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Archive for Wednesday, August 8, 2007

T spared cuts, at others’ expense

August 8, 2007

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The 'T' survives a round of cuts at City Hall

Commissioners came to the city bus system's rescue tonight, saving it from a cutback in service hours. In 2008, the 'T' will continue to run until eight at night, instead of shutting down at six. Enlarge video

No cuts to the T, but an increase for your property tax bill.

That's what a divided City Commission came up with Tuesday evening as it finalized the 2008 budget.

"I don't want to raise anyone's taxes - I really don't - but I don't know where we are going to get the funding unless we are willing to just start saying no to a lot of services that we are currently funding," City Commissioner Mike Amyx said.

Commissioners on Tuesday did not want to say no to the Lawrence Transit System. Commissioners agreed to raise the city's property tax levy by 0.425 mill to help pay for the T.

A majority of commissioners also agreed to pull $600,000 out of an equipment reserve fund and transfer it to the T's operating budget to eliminate the need to cut public transit service hours.

Two weeks ago, commissioners tentatively agreed to begin closing the T at 6 p.m. instead of the current closing time of 8 p.m. in an effort to save money. But after hearing large amounts of public comment against the reduction in hours, a majority of commissioners backed off.

Commissioner Rob Chestnut was the lone commissioner who continued to support the idea of closing the T at 6 p.m. He did not support moving the $600,000 out of the city's equipment reserve fund.

Other budget decisions made Tuesday:

¢ City employees will get a 2 percent pay increase.

¢ The city will not provide $250,000 for Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center's WRAP program, which works with Lawrence students to prevent violence. Commissioners said they support the program but were disappointed that the school district appears unlikely to fund it. Commissioner Boog Highberger was the lone commissioner to lobby for the city to fund the program despite the school district's lack of support.

¢ Swimming pool fees for children will climb to $3.

The issue surrounding the T's hours, however, drew the largest amount of public comment. Commissioners heard from a long line of T supporters who said it was the only way for many people to get to work and other needed services.

"Morally, we cannot balance our budget by taking away services from those who need it most," said Joe Douglas, a Lawrence resident and doctor who serves low-income patients at the Bert Nash Center.

A mill is a tax of $1 per $1,000 assessed valuation.

Technically, all five commissioners voted for the 2008 budget, but commissioners made it clear they were split on several issues such as pay increases for city employees and the T.

Amyx also said he was supporting the budget only on the condition that commissioners have a serious discussion about placing a new half-cent sales tax for streets and infrastructure issues on a future citywide ballot. Mayor Sue Hack promised him that commissioners would have the discussion, likely in late August.

Comments

SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 4 months ago

The T is a HUGE waste! A cash vacuum, a dollar disposal, a scrilla shredder, a loot leech, a dinero destroyer, a greenback gulper, a buck blaster, a creator of coin carnage, and a defiler of dead presidents.

That's all I can think of right now.

aquakej 7 years, 4 months ago

Yeah, it kind of sucks that I am penailzed for being a property owner. Just because I am successful enough to own a house and a car shouldn't mean that I should be forced to pay for somebody else's ride to work.

blackwalnut 7 years, 4 months ago

I'm grateful the T is going to keep its hours. The T needs MORE stops and LONGER hours - not less.

I know so many people who depend on the T - people of all ages and from many walks of life.

All you complainers about the T ought to ride it once or twice so you'll know something about it.

adriennerm 7 years, 4 months ago

How about cutting the times from every 30 min to every hour during the slower ride times. I say between 10a-3 or 4ish. That would save on gas and empty buses

jumpin_catfish 7 years, 4 months ago

the T must go, the T must go, the T must go! Mike just say NO, NO, NO!

Susan Mangan 7 years, 4 months ago

Before anyone screams that the proposed sales tax isn't for the T, I'll explain. Using money we have for other budget items for the T, instead, is going to require a tax increase to make up for the money we should have had and spent on the T.

shawn1040 7 years, 4 months ago

I guess this is typical of Larryville.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

"So does this mean that all the driver's for the T get pay raises too?"

I don't think they will-- they are not city employees.

The "business" commissioners approved this because they know it's a useful subsidy to business. Their low-wage employees have a way to get back and forth from work.

Cindy Wallace 7 years, 4 months ago

Let's see if I have this straight....? If I remember correctly and understand correctly: We have now raised the property taxes, would like to request additional sales tax AND took $600,000 out of equipment?

