the next few months.

"I still think my plan is a great idea," Amyx said. "I still stand behind it."

Amyx last month proposed a new 1-cent, citywide sales tax that would automatically sunset after 10 years. He proposes using about half of the estimated $120 million the tax would generate to fund street maintenance, stormwater improvements and sidewalk work.

The remaining $60 million would be placed in a unique, interest-bearing endowment fund. The interest proceeds would be used to fund other infrastructure needs. With the new sales tax, Amyx also is proposing the city reduce its property tax rate by about 5 mills.

Amyx, though, was unable to convince a majority of city commissioners to move ahead on the plan before they approved the city's 2007 budget earlier this month. Any new sales tax ultimately would require a citywide election.

The plan drew disfavor from some downtown merchants, gathered for a quarterly meeting Wednesday.

"It just seems like the easiest answer for government always is to raise taxes," said Walt Houk, of the downtown travel agency Travellers Inc. "If you can't live within your means, lay someone off, reduce a health benefit, do the type of things that businesses have to do."

Other merchants said they were concerned that additional sales tax - which would bring Lawrence's rate to 8.3 percent - would slow sales, particularly as more shoppers are turning to the Internet for purchases.

"There are a lot of people in this room getting pressured by the Internet," said Pat Kehde, an owner of the Raven Bookstore. "I'm not sure it is accurate to assume that sales are always going to go up in Douglas County."

Amyx said he was open to other ideas. He said he was open to cutting city services in order to avoid an increase in tax rates, but he said he's not sure that is really what the public wants.

"Maybe we're at that point," Amyx said. "Maybe we have to go to our department heads and say we have to look at things in a different light. But we also have to ask ourselves what the service expectation levels are from our citizens. Are they too high? I don't know, but I do get a lot of calls asking for new services."

Amyx said an alternative to a new sales tax could be to examine the existing 1-cent citywide sales tax voters approved in 1994 - which has largely been used for park projects - to see if some of that funding could be redirected.

The idea of a new sales tax had some support among the merchants. Bob Schumm, an owner of Buffalo Bob's Smokehouse and Mass Street Deli, praised Amyx for making the proposal. He said a sales tax would allow the city to better capture revenues from university students who may not own property in the city and from out-of-town visitors.

"I think it really is about what tax do you like the best," Schumm told the group. "And I don't think it is very realistic to choose none of the above."


Richard Heckler 11 years, 10 months ago

My suggestion was: Do a 1/2 cent grocery exempt sales tax.

1/4 cent to provide very active city staffing that would focus on nothing else but bringing high salaried non polluting employers to Lawrence. 12,000 - 15,000 commuters leaving Lawrence at least 5 days a week says we need to do something that would make that tax pay for itself.

1/4 cent to the school district as new employers take a hard look at public school systems. Hopefully with a new state school board on the horizon Kansas will be taken from the national spotlight for moving backwards.

Otherwise forget the sales tax altogether.

No matter what: Put the street repairs on a 5 year plan using existing resources and/or add money if tax revenues see a nice boost from sales. The street situation took about 20 years to develop so cannot be fixed overnight. Lets's be patient. Streets that are not in perfect condition will act as traffic calming devices.

classclown 11 years, 10 months ago

Put tolls on the roundabouts so that they may pay for themselves.

conservative 11 years, 10 months ago

Read my lips.


The city needs to live within their means. Infrastructure needs to come first. Trim employees where possible (and don't tell me there aren't places that can be done), and cut down on optional items in the budget such as replacing perfectly fine tree borders downtown with grates.

Sigmund 11 years, 10 months ago

Simply raise taxes and we will have non-polluting high salaried jobs! Who knew it was that easy? Hurry up will yeah! Quick before the rest of the country finds out Lawrence Kansas's secret. Pretty soon every city and town in Kansas will be in a race to raise their taxes higher than Lawrence just to keep all their high paying jobs from moving here. I am sure all these new people that who will flock here will also lead to zero growth. Next our City Moron will be telling us higher taxes shall lead to a lower cost of living.

