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Decisions loom for proposed tax increases

Increased rates would help with costs to build new library, but could also help fund other projects

January 18, 2007

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It's time to talk money.

When it comes to building a $30 million library, Lawrence city commissioners were told Wednesday that they'll have to soon make some decisions about how much - if at all - they're willing to raise taxes.

"I'm not afraid of the library project," City Manager David Corliss said during a study session designed for commissioners to review their annual goals. "I'm afraid of the library project if we say we're going to have a flat mill levy because that means it will be cutting into our existing operating budget. And I don't know where we can absorb that type of cut in our budget."

Commissioners will have an opportunity to discuss the issue soon. Corliss told commissioners that he plans to place the issue on the commission's Feb. 6 agenda.

Corliss has estimated that it will take an increase of at least 4 mills in the city's property tax rate to fund the construction and the increased operational costs of a new library. A mill is $1 in property tax for every $1,000 in assessed value of property that a person owns.

Sales tax

Corliss, though, reminded commissioners that a sales tax of an undetermined amount also could be used to fund the construction and operational costs of a library.

Corliss presented commissioners with a list of capital improvement projects that the City Commission will want to consider in 2007: North Lawrence stormwater projects; increased funding for street maintenance; office space for a merged planning and development department; major equipment purchases such as new fire engines and public works machinery; funding for a recreational sports complex; and a city-owned service center off Wakarusa Drive that would provide additional space for the Police Department to store evidence and offices for the Public Works Department.

Commissioners stopped short of providing any definite direction, other than to reiterate that the public should decide the issue via an election.

"It ought to be up to the public, and the public ought to see what it will do to their property taxes," City Commissioner David Schauner said.

"I am reluctant to raise property taxes to the point that they would have to be raised to fund the construction and operation of a new library," City Commissioner Sue Hack said. "My concern is that I don't want to say that it has been nice to discuss it, but we can't afford it. I don't want this to grind to a halt by saying we can't afford it right now."

But Mayor Mike Amyx said that may be the truth of the matter.

"We can't have people wondering how they will pay for the taxes on their home or their business," Amyx said. "We have to understand there are limits."

Library recommendation

The Lawrence Public Library Board has recommended that the city move forward on a $30-million library and below-ground parking garage at the site of the current post office at Seventh and Vermont streets.

The proposal was put forward by members of the Gene Fritzel Construction Co., who also wants to undertake about $100 million worth of private redevelopment along Vermont Street during a 10-year period.

A key part of the plan involves finding another downtown location for the post office.

In other discussion related to the commission's goals:

¢ Corliss told commissioners that he expects to have a senior transportation planner added to the city's Planning Department within the next couple of months. That position should allow the city to make plans for new road networks south of the Wakarusa River. Commissioners said the planning needs to take into strong account the development that is proposed for the De Soto, Gardner and southern Johnson County areas that could increase truck traffic.

¢ Corliss said his staff is working on plans to create an incentive program to get property owners to make needed sidewalk repairs. Incentives could include allowing property owners to finance the improvements via special assessments that would be placed on their individual property tax bills. But Corliss also said the city likely would have to create a campaign to educate property owners that it is their responsibility to maintain sidewalks on their property.

"It may involve some painful discussions with property owners," Corliss warned commissioners.

Comments

Richard Heckler 7 years, 11 months ago

I don't believe the streets are a matter to panic over. New smooth streets encourage fast driving so why do that when neighborhoods are asking for traffic calming devices. Make street improvements as time goes along just don't raise taxes to do it. Chuck Soules is quite capable. Don't rush him.

The city can live without it's very own superdome. Need more soccer fields? Dad's Perry Park has some outdoor space as does the eastside rec center. The new space Hallmark donated could handle soccer fields. South Park could do one as well. Some of our public school grounds could be made available. Create neighborhood teams. Neighborhood rec centers as far more important for the kids due to less or no driving. There is already a one cent sales tax in place to fund rec centers etc so forget the super dome.