WOW....that is alot different than my memory recalls...perhaps my memory doth not serve me well!!!???

Ralph Reed 7 years, 4 months ago

Read the print article. It's on the front page of this morning's paper. Written as an oped piece with accompanying headline, it next to the editorial page. Well done Chad, you managed to get personal bias and opinion past the night editor and onto the front page (but that seems to happen a lot with the LJW, doesn't it).

Susan Mangan 7 years, 4 months ago

I don't need to ride it. I watch it go by my house every 30 minutes from 6 am to 8 pm with zero to two people on board. That's a waste of money, pure and simple.

People keep saying we should ride it. Why??? It's not convenient for me to ride and I DON'T WANT TO. Has anyone heard about the study that came out earlier this week that calculated the "carbon footprint" from walking places? It turns out, with the increased calorie consumption needed to burn the energy to walk, instead of drive, MORE carbon is released into the atmosphere than from driving the same distance. Now that's funny! (Before anyone asks for the link, I didn't read it online. I saw it on the news. Google it, if you want to find it.)

In response to the question about whether I want my paycheck to go to the oil companies...I want my paycheck to go where I choose to spend it, whether it be charities, oil companies, or donuts. It's MY money and I'll spend it where I want to. I prefer to spend it driving than on your commute on the wasteful T.

And, again, before anyone comments on how I must hate the environment...How many of you actually have an education in the field that you rant about? I have a degree in Atmospheric Science and I know the bunk that is passed off as fact to unsuspecting people. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

mom_of_three 7 years, 4 months ago

What a shame about the WRAP program. It helped so many kids, and all kinds of kids.
I hope the school district can make up the difference for lost personnel for our kids.

Melanie Birge 7 years, 4 months ago

Will someone please answer my first question?

monkeywrench1969 7 years, 4 months ago

They could change some aspects of the T to make it more fundable, like reducingthe number of large bus running and run the small buses they use for the taxi service on the same route. THey use less gas and you might see a full bus.

It is good to see the commison will let the employees get a 2% wage increase. They are going to need it to pay the extra taxes on their homes and maybe this sales tax. It would also be nice to see someof these programs which entice the panhandlers to our community

lunacydetector 7 years, 4 months ago

having the walmart vote AND the M-T bus issue on the same night was genius. who decided to lump them together like that? an anti-walmart pro-tax increase pro M-T bus supporter on city staff?

average 7 years, 4 months ago

And, since no one seems interested in trying to fix problems with the T, we'll be back here fighting between 'kill it' and 'keep it just like it is' next year.

KS 7 years, 4 months ago

The Commissionsers have no guts. Got strong armed by the peacenik's. This is what's wrong with this country.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

It is a shame about the WRAP program. The school district should not have axed the program.

Thanks for having the insight about public transportation and providing city employees with a raise. Hard working city employees on the low end need those raises and hopefully they get the largest hikes.

hipper_than_hip 7 years, 4 months ago

I hope my house sells before the new tax bill comes.

Melanie Birge 7 years, 4 months ago

So does this mean that all the driver's for the T get pay raises too?

OldEnuf2BYurDad 7 years, 4 months ago

"I don't know where we are going to get the funding unless we are willing to just start saying no to a lot of services that we are currently funding"

Grow a pair.

Eileen Jones 7 years, 4 months ago

Raised the pool fees and pushing a tax increase. Sad.

Why is HackCo pushing the purchase of the toxic waste site from Farmland, when the city has no money to spare? I have not heard a single solid justification for this flagrant abuse of city money.

oldvet 7 years, 4 months ago

"I don't want to raise anyone's taxes - I really don't - but I don't know where we are going to get the funding unless we are willing to just start saying no to a lot of services that we are currently funding"

Then just say "NO", Mike!!! It's not that hard... jeez... hire me as your city bag man and I'll be happy to make the required cuts...

chet_larock 7 years, 4 months ago

"Just because I am successful enough to own a house and a car shouldn't mean that I should be forced to pay for somebody else's ride to work."

You're forced to pay for somebody else's trash to be picked up, crap to be flushed, etc. I agree that there should be a focus on how to make the T more efficient, but I'd rather be "forced" to pay for someone else's ride to work than to give them handouts for sitting on their a** all day long, kicking out babies. I know that analogy isn't the best, but you catch my drift.

Susan Mangan 7 years, 4 months ago

WOOSH!!!!!!! Ka-ching!

