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Archive for Sunday, August 10, 2008

T tax questions

Lawrence voters shouldn’t be expected to cast informed ballots on a proposed transit sales tax without some additional data.

August 10, 2008

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Lawrence city commissioners and staff owe Lawrence voters the clearest possible explanation of what will happen if a sales tax levy to support the city's public transit system passes and what will happen if it doesn't.

The vote on a 0.2 percent sales tax to support the T is being portrayed as a simple referendum on the city bus system: If you want the T to survive you vote "yes"; if you don't, you vote "no."

Clearly, however, other questions need to be answered.

If the sales tax passes, will the 0.2 percent tax raise enough money to fund the T's current level of service? If not, will service be reduced, or will the city try to find money - elsewhere in the budget or through grants or some other source - to make up the difference?

If the sales tax fails, will the T be shut down immediately? Will the paratransit system be preserved? Will the city sell its buses and close the door to any potential revival of the bus system? Is there any chance that the city would try to continue even limited service for the fixed-route system?

Whether the sales tax passes or fails, the voters must consider the impact on any future partnership with KU on Wheels, Kansas University's student bus system. Will income from the tax be enough to satisfy KU that it wouldn't be carrying too much of the financial load in a transit partnership? If the tax fails, will the city be able to work at all to help KU on Wheels expand its routes to provide limited service to nonstudents?

Another wild card to consider is what will happen after a new City Commission is seated next April. If a failed sales tax question causes this commission to kill the T, what happens if the commission takes a pro-T turn in April? Will the city have to start from scratch on a new system?

City officials have been pretty clear on how it would use the 0.3 percent sales tax for infrastructure and fire equipment. The Lawrence school district always spells out in detail how money from a proposed bond issue would be used. Between now and Nov. 4, city officials need to clearly spell out the likely scenarios attached to both a positive and negative vote on the sales tax. If they don't know what those scenarios are, they should figure it out - now.

It's unfair to ask Lawrence voters to decide on the transportation sales tax without giving them the information they need to make an intelligent choice.

Comments

sjschlag 5 years, 8 months ago

"These excellent questions highlight the failure of our city commissioners to do their job. The decision about whether to conintue to operate the incredibly flawed T is their responsibility; it should not be up to the 10 or 12 percent of the voters who bother to vote to make the decision. And the decision should not be put off until November."I agree with you- about the city commsission. Our city commission has never been more spineless. Comments about the viability and success of our bus system aside, our city commission has failed to act. From the get-go the T has failed, not because it was a bad idea, or because the need wasn't there, but because of a lack of support from the city government. As many have stated before me, the T is not a system that satisfies the needs or wants of our city, but rather it is the system that Lawrence can (or could) afford. The city commission took funding away from the T, instead of keeping funding at the same level to increase service so it could satisfy our wants and needs. The commission then cuts the T from the city budget altogether, and washes their hands clean by proposing a sales tax which will "keep the same levels of service" i.e. setting the system up for more failure. The city commission should make the call. Either you fund the bus system, or you cut it and deal with the consequences. Don't pass it off on us. Don't call on us to make the decisions we are paying you to make. Don't have us kill the bus system (either slowly or quickly- because It's going to die whether this passes or not) because you are too spineless to say yes or no. If we are going to have a bus system, atleast give us the money we need to make it work. As far as KU on Wheels goes- 3 years ago, the city didn't want to merge with KUOW because they had crappy buses that were 25 years old, not ADA accessible, etc. Now the tables have turned! the City has crappy buses that are only 8 years old but break down on a daily basis. Many of them are barely ADA accessible thanks to wheelchair lifts which might work....it depends on the humidity levels and the average temperature over the week. If I was KU, I would be thinking twice about any mergers, especially while Hack, Dever and Chestnut are in power.....

