Archive for Saturday, July 7, 2007

Tax increase recommended

Budget suggestions also include raising pool fees; Swimmers would be charged flat rate of $4


Lawrence Outdoor Aquatic Center patrons, clockwise from bottom center, Chrisilln Wilburn, 9, Julyan Wilson, 14, Danny Lee, 14, and Christian Blair, 14, jump for a rebound while playing basketball Friday at the pool, 727 Ky. Lawrence City Manager David Corliss is recommending that fees for the city swimming pool be increased to a flat $4 per-person rate for everybody 5 years and older, which would more than double the rate for children.

Lawrence Outdoor Aquatic Center patrons, clockwise from bottom center, Chrisilln Wilburn, 9, Julyan Wilson, 14, Danny Lee, 14, and Christian Blair, 14, jump for a rebound while playing basketball Friday at the pool, 727 Ky. Lawrence City Manager David Corliss is recommending that fees for the city swimming pool be increased to a flat $4 per-person rate for everybody 5 years and older, which would more than double the rate for children.

July 7, 2007

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Sophia Walters, 8, left, and group leader Mercades Beckum sing karaoke to Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" as they play the video game SingStar on Friday morning during the Boys and Girls Club Summer Camp at Cordley School.

Sophia Walters, 8, left, and group leader Mercades Beckum sing karaoke to Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" as they play the video game SingStar on Friday morning during the Boys and Girls Club Summer Camp at Cordley School.

City services may cost Lawrence residents at least $875,000 more next year

Lawrence's city manager releases his recommended budget tonight which calls for a property tax increase of about 1 million dollars! But you won't find a large increase in city services or programs in this budget. Enlarge video

Related document

City Manager's Recommended 2008 Budget ( .PDF )

Save the T. Spare the streets. Give city employees a raise. Write a bigger property tax check. And, oh yeah, pay more for swimming.

That's your 2008 recommended city budget in a nutshell.

City Manager David Corliss on Friday afternoon announced that he's recommending a 1.026-mill levy increase for 2008 to avoid significant cuts in city services, including cutbacks in the public transit system and reductions in street maintenance.

Corliss also recommends that fees for the city swimming pool be increased to a flat $4 per-person rate for everybody 5 years and older, which would more than double the rate for children.

City commissioners now must decide whether they will support the tax and fee increases.

"I don't make these recommendations lightly, and I'm sure the City Commission won't treat them lightly," Corliss said.

But Corliss said tax and fee increases are necessary to avoid significant service cuts. Corliss'

recommended budget would avoid many of the high-profile cuts.

The budget recommendation calls for:

l Status quo for the T, the city's public transit system.

¢ A 2 percent increase in pay for city employees. Corliss said surveys of other community's pay plans show Lawrence needs to increase salaries or risk losing experienced employees.

¢ A $100,000 increase in city spending on street maintenance. The recommended budget provides for $5.4 million in street maintenance. That is still far short of the $6.45 million that the city's public works leaders have said is needed to keep pace with the city's aging streets.

A mill is $1 in property tax for every $1,000 in taxable value in property that a person owns. The owner of a $200,000 home - 11.5 percent of which is taxable - would pay an additional $23 per year in city property taxes as the result of a 1-mill increase.

Friday afternoon, just minutes after the budget was publicly released, it was clear city commissioners would be divided on several issues.

City Commissioner Mike Amyx said he was extremely concerned about a 1-mill property tax increase. He said he wanted to find a way to give a pay raise to city employees, but he stopped short of endorsing a mill levy increase to avoid T cuts. Of the approximately 1-mill increase, 0.30 of a mill would be for a pay increase, while 0.7 of a mill would be for the T.

"I'll work to do whatever I can to reduce that," Amyx said of a mill levy increase. "I do want to protect our employees, and if that means we have to look at cutting programs, then that is what we'll have to do."

Amyx, though, said he did not have any qualms about raising the pool fees. The increase in fees is expected to generate a 38 percent increase in revenues - or an extra $130,000 - to pay for swimming pool operations. Corliss said he faced three choices: increase fees, cut pool hours or raise the property tax rate.

City Commissioner Boog Highberger was having a harder time swallowing the pool fee increase than he was the increase in the property tax rate. He said he could live with the property tax increase as long as it went to keep good city employees and avoid cuts to the T.

"I think it would put a lot of people out of work," Highberger said about reducing the hours the T operates. "There are people in this community who depend on the T."