And that is the sound of homeowners fleeing this town and realtors collecting their commissions.

In a nutshell, Mike Amyx said that he REALLY, REALLY doesn't want to raise everyone's takes...but we can't afford to fund every stupid and unnecessary frivolity that makes this town "Lawrence...home of the utopian dream for those who don't own the properties that fund it" without doing that. I don't get his point. So STOP FUNDING THINGS WE CAN'T AFFORD, MORON!!!

Susan Mangan 7 years, 4 months ago

"You're forced to pay for somebody else's trash to be picked up, crap to be flushed, etc."

Wrong! Those are paid for by a collective of everyone who uses them. If you don't have city trash, you don't pay the city santitation fee. If you don't have city sewer (I had a septic tank at a house I rented which is now in the city limits) you don't pay the sewer fee. The bus is different because the homeowners in this town are being forced to pay for it...as will everyone who buys anything if and when they increase the sales tax. It is a government hand-out paid for by those who don't want or need it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

Jeez, you'd think that the "T" was the sole source of every problem that exists in the city.

The real culprit for our road maintenance problem is the failure to make growth pay for itself-- Lack of adequate funding from that growth for the infrastructure it requires means building roads on the cheap, so that they deteriorate much more quickly, and the added traffic on all our streets mean that all the streets wear out faster.

You may not like the roundabouts and the traffic calming devices, but they are a reaction to growth-- how else do you make streets designed for a lower population work for the increased traffic? There certainly isn't adequate money, or space, to make them any wider.

LIkewise, the "T" is an attempt to deal with the growth all of you whiners think is so essential, but don't want to pay for.

chet_larock 7 years, 4 months ago

"LIkewise, the "T" is an attempt to deal with the growth all of you whiners think is so essential, but don't want to pay for."

Thank you, bozo.

"The bus is different because the homeowners in this town are being forced to pay for it:"

I see your point, but homeowners pay for a lot of things they don't necessarily use every day, if at all. It's called living in a society.

jonas 7 years, 4 months ago

"average (Anonymous) says:

And, since no one seems interested in trying to fix problems with the T, we'll be back here fighting between 'kill it' and 'keep it just like it is' next year."

Amen.

"DonQuipunch (Anonymous) says:

After all, who CARES how much my mortgage goes up, as long as a couple dozen scumbags have cheap taxi service.

Socialism is alive and well here in this oasis of? What is it again?"

So is ill-informed, ignorant, over-reactionary idiocy, apparently.

Man, I must be grouchy tonight. Oh well.

shawn1040 7 years, 4 months ago

Why do they use such large buses for the five people that ride the T? Shouldn't they change the fleet to a bunch of short buses? That would save some $$, then they wouldn't have to raise taxes.

justthefacts 7 years, 4 months ago

This is typical of a lot of people and places; No interest/ability in cutting out the fat. Just keep going back to the money tree (in this case tax payers) insisting they come up with more money to fund things that other people like/want/need.

I am seriously going to leave Lawrence ASAP. I'll be sad, but I CANNOT afford to live here much longer. Guess the city/county/school district have decided they want a community made up of young rich folks who have extra $$ to spare.

FastEddie 7 years, 4 months ago

If you can't afford to live in Lawrence, try riding the T. It will save you money and then you might be able to afford to live here. Furthermore, everybody who lives in Lawrence pays for the T in one way or another--not just bitchy rich house owners.

As for the WRAP program--it was never funded by the school district and the district has no extra funds for it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

"I'd take the T if it took me to Kansas City"

There is a bus that goes there, several times a day. It's run by the Johnson County transit authority.

lawrencian 7 years, 4 months ago

I think the main problem with the T is the strange route configuration, and the fact that they run on loops instead of along major thoroughfares... I hope everyone who is supporting keeping the T will also attend the next route hearings to give input on changing the routes!

monkeywrench1969 7 years, 4 months ago

A rarity but I have to agree with Bozo on the need for the "T" when it comes to the low income and handicap disabled, but hte structure used at this time is not cost effective in respect ot he amount of gas the large buses use and the maintanance required. It keeps those without vehicles or transportation working and gives them some relief to the rising cost of gas and cost of living passed on to the rest, including home owners.