The city could add a two story structure on the eastside of the current library. The eastside entry is mostly concrete. Perhaps this major improvement could be done without a tax increase IF it would be considered at all. Architects can make any project come out looking very cool. They might be able to accomplish this feat without ripping the east wall. Perhaps an existing structure on the westside could become a satellite sooner than projected...high school libraries would be excellent locations that would relieve USD 497 of some overhead.

cowboy 7 years, 11 months ago

Merrill wrote "I don't believe the streets are a matter to panic over. New smooth streets encourage fast driving so why do that when neighborhoods are asking for traffic calming devices. Make street improvements as time goes along just don't raise taxes to do it. Chuck Soules is quite capable. Don't rush him."

Lawrence logic !

SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 11 months ago

A four mill increase for a new or expanded library??

That will cost 4 X $100 on a home valued at $100,000. That's a $400 hit on a family each year. Every year.

Your $200,000 home gets hit for $800 a year. Every year.

NO WAY!

jafs 7 years, 11 months ago

I think it would be logical to prioritize and minimize our spending rather than raising property or sales taxes.

Interestingly enough, though, I think street maintenance should be a high priority.

The Lawrence city budget is already over $10million/month - we should be able to take care of our basic needs without spending more money, imho.

common_cents 7 years, 11 months ago

This explains the push to annex much more land... more places to tax.

How about NOT building a library and concentrate on the current infrastructure if it's so bad?

4 mils is nuts. Let's see what the census shows after this goes through.

Bud Stagg 7 years, 11 months ago

We already have higher than normal property values. Add to that a very high property tax rate. You have a disaster on your hands. To even put this library thing on the agenda is irresponsible.

I'd rather spend 30 million on attracting more businesses who will pay taxes. At least we would get a return on our money.

KsTwister 7 years, 11 months ago

The State's budget is undergoing cuts but may need to raise taxes,the schools raised taxes,Lawrence raised taxes and now you want a library? Unbelievable!Sell your golf course and get off the taxpayers backs until this city can show they know how to set realistic priorities. This had better be on my election ballot and marked no.This may be a smoke screen to pay legal fees with the Walmart bumbling that commissioners created in the first place.

50YearResident 7 years, 11 months ago

Lawrence needs to upgrade the City Government to get more permanent people to run the budget and decision making process. We need people with management degrees and expertise in running a city instead of Commissioners that are elected every 2 or 4 years directly off the street. The present system is broken for a city the size of Lawrence. With "Millions of Dollars" at stake we need experts to manage city affairs.

KsTwister 7 years, 11 months ago

Agree with you 50yr. It just amazes me how the same people off and on seem to be on the commission over so much time and the same problems come with them.

common_cents 7 years, 11 months ago

I think everyone should remember these types of initiatives, both past, present and future, when voting in the next commission elections.

budwhysir 7 years, 11 months ago

Lets blame the city commision for our problems with smoking. Come on lets get our stories together hear people. Is the commision realy to blame for smokers???

No they are responsible for raising our taxes and making sure the city makes money. So, if this issue comes up and there is money to be made, they are responsible for making sure all goes in favor of politics

budwhysir 7 years, 11 months ago

As I have pointed out before. A tax could fall to both sides, we have a spending tax (sales tax) and an earning tax (income tax) Both are charge for either spending or earning and an increase in either will offset a balance on the oposite side.

More income tax will promote less earning keeping us at the current min. wage rates. Sales tax increase will promote more saving of earned money therefor decreasing the amount of paid interest in savings and checking accounts.

As you can see, taxes in a sense are very tricky and taxing issues. One can not get away from or live with taxes. income verses spending equals taxable savings and less social security for future generations.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 11 months ago

We already have that, 50year-- that's exactly what you get with the city-manager type of governance.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 11 months ago

Then we'll keep having our property taxes increase @ 8% or higher on top of all else. What are we going to do? All that bad planning from about 1985 -2001 is coming to a head and our wallets keep getting lighter.