Highberger, though, expressed concern that there would be many families who would not be able to use the swimming pool on a regular basis if fees increase.

Commissioner Rob Chestnut said he wanted to more closely examine the budget before deciding on the proposed mill levy increase. But he did say he supports the 2 percent pay increase for city employees. He also said he was fine with the pool fee increase, as long as it kept Lawrence's rates comparable to other communities.

Attempts to reach Mayor Sue Hack and Commissioner Mike Dever for comment were unsuccessful.

The budget, if approved, also is expected to create some tight times for area social service agencies that rely on city funding. Of the 24 agencies and organizations that receive money from the city's general fund - which range from the Boys and Girls Club to the Lawrence Arts Center - only one is receiving any increase in funding compared with the 2007 budget. The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce is receiving an additional $50,000 for economic development initiatives.

Corliss said that was appropriate because the city's largest challenge is adding new jobs and businesses to the community to increase the city's tax base.

"There is no lack of requests of what people want to do, whether it be new social services or downtown redevelopment, but there is a lack of a growing tax base," Corliss said.

Corliss highlighted a lack of business and industrial growth as he prepared last year's budget, as well. He said the city is struggling to get infrastructure - everything from sewer service to new industrial parks - in place to allow for the type of business growth that the city needs.

"I think our big flaw is that we're playing catch-up, and that is hard," Corliss said. "We don't have the infrastructure in place for some of our aspirations. We're doing lots of things, but it takes time. It is not a drive-through proposition."

In other news from the budget:

l Downtown Lawrence Inc., the nonprofit organization that markets downtown, may have to fight for its future city funding. Corliss included $47,000 in the recommended budget, but added a note that city commissioners may want to instead put the money in a city-controlled fund to market downtown rather than give it to Downtown Lawrence Inc.

¢ The budget does not accomplish the goal of balancing revenues and expenses. The general fund budget - the fund the city uses for day-to-day operations - will spend $1.39 million more than it is projected to take in via revenues. General fund spending is budgeted to increase by 5.9 percent, while revenues are projected to grow by 3.9 percent.

¢ The budget includes $250,000 in funding for Bert Nash's WRAP program, which works with troubled youth in Lawrence Schools. That's down from approximately $350,000 in past city budgets.

¢ The entire 2008 budget is based on an upturn in the economy. The budget projects sales tax revenues to grow by 3.5 percent in 2008. Currently, sales tax revenues in for this year are flat. Both Corliss and commissioners said sales tax revenues would have to be watched closely.

The budget also projects a 3.5 percent increase in property values compared with a traditional growth rate of 6 percent to 7 percent.

Commissioners need to approve a budget by early August. They are expected to review the budget during a study session the week of July 16.

Comments

cms 7 years, 9 months ago

So the city builds a magificent pool and now the city will raise prices to reduce the number of children that can take advantage of it? So sad. What about a free swim Tuesdays or something of the sorts?

Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

The T in 2006 provided 421,864 one way trips and 55,176 0n the T Lift of which 72% were related to employment,medical and education all of which are important.

Would any of us enjoy working hard and not get a raise?

There are a lot of complaints about city street conditions that come across this venue sooo it must be time to fix them as requested. Pothole Hotline 832-3456. On the east side of Mass perhaps the focus could be 7th,9th,11th,13th to Haskell. Tenn and Kentucky come to mind.

The sales tax shortfall is projected not necessarily real. Hopefully it will pick up. The sidewalk sale should help. We'll all be watching for that "normal" 3.5% increase in our property taxes as written in stone for the next 20 years.

Keith 7 years, 9 months ago

"The budget, if approved, also is expected to create some tight times for area social service agencies that rely on city funding....The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce is receiving an additional $50,000 for economic development initiatives."

By what stretch of the imagination is the Chamber a social service organization? Also, Downtown Lawrence Inc. may have their funding administered directly by the city but the Chamber gets an increase? What results have we been getting from all the Eco Devo money poured into the Chamber these past few years? If that had been a worthwhile investment, we wouldn't be so worried about tax revenues right now.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

"The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce is receiving an additional $50,000 for economic development initiatives." Are they now receiving about $175,000 with the 50k increase?

Taxpayers deserve to know what exactly is their focus,how is the money spent and from where is their source of direction? The Lawrence real estate industry has such influence it is kind of a concern. 25 years of expanding the tax base through direction from the real estate industry has not provided the light industrial employment the city needs to shore up the tax base. Farmland is a perfect example of why polluting industries are not affordable.

monkeyhawk 7 years, 9 months ago

Hit the helpless taxpayer again, and harder. Take money out of the pockets of the minority property owner citizens and redistribute the wealth to social programs, more frivolous tax draining ventures (toxic waste dumps), and give raises to the city with what is left.