If they would use the smaller buses on the routes (like those vans in Vegas) on the actual bus routes instead , you may find full transportation vehicles and a more cost effective transportation system. Put the big buses away until the rideship is there to support it and the cost of gas. THey may even be able to expand the hours to cover some of the over night traffic related to the drunk drivers and reduce the number of drunk drivers as the bars close.

pinecreek 7 years, 4 months ago

"I don't want to raise anyone's taxes - I really don't - but I don't know where we are going to get the funding unless we are willing to just start saying no to a lot of services that we are currently funding," City Commissioner Mike Amyx said.

So just say NO. Not that difficult--if Mike can make choices for his business and allocate based on priorities, why doesn't he do the same for the City? Do these people lose their business acumen and common sense when they get elected to office?

justthefacts 7 years, 4 months ago

Comment left in response to my last post: "If you can't afford to live in Lawrence, try riding the T. It will save you money and then you might be able to afford to live here. Furthermore, everybody who lives in Lawrence pays for the T in one way or another-not just bitchy rich house owners."

Who said I don't already ride it? See how you are, making assumptions about people? For shame. How open minded and kind is that?

Those who are fixed incomes and who don't own homes or have any new ways to earn more money will still ALWAYS be the most impacted by ANY tax hike. They get stuck with it directly or indirectly (increase in services etc.). And renters pay for tax increases too - in increased rents! Don't believe me, ask a landlord how they'll absorb any hike in taxes on their properties. Economics 101. Try a class in it.

Rather then looking to others to pay my way, I try to do with less all the time. But at some point, like eating dog food so that others can get their way on something, I have to draw the line.

We as a society continue to borrow money (credit) that is running out. The baby boomers are aging and there aren't enough worker bees to replace them. The costs to provide government funded services continues to increase, while the number of people available to support those costs decreases. We continue to use credit (with other nations) to bolster our own failing economy. We're all going bankrupt, sooner or later, because we refuse to live within our means (as a nation, state, county, city and as individuals).

I am just glad I know how to hunt, fish and forage. Good luck to all who don't have such skills.

Susan Mangan 7 years, 4 months ago

I am paying less on a mortgage than I did on a rent payment because I was smart enough to buy when prices were reasonable, taxes were low, and interest rates were low. That makes me rich???

I won't argue with bitchy.

I'm sick of my hard-earned money going for things that other people want, but can't afford. Try working more, or in a different field, like I did. You don't just get things because you want them in this country (although, apparently you do in this socialist town). You have to work for them. Working hard doesn't entitle you to something if you don't get paid well for what you do. Instead of whining that it's not fair that someone else makes more money than you do, try getting some student loans and a job to fund your education, working you ass off to get through school while working, and then earn the money yourself. Plenty of us did that and it makes me bitchy that someone who didn't spend an hour or a dime improving their marketable skills through training and/or education thinks that they deserve a penny of MY money because they don't make much. I worked for it and earned it.

Guess what, though!!! Just having a degree doesn't guarantee you the right to lots of money, either. I have two degrees that I don't use because neither of them provided the income I wanted. I didn't whine and bitch that it wasn't fair, like so many in this town do. I spent more time and money investing in my future so I could get a well-paying job.

You people need to get over yourselves, quit whining that the world isn't fair because you aren't rich, and do something to change that that doesn't involve taking advantage of those of us who already have. I'm leaving this socialist town for a place that believes in personal responsibility and accountability. If you want something, quit bitching, and GO EARN IT.

jonas 7 years, 4 months ago

Voice of Reason: That was, err, a lot of whining and bi@#ing about people whining and bi@#4ing.

Bill Chapman 7 years, 4 months ago

I wonder just how many people use the T to get to work? I imagine that may have been the major reason behind the complaints about restricting the hours. It is usually more difficult to GET to work on time than to walk home from work(at least it is for me). By cutting the hours back to 6pm from 8pm, they would have forced many people to find a new way to get work, walk to work(and then walk home), or find a job closer to home.

At my level of income, I do NOT have the funds for a car(and the insurance, taxes, repair, gas, etc.). I get to work by bicycle, bus(the T), or by walking. If I walk to work, I would just about have to rearrange my life - it takes me almost 90 minutes to walk to work. Since I work an average of 9 hours a day, that would mean my job requires 12 hours of every day I work. Since I need 5 -7 hours of sleep every day, that would leave me 5 - 7 hours each day to clean my rented house, mow the lawn(otherwise my rent goes up), pay bills, exercise, buy food. etc. I would have very little free time for my hobbies/ leisure - reading, watching T.V., and playing music. I should note that I did not mention taking care of children - that is because I don't have any(that I know about anyway). If you were to add children into the mix, I would have NO free time and would be losing at least 1 hour of sleep.