The real estate industry which includes many types of business and their financial backers are good at building too many houses but not good planners and to think they were running the city and planning commission simultaneously for all those years. I would say a system without a check and balance mode is not good for a city or our wallets.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 11 months ago

On the positive side it sure has been a great day to get that 1" inch ice off the driveway and walk.

Mkh 7 years, 11 months ago

I think 4 mills is far to high for something that the majority of citizens may not want, and certainly do not need. I'll admit the library could use a facelift, but there are far more important disasters to fix first.

Godot 7 years, 11 months ago

4 mills is just the first year.

Add to that the minimum 2 mill levy increase being considered by the city/county for the purchase of Farmland.

We are looking at an additional 6 mills for just the library and Farmland. That is $600 per year tax increase for a $100,000 house. Can people living in "affordable housing" withstand a $50 per month increase in their housepayments? Can people living on fixed incomes afford such an increase? Can anyone, other than public administrators earning outrageously high salaries who consider a tax increase to be "an investment?"

Godot 7 years, 11 months ago

The LJW needs to do some exhaustive research, and analysis, of what the city and county are proposing to do to their citizens.

And, to those, such as Boozo, who claim that the city has always planned for a vote, remember this, from April 2006, regarding the Farmland purchase:

"But how much additional money would be needed and where it would come from are two big questions that leaders must answer before the project can move ahead. City and county commissioners, along with the Lawrence-Douglas County Economic Development Board, have been discussing an increase in property taxes or a new countywide sales tax that would fund both economic development and open-space activities.

Raising the sales tax would require a public election; increasing property taxes would not.

Preliminary discussions have focused on a 1/4-cent sales tax that would raise $20 million over the next 10 years, or a 2-mill property tax increase that would raise about the same amount."

Godot 7 years, 11 months ago

And, from City Manager Corliss' memorandum of December 11, 2006, regarding the library expansion:

"Property tax funding option - It is anticipated that the City would issue fixed rate bonds with a maximum maturity of 20 years. In addition, the bonds would be structured to be paid off in equal annual payments. Since it is expected that assessed valuation will increase 5.0% per year, the debt levy required to generate the necessary revenue will decrease in future years. Under this scenario, the debt levy would range from 1.80 to .72 mills for a $20 million issue and from 2.67 to 1.07 mills for a $30 million issue..."

followed by:

"Sales tax funding option - Another possible funding source to pay off the library bonds is a sales tax increase. Such an increase would require approval of the voters. "

I highlight the fact that Corliss specifically said that sales tax requires approval of voters, and he specifically did not say that about the mill levy increase. Why? Because a mill levy increase does not require voter approval.

Godot 7 years, 11 months ago

My very first consideration of a candidate for city commission will be the person's stance on this downtown-redevelopment-taxpayer-ripoff being disguised as a library.

Godot 7 years, 11 months ago

Merrill wrote: "Then we'll keep having our property taxes increase @ 8% or higher on top of all else. What are we going to do? All that bad planning from about 1985 -2001 is coming to a head and our wallets keep getting lighter."

Hey, Merrill, you cannot blame the roundabouts, the continued expansion of the T, the furtherance of the proposal for the library, the consideration of a proposal to make a loan of thousands of dollars for a homeless shelter, the lawsuits, the hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants, the embarrassing junket to Washington DC during a Congressional break, the wasted time and money spent on useless visioning sessions and retreats, the rejection of new businesses that try to come to the city, solely on the city commissions from 1985 to 2001. I am sure they are due their share of the blame, but this commission, the PLC dominated commission, has thrown millions of taxpayer dollars down the drain, with wanton disregard for the citizens of Lawrence.

Disrepect for order, disrespect for the law, disdain for people stupid enough to think that government should function well; is that not anarchism, and is that not illustrated by Dadaism, and does that not describe the PLC?

Richard Heckler 7 years, 11 months ago

Godot: There are 5 city commissioners who vote together quite often so I don't believe there is a dominance.
All five want a library All commissions use consultants and have for decades. Junkets to D.C. are not uncommon for city governing bodies Retreats as such can be enormously productive Roundabouts came along before the PLC was concieved and were usually installed rather quickly however not under this commission as there is a waiting list. * The T ridership continues to grow at a good pace annually.