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Solutions101 5 years, 8 months ago

hawkperchedatriverfront (Anonymous) says:"Ku students will vote for the T sales tax because they are riding it for free." "How dumb this community is?" I would say you contribute to the below-average population. Not only do you refuse to have credentials, you are incompetent to post any viable information. KU students do NOT, may I repeat, do not ride for free. In fact, KU students are FORCED to pay for a bus ticket ($20 per semester), a transportation fee (64.90 per semester), and a saferide fee ($10 per semester), whether the students use it or not. Why? Because the school uses and exploits the bus system inefficiently, i.e. running them every 10 minutes crushing roads uphill through campus while having a surplus of buses. This creates a huge deficit while oppressing each student (most having no use for the bus system) with the price. A merge would help the students because the city would help with the funding, instead of laying it out all on the students and increasing every year due to the sustainability of the bus system. Students will vote "NO" to this obscene proposal.A "yes" vote will not accomplish anything except a withstanding higher tax. This tax, no way, no how, could balance the increasing deficit from the T. A "YES" vote is a "NO" vote for the merge. The merge that would create a lower spending for the City and KU with student and taxpayer relief. The city can have a public transportation system without the T Transit. The answer is to merge KU on Wheels with the city's public transportation system. This creates a win-win situation. Please. Vote "NO" on these inefficient, non-sustainable tax proposals.

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notajayhawk 5 years, 8 months ago

stillcoolandhere (Anonymous) says: "...who hate the idea of and educated society."Doesn't seem to be much to worry about in this case.

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Godot 5 years, 8 months ago

These excellent questions highlight the failure of our city commissioners to do their job. The decision about whether to conintue to operate the incredibly flawed T is their responsibility; it should not be up to the 10 or 12 percent of the voters who bother to vote to make the decision. And the decision should not be put off until November.We citizens did not have the opportunity to cast a vote to create the T. That decision was made by the city commission. Likewise, we citizens should not be expected to bail out the commission when it is apparent to all who care about the fiscal future of this city that the T must be shut down.Someone wrote that the T will go bankrupt. That is not possible because the T does not exist except as part of the City of Lawrence. It is possible that the T could drag the City of Lawrence into bankruptcy as its commissioners fail to do their duty and stop the bleeding of the coffers as they try to "save the T." Stop the T tomorrow. Just park the busses, put them up for sale on Ebay, and deliver pink slips to the entire "T" department. That is the responsible decision the city commissioners are afraid to make. Galante knows the right decision; he has made it for himself and his family. It is time for the City Commissioners to care for their constituents, the entire city of Lawrence.

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gl0ck0wnr 5 years, 8 months ago

"stillcoolandhere (Anonymous) says:I don't understand the selfish conservitives who hate the idea of infrastructure, who hate the idea of and educated society. Tax the wealthy!!!"A bus system isn't infrastructure. Similarly, a sales tax is a tax on the poor - not the rich. Have fun with that.

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stillcoolandhere 5 years, 8 months ago

I don't understand the selfish conservitives who hate the idea of infrastructure, who hate the idea of and educated society. Tax the wealthy!!!

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gccs14r 5 years, 8 months ago

Even Salina is putting in a bus system. It's shortsighted to remove ours.

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hawkperchedatriverfront 5 years, 8 months ago

The sales tax will pass because the populace of this town is too dumb to realize that they are already paying more each time they purchase goods and services, because the prices have gone up. Also, Ku students will vote for the T sales tax because they are riding it for free, they too are dumb to pay more tax, because more tax means it isn't free. I cannot believe how dumb this community is. Truly amazing. Both issues should be voted down, with a big fat NO.

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sdinges 5 years, 8 months ago

Merill: "Why would KU on Wheels want to become the cities public transportation system?"Universities have been successful in running student-centered transportation systems in the past, and it can be useful in luring students to the university. One benefit is that the University has a built in customer base and it can manipulate it's policies and routes to encourage, or even force students to use it's bus system.Here's an example of how it worked when I went to the University of Guelph: Built into student fee was an additional sum for a bus pass. As such, all students could ride the bus for "free" with their student I.D. The university made sure everyone knew they had already paid for their bus pass, whether or not they planned on using it. The university did not build any new parking lots and put a premium on parking passes. The routes were scheduled to be convenient to class dismissal and start times, including night school; the routes also went to all popular off-campus housing blocks and a variety of other locations that students want to go. As a result, students used the bus system. Commuters were kind of screwed, but c'est la vie. Non-students were able to use the bus and paid a fare.