Susan Mangan 7 years, 4 months ago

Jonas - Yes...That was a lot of bitching and whining by me. Someone called me (among other homeowners) bitchy and I didn't disagree. I was explaining the reason that this town makes me that way and why we're leaving in droves. People seem to think it's insulting to be called bitchy. It's only insulting if I'm not. I'm being nice enough to explain the reasons to people who don't seem to understand why.

Susan Mangan 7 years, 4 months ago

So those of us who DO work 12 hours a day (not counting our commute) should pay for you to get to and from work so you don't have to "rearrange your life" to pay for it yourself. Life is about choices.

If you make just $8 an hour, here's a suggestion. Work that extra 3 hours per day that you would otherwise spend walking. That works out to a nice $480 a month extra which would more than pay for a nice new car, insurance, taxes, etc.

You won't get a lot of sympathy from homeowners that you're down to 5-7 hours of "free time" per day for bills, lawn mowing, etc. Homeowners have all of those responsibilities, plus home maintenance. If something breaks, we don't get to call the landlord to fix it. We pay for and fix it ourselves. I'm not complaining about that. It's part of homeownership, which is a choice we make. But not having the money to buy a car is also a choice you make if you prefer to have free time to pursue "hobbies/leisure". It's all about choices. It's fine to choose the free time. But it's wrong to expect others to subsidize your choices because you don't want to rearrange your life.

matahari 7 years, 4 months ago

If all the homeowners would take the T to their workplace they could save more money in the long run than their proprety tax increase costs...no?

Susan Mangan 7 years, 4 months ago

I can afford a car and want to drive a car. Yes, it might make up for the tax increase, but what's your point? You could probably wear the same clothes every day to save money, but does that mean you SHOULD?

Not that I should, but I can't take the T to work. Like many homeowners in this town, I have to work outside of town to get a good paying job. I work nights and the Jo (or whatever the bus to Overland Park is called) doesn't run the hours I work.

frank regnier 7 years, 4 months ago

Poor planning on public transportation should not be passed on to the tax payers. We need public transportation in Lawrence but I don't understand how it is economical for a bus to drive around Lawrence with one or two persons in it (as seen quite often)? Maybe electric carts, mini-vans or large skateboards would be better until they can figure out the most productive routes. I picked up one of their brochures on their routes and found it very confusing and non-practical. Here's an idea, make more wider shoulders for bicycle riders! Most cities have adopted some plan for bikers to travel through out the city on their bikes safely. Cut down on pollution, good exercise and won't continue to burden taxpayers year after year!

Nick Yoho 7 years, 4 months ago

The real problem is, all you car driving haters.You're too proud to ride the bus,and make it actually work.It's fun you should try it!I can't remember the last time I drove my car.last week I think.I like to ride my bike places,then take the T back home.Nice to cool off,in the mobile AC. People,not everybody rides because they have to,many of us ride because we don't want to add to the pollution.If your not part of the solution,your part of the problem.Do you like giving large parts of your paychecks to oil companies?Do you like our government killing brown people to get you more oil?Do you like destoying your kids environment?Is it worth it?Not to me,apparently it is to the majority of you,or you would change your unsustainable ways.It's not easy,but it IS important.

Thanks for reading my comments you guys are great?

Mkh 7 years, 4 months ago

"Other budget decisions made Tuesday:

¢ City employees will get a 2 percent pay increase."

Isn't it incredible that in the middle of a "budget crisis" there is always enough for a raise.

jonas 7 years, 4 months ago

Maybe we should just make a particular contributory tax mandatory, and have the citizens opt where they want it to go, so we could just fund things based on actual voluntary effort.

It would, of course, fail miserably after about three months, maybe less, but it would be interesting to see what money went where for that particular stretch of time.

proud_right_winger 7 years, 4 months ago

They love sucking out our life with taxes for the socialist agenda. Thank god wal mart got approved because shopping there is the only way my family will make it with all these new costs.

However, I am for one very upset about WRAP losing funding though because the worker helped my kid a lot and I worry for her to not have that support in place. Her grades got better and she got less angry all the time. I had never seen such changes in her just by having someone for her to talk with.

Wilbur_Nether 7 years, 4 months ago

You know, it's over. The vote was taken, the decision made...now just live with it.

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