Our cc is hellbent on acheiving whatever it is they are determined to do. Of course, the masses are not privy to what goes on behind those closed doors, or how much "it" is going to cost. But, for sure, the course of least resistance will be to raise the taxes that get no vote. And then do it again next year. What kind of fools project rosier outlooks when there are no indications for that justification?

They really need to realize that there is a certain limit to how much the little people are going to take. We are getting close to that limit, if we are not there already.

Nothing like a good old fashioned tax hike party to unite the populous.

lunacydetector 7 years, 9 months ago

421,864 one way trips @ $ .50 a trip = $210,932

what does the city spend to subsidize the T Bus? what is it, $1 Million bucks or more? so we are roughly $800,000 short?

...and you guys b*tch about $50,000?

gccs14r 7 years, 9 months ago

":and you guys b*tch about $50,000?"

No, we b*tch about $175,000 and other giveaways.

kansasnative 7 years, 9 months ago

Let me get this straight - the pool prices should be raised in order to pay for the T bus that they may take to the pool and the road maintenance that the buses drive over to get our kids to the pool. ok - um sounds reasonable? to me? Surely I am misunderstanding::: this is just crazy. I can't wait to see what they come up with next - maybe charging admission to the Parks & Rec ball games and putting a quarter in a machine to use the park swings or slides??? Great, I just gave them an idea.

Sigmund 7 years, 9 months ago

Every dollar in additional taxes is one less dollar to spend a Loco Burger, Los Merc, and Local Coffee. This will hurt local merchants, downtown most of all, more than it will the large discount retailers.

It is seriously outrageous, but Lawrence will allow it, it always has. Think this and the three mil increase in real estate taxes are the end? You haven't seen the bill for Farmland or legal fee's from WalMart litigation. Before too long Lawrence will be begging for a new WalMart, Sam's Club and Costco. It will the only way you will be able to pay their taxes and still maintain a similar quality of life. It is as inevitable as there will another tax increase next year, year after year.

I hope there are three members of the City Commission that have some basic understanding of economics, have some sense of duty to the Citizens of Lawrence and understand that every dollar taken from the public in taxes is a dollar less for rent, groceries, and merchants downtown.

Sigmund 7 years, 9 months ago

Oh, balance the current City Budget by every Department (except police and fire) by 5%!!!

kugrad 7 years, 9 months ago

  • Cut City Administration, personnel is a big cost. When is the last time the bureacracy itself was evaluated for efficiency; surely it is top heavy with too many administrators.
  • Stop building things like expensive signs welcoming people to Lawrence. Nice, but we can't afford this sort of thing.
  • Never ever give any kind of tax abatement to big box retailers. They want to locate here, and they will whether we offer them tax incentives or not. No big box will stay away because of a lack of a tax abatement.
  • More parking meters in parts of town outside of Downtown.
  • Add a quarter or half-cent tax on goods at all big box retailers. This has been done and it is legal and it helps them pay back for the costs the community incurs with traffic, roads, and so on.
  • Let the city run a for-profit recycling program to encourage more recycling and to make $ other than by taxing people.
  • Stop putting up cute little flags on poles over the bridge and downtown and such. Nice, but we can't afford it.
  • More swimming? Why?

Cut the fat first, then we'll talk. No more new taxes.

gccs14r 7 years, 9 months ago

If they want to raise the mil levy, they should exempt the first $50k of valuation so the poorer folks can still eat. Getting rid of the sales tax on food would be good, too.

Kansas used to get a substantial federal tax subsidy, courtesy of the blue states. W reduced that, which is why we're now scrambling to pay for basic services statewide. If we want to crawl out of the hole we're in, we need to quit being a cultural laughingstock and kick all the fundies out of the Legislature. They're an embarassment.

Kontum1972 7 years, 9 months ago

raise the fines on the parking meters to 10.00 a pop*...if corliss wants to make some friends he needs to take a cut in his salary....just to demonstrate his goodwill...to lawrence..he makes 100k + ...his wife makes big bucks too..its two income family..they wont be hurting....set the example corliss if u love this city so much...or do u love your pocketbook more? "MAKE A DIFFERENCE"

*the current fine is idiotic

Sigmund 7 years, 9 months ago

So the current bid on Farmland, WalMart lawsuit, $1 million roundabouts and $1,400,000 in corporate subsidies for the empTy is" W and the fundies" fault? What color is the sky in your world??

