Archive for Monday, July 16, 2007

City Hall finds budget decisions hard to come by

Commissioners were split on several key items

July 16, 2007


What the future of public transit will look like in Lawrence is still up in the air after city commissioners met this morning to discuss the troubled 2008 city budget.

Same goes for what future property tax bills will look like in the city.

Commissioners were split on several key items, including whether they could support City Manager David Corliss' recommendation of a 1-mill property tax increase.

On the issue of public transit, commissioners were split on whether to cut the hours of the T, the city's bus system, from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m. Mayor Sue Hack and Boog Highberger said now, with rising fuel costs, was the wrong time to cut hours. Commissioner Rob Chestnut said he could support the cut in service hours for 2008, but would lobby hard for the T to consolidate with Kansas University's bus systems for 2009.

To avoid a cut in service hours, an approximately 0.7-mill increase will be needed, Corliss said. Even with the cut in service, an approximately 0.4-mill levy increase will be needed. Corliss did provide commissioners with an option that would not require a mill levy increase, but that require cuts in hours, cuts in routes and longer wait times for riders. Commissioners said they were not interested in that option.

Commissioners also were split on whether city employee should be given an across-the-board 2-percent wage increase. That would require a 0.3 mill levy increase. Chestnut and Commissioner Mike Dever said they did not think a property tax rate increase was appropriate at this time. Hack and Highberger both said they thought the wage increase was necessary for the city to keep good employees.

Commissioner Mike Amyx said he was supportive of the wage increase, but he stopped short of endorsing an increase in property taxes. Instead, Amyx brought up his proposal to create a new sales tax.

Amyx is proposing a half-cent sales tax for five years that would be used for street and sidewalk maintenance. The commission then could use some of $5.3 million it currently spends on street maintenance for other city needs.

Other commissioners said they had some interest in the idea, but thought it was too late to help the 2008 budget. The sales tax would have to be approved by city voters.


KsTwister 10 years, 10 months ago

"...half-cent sales tax for five years ". The best joke of the year! Like it would not be increased or removed, people are smarter then to think that. More taxes, the City Hall answer to mismanagement. More of the "spend it and they will come" mentality?

Bud Stagg 10 years, 10 months ago

WHO NEEDS THE T? no city our size has TWO bus services. Most have none. Either combine KU and the T or get rid of the T. Close the T and give that money as raises to the employees. I'm sick and tired of programs that tax the many to benefit the few.

pity2bu 10 years, 10 months ago

I think if the city needs to raise taxes then increase the mill two fold. If people don't like it, pack your car and find one of the four roads leading out of this city. Oh by the way take one of our local transients, or three of our anarchists with you when you leave.

May you can even pay to T to take you and your friends where they want to go!

Party On Complainers!!!!

pity2bu 10 years, 10 months ago

I just got excited knowing I was going to type everyone a friendly blog and I mispelled some words. Let me correct myself..

Maybe you can even pay the T to take you and your friends where they want to go and help their budget as well...

pity2bu 10 years, 10 months ago

I not going anywhere twister.. its for people like yourself, the complainers, Raise the taxes..... I got the money...

KsTwister 10 years, 10 months ago

You know Pity, I usually don't issue with many things but I will voice my opinion for family (120+) and friends living in Lawrence---when we used to have a little pride about living here. We have PAID high taxes already and lately it seems they are not being spent for what we were promised. Take a drive for one example. And LJW even pulled the headlines today for the Park & Rec article --you know the $1 million picnic plaza. But then again let me remind you (if you are a taxpayer), if everyone stood down and never uttered a word you would never be able to afford to live here. Previous commissions robbed future funds to pay for their pet projects and let things get run down. Coming up short and with their hand out but some people are getting hit harder than others (i.e. young adults and seniors). This city was working fine at one time and looked good too. We should have kept better watch. Unless you have hit the lottery or something you should thank us. We're at 120 mills, how much more would you like (perhaps they could use your donation or smoke as the case may be) and this includes the City (30), the County(30) and District 497 (57.8) and State (1.5). And there are six roads out of town.

Sigmund 10 years, 10 months ago

Balance the current budget with current revenues. You want the empTy? Fine, cut somewhere else. Lets see, $1,400,000 to run empty buses that comes to 28 employees making $50,000 in salary and benefits. Or, raise the price of a ride to $2 and cut 10 employees. Better yet just raise the price equal to the cost of providing the service, $3.30 per ride, still a cheaper than a cab ride.

Or cut all city departments (except fire and police) by a percentage needed to meet current revenues. Finally, and this is a "radical" suggestion, try cutting tax rates. While this appears counter-intuitive, experience has shown that more often than not cutting tax rates actually leads to higher tax revenues.

There is often talk of what the Commission can do to attract employers to Lawrence. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is more attractive to a business than a responsible city government that can balance its budget, doesn't have to constantly roll its deficit, and doesn't constantly threaten its citizens, year-after-year, with higher taxes. Given the City Commissions history and apparent lack of even basic education in Economics, I wouldn't invest a dollar of capital nor or hire a single employee in Lawrence unless I had no other choice.

cowboy 10 years, 10 months ago

The commission and moreso the city staff are a collective bunch of absolute incompetent chickensh!&'s who are incapable of building a sound financial plan. All of you should resign tomorrow morning first thing .

nbnozzy 10 years, 10 months ago

Want to save the city money? Fire the city manager and replace him with one of his assistants at half the price. Stop paying the city commisioners ANY money as they have full time jobs and can live without the 10K per year each. Knock off buying that useless art crap that clutters our city, paying for "consultants" when the answers to many of the cities questions are right in front of their faces. Demand NO MORE of these "fact finding" trips for commisioners and city manager to go to Washington DC and where ever. Those in charge could budget easily if they really wanted to cut out the useless waste. It starts with the city manager folks, he makes the recommendations. And what does he want.....????? To increase HIS department. A pink slip should be issued to him on friday.

davisnin 10 years, 10 months ago

Hawk, East Hills has many of the largest employers in Lawrence. Plus there is no safe place for a bus to turn around that is any quicker than driving through.

nell 10 years, 10 months ago

I work with a user of the T who, with her teenage offspring, have found public transportation to be more economical than buying, paying taxes on, fueling, insuring and repairing a vehicle. Bravo! Note that this co worker is not a person without health insurance, and who makes a decent enough wage...times have changed and she is using the system to her - and her family's - advantage.

The fact that citizens are choosing to rely on public transportation is an important precedent in a city such as Lawrence, that wants to attain it's class of urbanity yet maintain it's small-town level (read, low level) of service.

This is a nascent trend that should be nurtured. I, personally, would support a tax-deductible contribution to such a cause. Besides, how else are we going to get workers to the now-nearly (I hope) inevitable wild west 6th walmart?

Sigmund 10 years, 10 months ago

Nell the question becomes, would your friend and other citizens "choosing to rely" on subsidized buses, still find the price a bargain if they had to pay the full cost of providing the service in the price of the fare? It would still be cheaper than a car or a taxi but not as much of a bargain as it is today. Should the rest of city services and taxpayers suffer because some want a service below the cost to provide it?

Your idea of a non-profit bus system is a interesting one, except MV Transportation is a private corporation whose owners make a very good living collecting corporate welfare from the taxpayers of Lawrence and other cities. MV Transportation allowed to be as inefficient and as wasteful as possible without any possibility of loss. What other business can afford to lose money year after year without adjusting to economic reality, not enough people value your service to make it worthwhile continuing to provide it.

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