The future of your city tax bill is hanging in the balance.
A majority of city commissioners Thursday said they were seeking ways to keep the city's property tax rate stable, despite a recommendation from interim City Manager David Corliss that it should be increased by nearly a mill.
"I don't really relish having a mill levy increase at all," said City Commissioner Mike Rundle, who along with Mayor Mike Amyx and Commissioner David Schauner said they were not ready to commit to a mill levy increase to fund city operations in 2007.
The other two commissioners - Boog Highberger and Sue Hack - expressed less optimism that the budget could be cut enough to avoid a mill levy increase.
"We reduced the mill levy last year, and in retrospect we probably shouldn't have," Hack said. "What this would do is bring it back up to where we were prior to 2006."
It would take approximately $700,000 to $800,000 in cuts to Corliss' recommended budget to keep the property tax rate at current levels. But no commissioners made any recommendations Thursday on what cuts should be made. Instead, commissioners said they planned to begin making changes to the recommended budget during a session at 7 p.m. Monday at Fire Station No. 5, 1911 Stewart Ave.
More about the budget
Corliss has recommended the 0.98 mill levy increase in large part to help fund approximately $2 million in additional street maintenance in 2007. All of the commissioners have supported a spending increase for additional street maintenance.
"I'm not quite to the point of being able to commit to a mill levy increase, but I don't know if there is $700,000 to be cut from this budget or not," Schauner said.
There also may be efforts by commissioners to add money to other parts of the budget. Hack said she likely would make a pitch at Monday's meeting to add dollars for economic development and to further review funding levels for several social service agencies.
"I do think we're underfunding our job-creation efforts," Hack said.
If city commissioners approve Corliss' recommended budget - with the 0.98 mill increase - it likely would increase the property taxes on an average Lawrence home by about $50 to $60 per year. That's because in addition to the mill levy increase, most Lawrence homes are expected to rise in value by 5 percent to 7 percent, which also will increase the amount of taxes residents will owe. A mill is one dollar in property tax for every $1,000 of assessed value.
The city's tax increase would be in addition to proposed increases in the franchise fees the city receives as part of every electric, telephone and cable bill in the city. In total, those increased fees would cause utility bills of Lawrence residents to rise by 5.75 percent. Commissioners didn't make any proposals Thursday to scrap those fee increases.