KsTwister 7 years, 9 months ago

I think it is time for the public to get to see an amended budget showing waste cuts and bare bones budgeting before any tax increases anywhere. I haven't seen any cuts even worth print. Prove you can do the office you were voted for. The money spent on Eagle Bend would more than fund the pool needs. Why is the city counting on sales tax revenues when the Ks State Revenue Board is warning that doing so will create budget shortages? "¢ The budget does not accomplish the goal of balancing revenues and expenses. ".......Fix it now so it does.

tcoup 7 years, 9 months ago

Outsource trash collection to Defenbaugh. We could then take advantage of curside recycling AND cut the cost of our current service.

white_mountain 7 years, 9 months ago

How can families afford to pay for health care and their kids' college education when taxes keep going up??

Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

Spread the word. Stonebacks Appliance is quite competitive and provides excellent sevice.

Kat Christian 7 years, 9 months ago

So the city waits until they're in trouble to give their employees' a raise. So why don't the 6 digit salary persons cut some of their pay and donate it to their employee's pay raises - that's one cut they can do. Now they want to keep pace with the city's aging streets - where were they in the past "asleep"? And whose bright idea was it to close off ALL the streets to Michigan making it almost impossible to get my kid to daycare? What bird brain thought of that idea and how much do they get paid? What a major inconvenience. I had to call the daycare ask if they knew how to get to them.
And I agree with kugrad: Cut City Administration, surely it is top heavy with too many administrators who by the way get paid 6 figure incomes. Let the city run a for-profit recycling program to encourage more recycling and to make $ other than by taxing people.
Stop building things like expensive signs welcoming people to Lawrence and flags for the bridge. Nice, but we can't afford this sort of thing - right now we can't afford non-essential image builders. And don't forget those expensive roundabouts that no one wants. Yea, cut the fat first.
And it might not be a bad idea to raise the parking fee to $5.00. Also, cut back on the T - especially during late hours Saturdays.
And Sigmund says: Every dollar in additional taxes is one less dollar to spend a Loco Burger, Los Merc, and Local Coffee and other shops. This will hurt local merchants, downtown most of all, more than it will the large discount retailers. Because people will just head for Walmart even more. Let's face it their prices are cheaper than the downtown stores.
Let the citizen choose what money comes out of their pockets instead of it being forced by tax increases.

monkeyhawk 7 years, 9 months ago

Is it possible that the city employees who stand to gain from a wage increase might be the same city commissioners that who might approve the tax increase? Don't I remember hearing that the ex-mayor had to declare bankruptcy because the cc pay was so low?

WilburM 7 years, 9 months ago

$4 to swim? Let's balance (sic) the budget on the back of poor and working class kids and families!! So we can subsidize the Chamber? This is nuts, and almost designed to fail. It really is time for a top-to-bottom analysis of what the city does and what it should be doing.

But to be so callous toward kids and families is truly staggering. Back to the drawing board.

Godot 7 years, 9 months ago

Why just raise rates for the pool? Raise green fees at Eagle Bend while you are at it. And raise the cost to ride the T to the actual cost to operate; either that, or shut it down.

Nikki May 7 years, 9 months ago

Ok, I'm reading all the posts, but I'm still hung up on a 5 year old paying $4 to get into the pool! I have a hard enough time when I pay $3.75 for myself. I checked, Topeka has that nice pool at gage park. 16 & over: $4.00 Youth 6-15: $2.50 5 & under: $1.50 Ok, so a hair more than what we are paying now, but not $4 across the board. And, I was in Ottawa the other day and thought they had a nice pool, so I looked at their prices. 2 and under - free, 12 and under - $1.50 and 13up - $2.00 Baldwin - Children (3 & under): Free Children (4 - 13): $2.00 Adults (14 & over): $3.00

So, this $4 thing is NOT any where close to the area pools I looked up. Does any one know any pool they charge a kid that price?

Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

Stoneback Appliance offers 90 days same as cash with 25% down. Very reasonable.

lelly 7 years, 9 months ago

No more funds to the chamber of commerce

sell eagle bend

charge impact fees to developers

cut admin at city hall by 10%

Leave the pool alone. I'd rather subsidize the pool than eagle bend.

beatrice 7 years, 9 months ago

Has anyone tried to get a private company or individual to subsidize the pool? Think of all the money KU Athletics brings in -- couldn't just a tiny portion of that go to pay for the local swimming pool? There are options, if anyone wanted to be creative.

erod0723 7 years, 9 months ago

Bea, HAHAHA. That was a good one. The athletic department caring about the local community? Bill Self has an annual golf tournament with the proceeds going to help LPRD. The community should try something similar to raise money for the pool.

