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Archive for Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tax restraint

Officials should look harder for ways to help city government live within its means.

June 26, 2007

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In all the recent talk about the relative merits of raising Lawrence's property tax levy or adding to the city's sales tax rate, the idea of cutting the city's costs to meet its existing revenues isn't getting much attention.

Occasionally, a city commissioner will call for additional review of city departments to try to trim expenditures, but the primary strategy for dealing with the current budget shortfalls always seems to return to taxes: a half-percent sales tax, an additional 1-mill property tax, perhaps an impact fee on new development.

While it's unlikely that there will be more than one city tax increase floated this year, and the increase will be relatively small, commissioners are missing the basic sentiment of average Lawrence residents that taxes are high enough and the city - like everyone else - should have to figure out a way to live within its means. That probably will involve putting a heavy focus on essential services like street maintenance and public safety and forgoing some amenities.

During this year's City Commission election campaign there was a lot of talk both about fiscal responsibility and the need to attract more jobs to Lawrence. Bringing more business and jobs to Lawrence is a great way to build the city's tax base, but until that happens, the city needs to control the tax burden it places on Lawrence residents. Many people who work in Lawrence already are choosing to live in other nearby towns where the cost of living isn't as high.

Reductions in city funding to social service agencies has triggered a considerable outcry in the community. Although there is little chance the city would make drastic cuts in that funding, is it better to protect that funding while raising the sales tax that these agencies' clients have to pay on everything they purchase, even food? Is it possible that local individuals and businesses would be more willing and able to donate funds to these service agencies if their tax bills were lower?

The city's property tax mill levy has declined by about 1.5 mills in the last three years. Maybe those reductions were a mistake that commissioners now must correct, but before they decide to raise any additional taxes they should take a hard, out-of-the-box look at how the city is spending its money - the hard-earned money it annually takes out of taxpayers' pockets.

Comments

Lucky 7 years, 2 months ago

A very good point, but it's much easier to raise taxes than to implement prudent budget cuts.

However, here's a win-win idea to at least consider.

Adopt a policy of two police officers in each police car, like most major cities have done to improve the safety and effectiveness of their police forces. Then we can reduce the number of police cars and cut the high associated maintenance expense without having to reduce the number of police.

I know everyone wants their own police car, but it's just too expensive. Besides we have so many police cars in this town it's obviously wasteful and very hard on the environment.

It's at least something to consider.

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Oracle_of_Rhode 7 years, 2 months ago

Close the public golf courses and return them to natural habitat in honor of fiscal sanity and biodiversity. Thanks.

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Sigmund 7 years, 2 months ago

Every dollar taken in taxes is a dollar less to be spent locally. Take $1 million out of the citizens pockets that is $1 million less they will spend on latte's at the Pig or dinner at Teller's. We have no choice but to pay taxes but do have a choice where I spend the rest. Lot's of people will be doing more shopping at Wal-Mart and Target after a tax increase. If you want Larryville to thrive into the future then the City Commission had better learn to live within their budget today. And for god's sake get the new Wal-Mart on the property tax rolls ASAP!

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Centrist 7 years, 2 months ago

I thought the editorial was spot on. Well done, ljworld!

Sigmund has a point. Can we just puhlease get the Wally World open? After all, other retailers will gather nearby, creating more jobs, taxes, etc.

And how about doing something about North and Eastern Lawrence (I mean the true East Lawrence, not those few streets near Mass. St.). Those areas are absolutely screaming out for investment. A good start would be to finally dispose of the Farmland site at public auction, so that a refurbishment can occur. Residential or commercial, whatever.

And please stop wasting money on crap. (Dadaism, anyone?)

A review from the top down is sorely needed in this town. That might actually result in cost savings and offset the need for any increase at all. Larryville is over-priced and over-rated enough already, thanks.

And when you DO actually fix roads, initiate a proper tendering process so that only the best contractors doing the best job in the best time will get the nod. Some of the repair work around here is a bad joke ..

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