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Archive for Friday, May 19, 2006

Projections: City spending will outweigh revenue

May 19, 2006

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Projections shared with city commissioners Thursday show City Hall will spend about $4 million more than it takes in next year.

That means commissioners face these options: cut spending, raise taxes or fees, or dip into the city's savings account.

"What all this tells me is that we are really going to have to watch our spending," Mayor Mike Amyx said. "That's what it is all about, because you have to have a certain level of reserve funds just to feel comfortable."

Amyx spoke in response to information presented by Ed Mullins, the city's director of finances, during annual budget discussions.

The City Commission is allowed to approve budgets that aren't balanced - and did so for 2006 - because it can draw on its fund balance account, which is money the city has saved over the years. But during the third day of hearings for the 2007 budget, Mullins warned commissioners that if his projections held true the city's fund balances would fall to levels below what city policy says is prudent.

Mullins' projections show the city's fund balances - which can be thought of as a savings account - dropping to about 12 percent of the city's total general fund spending. City policy recommends the fund balance remain above 15 percent. Mullins' projections show the situation in 2008 would become even more serious, with the city dipping into savings an additional $5 million, leaving a cushion of about 3 percent.

The numbers are causing some commissioners to consider an increase in the city's property tax rate.

"I won't support a budget that allows those fund balances to dip below 15 percent," City Commissioner Boog Highberger said. "This is the year I expect we'll see at least a bit of a mill levy increase."

Others, though, were more optimistic. City Commissioner David Schauner said he would consider allowing the fund balances to dip below 15 percent if the money was used for maintenance projects and other programs that would save the city money in the future.

He also said he wasn't yet convinced that Mullins' projections would hold true. Schauner noted the city has received similar projections in previous years only to see the city's financial situation end the year better than projected.

City Commissioner Mike Rundle said he did not want to dip below the 15 percent level, but he said he thought the city could find ways to control spending enough to not need a mill levy increase.

"If we can't do everything on the list, we'll just have to weed out some of the wishes," Rundle said.

During the three days of budget hearings, commissioners received requests from city department heads for $7.8 million worth of new projects or programs. That list almost certainly will not be entirely funded.

But Thursday, momentum continued to build for the single-largest request: $2.9 million to bolster the city's street maintenance. Amyx already has said streets will be a major priority as he considers the 2007 budget. Rundle on Thursday went further.

"I would say providing that funding is pretty much going to be a no-brainer," Rundle said. "If we can spend $1 in preventive maintenance to save us $7 or $10 in major repairs down the road, we've got to do it."

City staff members now begin preparing a recommended budget for commissioners to consider. That recommendation is expected in early July. Commissioners must approve the 2007 budget by early August.

Comments

Kelly Powell 8 years, 7 months ago

I truly believe that I will be pushed out of this town.....I do not believe if they continue to keep raising fees and taxes on me and not raise wages I will be forced to move away from my own home town.

Berserk 8 years, 7 months ago

You have to spend money to make money, first rule of buisness, nothing comes without a cost.

As long as the city is spending the money ** WITH ONLY! LOCAL CONTRACTORS! ** the money will be returned to the local economy, if they ever stoop so low as to use contractors from outside Lawrence, you can kiss that money goodbye. It never comes back.

Just like Wal-Mart, when you spend $50.00 at WalMart, your taking $50.00 [first of all, throwing it away on garbage merchandise] and letting it fly right striaght out of Lawrece. Also the money goes over to Columbia, Missouri where Sam Walton builds them stadiums.

Spend your money local and we won't feel the effects of mismanaged budgets. That includes you! City Council.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 7 months ago

The condition of old infrastructure was likely ignored for about two decades who knows why but now the crap has hit the man.

Now that the matter is being addressed patience is the order of the day.

Whatever walks can be repaired will be greatly appreciated. Some walks can probaly be repaired "legally" by the city if they are on arterial streets etc. without billing a specific resident. Otherwise I see many people who choose streets over sidewalks.

monkeyhawk 8 years, 7 months ago

City Commissioner Boog Highberger said. "This is the year I expect we'll see at least a bit of a mill levy increase."

Translation: BIG mill levy increase

"If we can't do everything on the list, we'll just have to weed out some of the wishes," Rundle said.

Translation: Wishes will still have high priority

Stop wasting our money on costly studies, (that don't always turn out the way you want them to, then are disregarded, or another study is done to concur with your views), on frivilous lawsuits, poorly designed roundabouts, projects to benefit few at the expenses of all, etc.

Most of all, how about some accountablity for the position the city is in? Instead of pointing the finger at past commissions, just fix the things that need fixing and stop overspending on folly.

Rhoen 8 years, 7 months ago

This article was supposed to be a Humor Column, right?

Here's an idea: Let's ask some of the "big" businesses (such as Packer Plastics) to pay their taxes! Why are tax waivers being handed out like Halloween treats? Why are companies that receive these not being held accountable for meeting the pie-in-the-sky projections and promises that they brought to the table with their tax-waiver proposals?