Eileen Jones 7 years, 9 months ago

How much is the city bidding on the toxic site east of town? Taxpayers deserve to know.

Confrontation 7 years, 9 months ago

With the pool fee increase, the rich Lawrencians will have just what they wanted: no undue influence from children living in poverty. Your kids can swim with Kylie, Rylie, Preslee, and all the other future cheerleaders of America who names end with an "e" sound.

person184 7 years, 9 months ago

Confrontation (Anonymous) says:

With the pool fee increase, the rich Lawrencians will have just what they wanted: no undue influence from children living in poverty. Your kids can swim with Kylie, Rylie, Preslee, and all the other future cheerleaders of America who names end with an "e" sound.


That's funny! Hey wait a minute, my daughter's name ends with the 'ee' sound!

Confrontation 7 years, 8 months ago

I'm just making fun of the new popular names. No offense to your daughter. My mom and sister both have the "e" sound, too :)

XTC 7 years, 8 months ago

I would not be apposed to a mill levy increase if the swimming pool was free to all. This is coming from a SINC home owner. ( single income no children)

Godot 7 years, 8 months ago

How much is the city getting from the one cent per dollar spent sales tax enacted in the early 90's that was expressly for the pools and other parks and rec improvements, and that was supposed to sunset last year? The Kommissioners did not sunset that tax, but they have not told us how they are spending the unapproved 1 cent per dollar spent, and now they are raising the fees for the pool AND raising the mill levy, in order to provide raises to city employees, while creating more 6 figure administrative positions, who, of course, benefit from the raises more than do the employees on the lower end of the pay scale.

NO

we_r_witte 7 years, 8 months ago

The pool fee going to $4/person is outrageous. My family of 5 would pay $100/week to use the pool our usual 5 days. This is supposed to be a pool for the community to use, it would be cheaper to get a membership at Alvamar. Why not charge a babysitting fee for the kids who arrive without adult supervision? That should make up the income right there. The T would have more riders, my family included, if they went to a bus pass system and set up a grid. It should not take me two hours to get from 23rd and Harper to 6th and Wakarusa. Many cities have successful grid systems instead of riding to a central hub and waiting 1/2 hour for the next bus. I would not mind paying a mill increase if the tax valuation didn't also jump $25,000. My tax valuation is over $40,000 more than it's REAL value and it will increase again this year.

Nikki May 7 years, 8 months ago

Well, I know I'm not going to swim in Olathe.

helenback 7 years, 8 months ago

I see one agency asked for support and got left out in the cold.

Apparently the city has only so much desire to help folks without health care. Sadly, there hasn't been any support awarded to the Leo Center, and that means the food pantry, Heartland Medical, and their other support services there won't be better equipped in the coming year.

Does this seem fair or in our population's best interest? Is this what we want of our tax dollars? Should more money be focused on health care to those who aren't able to pay at a normal doctor's office, but aren't qualified to get help at HCA?

There are so many folks out there who need care but CAN'T go to HCA because they make 'too much money' (what if they have extenuating circumstances?), or 'have medical insurance' but it doesn't cover office visits- or has a $5000 deductible and is for major catastrophic coverage only? These people need assistance, too. Shouldn't the city help this agency, as well? Some in our community don't fit into a neat little package of poverty as described in HCA qualifications, but need resources because of life circumstances. Poverty and need is complicated and doesn't always look as one might think.

These two different agencies serve two different populations. Shouldn't the city care for both populations equally? If you have a $5000 ded. policy and have diabetes, where do you go when you need help? How do you afford test strips and medication- what do you do if you get bronchitis or the flu? I hear the ER is lovely this time of year.

calamityjane 7 years, 8 months ago

And now that I've posed that question to Corliss on the online chat regarding the budget, he appears none too eager to answer. Great.

calamityjane 7 years, 8 months ago

Well, he answered, but it was a dodge. If Heartland Medical Clinic got 1% of the whole budget, it wouldn't kill any of the other agencies, and it would provide tons of medical care, etc. to our community. It's a shame it seems to be all or nothing, in that the other 24 agencies got all they asked, and Heartland got nothing.

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