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madmikesuxcox 5 years, 8 months ago

I say tax the wealthy conservos out on the rich side of town. They can afford it- let em pay for it.......And tax thier churches too....

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lawrencian 5 years, 8 months ago

How will the city do any kind of real planning with the administrator leaving in 2 weeks? This editorial is a moot point, since there won't be anyone around who is knowledgeable and has time to come up with a plan, support it, and present it to the public. And where is PTAC in this process? Do they have any idea what they are going to do to help "sell" this tax to the public?

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Richard Heckler 5 years, 8 months ago

Why would KU on Wheels want to become the cities public transportation system?

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Richard Heckler 5 years, 8 months ago

Good editorial.============================================="ps. It's amazing going to other communities in Kansas and seeing new construction everywhere. Send a message to our local losers."Perhaps other communities are not over built in retail,residential,office and rental residential. In order to support all of the above there has to the necessary dollars available in any community. Because all of the above, do not magically create more dollars to support over building. Over building then creates tax revenue problems to the community. Lawrence,Kansas like many small towns cannot support sprawl growth. This is not new thinking....this is well known thinking.We all know Lawrence has plenty of low wage jobs which is why 12,000-15,000 commuters go to Topeka and KCMO Metro for work. National radio news says often KCMO is among the cities with a very good housing and job market as we speak. Bringing more Wal-Mart and warehouse type jobs to Lawrence only supports keeping wages low in Lawrence.Not a new fact. Low wage employees cannot spend enough to generate the sales tax revenues this high dollar college town requires.22 years ago Lawrence was not a high dollar college town. Today it is. Why did the powers that be allow Lawrence to become a high dollar bedroom community that is all about tax and user fee increases?

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BigPrune 5 years, 8 months ago

Why should Lawrence have big city services like a public transportation system for the people who don't want Lawrence to grow to support and justify such systems?

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 8 months ago

Why does anyone expect anything reasonable and rational from this city commission? These people are elected "at large" from the community, the winners are the ones who can print and distribute the most yard signs, and they are each, to an individual, beholden to the city manager and his staff. None of them are capable of individual thought and reason, they merely occupy mythical and elusive "position" to rubber-stamp the directions of the "city staff". Misconduct and downright criminal acitvity in the city government is acceptable to these druids who only resppond to the desires of the city manager and his minions. Why do you think we would get any sort of understandable and meaningful explanation from them on any issue??

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SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 8 months ago

Even if this tax increase passes, the .2% and the thousand$ it will take from working families will not be enough to save the emp-T. Therefore, I will laugh long and hard when the emp-T eventually goes bankrupt. Its buses and other assets will be sold off at fire-sale prices, and our community may finally realize that we cannot have the socialist utopia here in Lawrence that the Progressive Lawrence and IMPAC crew want so badly to see.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

"If the sales tax passes, will the 0.2 percent tax raise enough money to fund the T's current level of service?"No, it won't be enough."If the sales tax fails, will the T be shut down immediately?"Even if it passes, there is now no money in the budget to operate the public transit system, and won't be until the tax is fully implemented, which will take awhile."If a failed sales tax question causes this commission to kill the T, what happens if the commission takes a pro-T turn in April?"Regardless of how this vote goes, the commission and the community will still need to deal with the public transportation issue, because it will still be a need that has never been adequately dealt with. Killing or underfunding the "T" will not make the need for public transportation go away.

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BigPrune 5 years, 8 months ago

Say No to new taxes. Make the City make cuts from within, like reducing staff to coincide with our lack of growth these past 7 years. No growth = lose job.Send a message, Vote "No" ps. It's amazing going to other communities in Kansas and seeing new construction everywhere. Send a message to our local losers.

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