Here's another idea: Let's ask the people of Douglas County to VOTE on expenditures of large amounts of money for such projects as libraries, parking lots, roundabouts, and so on. Let's also have the accurate details of the design/ build/ spend elements of those projects be made public in advance of such a vote.

Then, when the projects are completed, let's require an audit of those projects. And if or when an audit reveals "oddities" (like the audits of KPL / Westar must have at some point), let's prosecute and jail any criminals who wormed their way into positions of public trust and try to get some of our stuff back from them before they go.

cowboy 8 years, 7 months ago

When you have no fiscal leadership this is what you get. I run my own business and formally was a corporate manager. a normal business knows what revenues are going to be and adjusts expenditures to fit and or come in under because there are always surprises. Normally there is a target distributed by the financial managers. Had I submitted budgets exceeding the target I would have been fired promptly for not taking my financial responsibility seriously.

Thats the real world , the city needs a large dose of reality check. If you have made decisions that limit revenue generation you must then make the corresponding cutbacks. Our tax revenue is up slightly which is surprising but it probably could have been up dramaticly if the conditions were right.

A normal organization would immediately start shelving projects , outside costs , freeze positon replacements , demand each manager find efficiencies in their areas and solve the shortfalls.

But not Lawrence , we keep spending money on attorney fees , consultants , new projects , new cars , paving machines , picking up peoples yard waste fior them , adding cops , buying software , endowing bad art , building a homeless community , decorating the downtown free of charge for the biz owners , and a host of other studip crap that wastes our money.

Its time for the commission , Mullins , and the group of city managers to take responsibility , earn your salaries , and improve your operations , if you feel you cannot then leave your position and let someone with some energy try.

Lead , Follow , or get out of the damn way.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 7 months ago

And yet, cowboy, you think that the most important project in the whole county is to spend at least $210 million dollars on 4 or 5 miles of highway that will primarily serve about 20% of the city's population (as long as it goes through Haskell's back yard, and not yours, that is.)

Fatty_McButterpants 8 years, 7 months ago

If the city commission would quit forming "research groups" who hold endless meetings at night - which result in overtime. If the city commission would quit paying $90,000 a pop to an outside company to research the feasibility of the research groups results, and then choose to ignore all the advice and go with whatever they feel like (Homeless study ring any bells, commissioners?!). If the city commission would quit paying $90,000 for flowers and a gardener to make the flower pots pretty downtown for three months of the year. Finally, if the city commission would quit deciding that it is a good idea to erect "traffic calming devices" all over town - they might start to save some money!

Godot 8 years, 7 months ago

Contrary to what Bozo says, the trafficway will serve all of the Lawrence community by diverting the semis and other traffic that is clogging up Iowa, 23rd, 31st, and 6th in an effort to get through Lawrence to somewhere else. And I don't care whether it is along 32nd or south of the river, as long as it gets done.

Godot 8 years, 7 months ago

"Others, though, were more optimistic. City Commissioner David Schauner said he would consider allowing the fund balances to dip below 15 percent if the money was used for maintenance projects and other programs that would save the city money in the future.

He also said he wasn't yet convinced that Mullins' projections would hold true. Schauner noted the city has received similar projections in previous years only to see the city's financial situation end the year better than projected."

Apparently Schauner has no understanding of fiduciary responsibility. Let me remind him of the "prudent man" rule:

"Those with responsibility to invest money for others should act with prudence, discretion, intelligence, and regard for the safety of capital as well as income."

This is a rule for professional money managers, but I believe that having control of a multi-million dollar budget with the ability to force people to "invest" against their will, makes city commissioners subject to this rule, as well.

Berserk 8 years, 7 months ago

As far as spending, the most important thing the city can do is spend money on the K10 project, the city would benefit greatly on a broad range of topics, today lets talk about polution.

Environ(mental)ists would argue that you would be killing the wetlands with pollution: You do not realize how much pollution you are breathing in, not to mention children and college students who attend the 3 schools/Universities (along 23rd) are breathing in. Not only do Semitrucks and dumptrucks have to use 23rd and pollute the crap out of all the nieghborhoods, but there is a bevy of traffic every day that is forced down 23rd.

Cars produce about 31% & Semi-trucks produce about 45% less pollution at highway speeds than they do in stop and go traffic. Take the smog out of our neighborhoods, please.

All of the buisnesses would reap the benefits of less traffic on 23rd as well, it may seem like a good idea to have more passerbys looking at your roadside buisness, but if there are others out there like me, I refuse to stop anywhere if it takes more time to get in and out of thier parking lots than it takes to shop. I will not stop anywhere on 23rd (with the exception of QT). I would actually like to go to the Merc more often, but becuase of traffic (on Iowa) I don't bother.

Ok, now I am rambling, I digress for now.

Berserk 8 years, 7 months ago

Wow, I just re-read my post, it's Friday, I'm tired, please excuse the grammar and spelling.

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