Unless the Lawrence City Kommission have discovered some new form of ecomomics that has been heretofore unkown, this is the stupidest idea since $1,000,000 roundabouts and the millions to subsidize nearly empty buses (you know how running the "emp-T" buses is non-polluting, street friendly, and reduces traffic congestion).

Is there not one member of the City Kommission that has the courage to reduce the size and cost of city government, the discipline to live within their current budget, or honesty to tell us what we already know, "We have wasted your money with frivolous pet projects and have created a anti-business anti-growth climate. Now we want more of your money so that we don't have to make the tough choices."

I will be voting for whoever runs against the Kurrent Kommission next election. Simply put, Lawrence deserves better. No matter who runs they can't be any worse and with any luck they will have a better grasp of basic economics and on reality.

tolawdjk 11 years, 10 months ago

No, not just Pooper's Rights. Squatter's Rights.

Sigmund 11 years, 10 months ago

I pity all those other foolish other towns and cities with their unenlightened Mayors and Commissions who reduce taxes and government interference with business in their effort to reduce the costs of living and attract new residents and business! They have it quite wrong!

justthefacts 11 years, 10 months ago

Ditto on every word in conservative's short and sweet response.

If Mayor A and his buddies want to spend money to fix up the places around their own homes and businesses, let them personally pay for it!!!! The rest of us are sick and tired of paying for ugly sculptures, round-a-bouts that only those who build them benefit from, and other "nice things" that the majority of tax payers do not like or support.

Live within your budget mayor. Quit finding new ways to spend more money we don't have!

Lori Nation 11 years, 10 months ago

with all of our kids in public schools in lawrence we are all for the sales tax increase that would mean relief for all those paying parents. if you need help with getting this pushed throught let us know.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 10 months ago

"I will be voting for whoever runs against the Kurrent Kommission next election."

Mayor Amyx is the one proposing a tax increase, but he's not up for election. Which means that removing the PLC canditates would quite likely lead to a tax increase.

conservative 11 years, 10 months ago

Iristh1230, This proposed tax has nothing to do with schools. The schools are moving forward with their mill levy increase.

stbaker 11 years, 10 months ago

If I am understanding correctly, the city want a 1% sales tax increase, right? The school board wants to raise the district property tax to increase revenue for the district, right? Well...For those of us who live in the county, do all of our shopping in Lawrence (groceries, retail, etc) and our property is in the district, we're getting a double hit. If the new tax increases go forward, that is...

unite2revolt 11 years, 10 months ago

Sales tax is a regressive tax, why on EARTH would you increase sales tax while decreasing property tax? Unless of course you are a greedy money grubbing landlord, then it would make some sense. Or maybe your campaign funds come from landlords? People already find it cheaper to buy things outside of town as it is.

bobesue 11 years, 10 months ago

"He proposes using about half of the estimated $120 million the tax would generate to fund street maintenance, stormwater improvements and sidewalk work." I thought we already paid "stormwater" fees for stormwater improvements. Where is that money going?

Sigmund 11 years, 10 months ago

Yes I understand who is running in the next election. I can't vote against His Mayorness this election. But I can vote against the three Progressive Amigos who played a major role in where we are today.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 10 months ago

The city currently has about 122 million in the bank gathering interest. Some bank would love to have another 60 million sitting around in their bank.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 10 months ago

All those builder, real estate,flooring and window people posing as city,county and planning commissioners really set up the taxpayers. Instead of concentrating about 50% of their efforts on light industrial and higher paying salaried positions that would generate revenue all they approved were housing/residential projects.

Now the you know what is hitting the fan.

Sigmund 11 years, 10 months ago

Just because you dont own property do not think for a moment you dont pay paroperty taxes. Your landlord passes those taxes on to you. Anyone who claims otherwise is an idiot or lying to you.

Kelly Powell 11 years, 10 months ago

unite2revolt....My wife and i own a home...We are not "money grubbing landlords"...what we are is a couple who has seen their property tax increase and increase....we do not and will not have children, but are forced to help pay for others...fine...a sales tax goes across the board...I am with amyx on this.

lunacydetector 11 years, 10 months ago

why not charge each KU student $100 per semester. THAT would pay for some infrastructure.

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