The real estate industry which includes many types of business and their financial backers are good at building too many houses but not good planners and to think they were running the city and planning commission simultaneously for all those years. I would say a system without a check and balance mode is not good for a city or our wallets. Personal property taxes are the evidence.

monkeyhawk 7 years, 11 months ago

Godot, right on the money as usual.

When the democrats won their victory last fall, it was because people desperately wanted a change. That victory was won without even a hint of an agenda other than a "change". I hope that the city leaders don't fail to see that the "change" is also desperately wanted and needed here in Lawrence as well.

monkeyhawk 7 years, 11 months ago

"I don't believe the streets are a matter to panic over. New smooth streets encourage fast driving so why do that when neighborhoods are asking for traffic calming devices. Make street improvements as time goes along just don't raise taxes to do it. Chuck Soules is quite capable. Don't rush him."

My BFF merrill........ See the mentality that has the audacity to try to control our lives?

*There are 5 city commissioners who vote together quite often so I don't believe there is a dominance.

Ha, ha, ha....

*All five want a library

All five have a library (or two)

  • All commissions use consultants and have for decades.

Do all commissions totally disregard results they find inconvenient?

  • Junkets to D.C. are not uncommon for city governing bodies

When there are people to speak to other than clerks?

  • Retreats as such can be enormously productive

Lots of Fat Tire there?

  • Roundabouts came along before the PLC was concieved and were usually installed rather quickly however not under this commission as there is a waiting list.

But who wrote the huge checks and planned them so poorly that all traffic could not manuever them?

  • The T ridership continues to grow at a good pace annually.

Is it in the black? Has there been a great ROI? How many free rides every day?

Tell us, merrill, just how much do you pay in property taxes? Please enlighten everyone as to your contribution.

Sigmund 7 years, 11 months ago

Don't forget the WalMart legal fees (let alone an adverse judgment) still need to be paid for. No use cry after lost sales tax revenues. So sad.

Godot 7 years, 11 months ago

  • The T ridership continues to grow at a good pace annually."

Right. Because of all of the "free ride holidays" designated by the Komissioners.

So the city is in the process of hiring a "city auditor."

How can that be right? What city-paid auditor is going to ferret out the faulty accounting of city-paid administrators and Kommishioners?

Why do the Kommishioners willingly relegate planning decisions to third-party, highly paid, consultants at the same time they hire an inside auditor?

I would much rather see the Kommishioners hire an independent, third party, auditor, (aka not-a-"consultant" but a person who has to meet proscribed professional standards) than have them spend money on a planning consultant.

After all, an auditor, on staff, does not have to meet the standards of anyone, other than those that will please his or her employers.

Godot 7 years, 11 months ago

Merrill wrote: "Personal property taxes are the evidence."

.....of a city government out of control.

Godot 7 years, 11 months ago

Is it possible that Merrill is envisioning the increase he will see in his own property tax bill to fund these extravagant projects, and that his PLC resolve is shaken by the prospect?

budwhysir 7 years, 11 months ago

Let me recap.

income tax real estate tax sales tax personal property tax

tax is everywhere, as with everything tax grows, it never shrinks it never goes away. If we could tax a tax because of tax we would. This article is very taxing

bearded_gnome 7 years, 11 months ago

Bud, you just about have a poem there, on taxes and taxation! good work!

right on, Godot. btw, credited you RE the idea to revamp city commission into aldermen type system, under the MikeR thread. what do we need to do to push this idea further?

Godot 7 years, 11 months ago

Thanks, bearded_gnome, for the acknowledgement about revamping the city commission. I guess the first thing would be to have a meeting, say, in the adequate meeting space at the adequate library, and see who shows up.

bearded_gnome 7 years, 11 months ago

then, we have to come up with a catchy name for the pressure group. we oughta do it.

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