Archive for Wednesday, August 13, 2008

City lowers taxes

3rd sales tax question to go on Nov. ballot

Supporters of the city's bus system won a last-minute victory at City Hall Tuesday night.

August 13, 2008


City commissioners Tuesday finalized what they called a difficult 2009 city budget without raising property tax rates, and they decided to add a third sales tax question for voters to consider in November.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to place a 0.05 percent sales tax on the Nov. 4 ballot to provide additional funding for the city's public transit system.

City commissioners last week approved a 0.20 percent sales tax for public transit operations, but were told by several members of the public that the tax would not produce enough money to sustain the city's bus service for the long term.

"I want to do this because last week there was a clear desire from many members of the public to seek more money from the public for transit," Dever said.

Here's how the new ballot language will work: The 0.20 percent sales tax to fund transit would remain on the ballot. But a separate 0.05 percent sales tax - five-hundredths of a percent - question also would be on the ballot.

Voters could cast two separate votes to support the 0.20 percent sales tax and the 0.05 percent sales tax, which if both passed would provide the transit system with 0.25 percent in sales tax funding.

But voters who believe that is too much funding for the transit system could choose to vote only for the 0.20 percent sales tax or vote for neither. The 0.05 percent sales, however, could not be approved by itself. It only would be enacted if the 0.20 percent tax also passed.

The 0.05 percent sales tax would generate about $650,000 a year, and could be used to help the city replace the bus system's aging fleet.

The new proposal also may help muster political support for the transit sales tax. Several members of the public who last week chided the City Commission for underfunding transit said they now would get out and campaign for passage of the transit taxes.

"We're happy that if we can pass these sales taxes, we can keep the T functional and healthy," said Dennis Constance, a member of Grassroots Action, a local political organization. "We can argue about whether it would be better to have one vote or two, but at least it is now possible, and we'll work to make it successful."

The two transit questions would be in addition to a 0.30 percent sales tax that will be on the ballot to fund streets, sidewalks, fire engines, stormwater improvements and other infrastructure.

Dever said he did not think voters would become confused by the multiple ballot issues, saying other cities often put five or more sales tax initiatives on one ballot.

"I think we'll just need to educate the public on the issues," Dever said.

Budget passed

Commissioners approved the sales tax initiative as they finalized the city's 2009 budget.

On a 4-1 vote, commissioners approved a city budget that anticipates the city taking in $152.5 million in revenues and spending $146.3 million.

The budget will provide about a one-tenth of a mill decrease in the city's property tax rate to 26.668 mills. A mill is $1 in property taxes for every $1,000 in assessed valuation.

Commissioners had settled most of the major issues prior to Tuesday's meeting, but faced one last round of protest from residents concerned that the budget did not provide enough funding for key social service programs.

A crowd of about 30 people marched down Massachusetts Street - backing up traffic for a few minutes - to protest what they believe were inadequate funding levels for several social service agencies including Bert Nash Mental Health Center, the drug and alcohol counseling programs of DCCCA, and the Lawrence Community Shelter.

But commissioners did not take action to add funding to the social service agencies, saying a downturn in the real estate market had the city facing its worst budget situation in recent memory.

"The fact is we're definitely in a crunch," said Commissioner Rob Chestnut. "Given that, I'm proud that we've been able to maintain much of the funding to social service agencies."

Commissioners approved the budget on a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Boog Highberger opposed. He said he could not support the budget because it tied the future of the transit system to a sales tax vote, and because it doesn't provide adequate funding to some social service agencies.

Commissioners also took a separate vote on the $185,500 worth of funding the city provides to the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. Commissioners voted on the item separately because Commissioner Sue Hack works for the chamber. Hack abstained from the vote. The funding was approved by the other four commissioners.


Sigmund 9 years, 8 months ago

Another installment of the LJW award winning series, "Chad Lawhorn Touts New City Taxes!" Part 49: City Lowers Taxes By Raising Sales Taxes!" And the coveted 1984 George Orwell Award for online articles goes to LJW Online's Chad Lawhorn! Less than 5% of city residents use the empTy yet we increase taxes and spend 2.6 million dollars every year, year after year? Vote "No" for ANY new taxes (no matter how many are added and no matter how many "educational articles" (read propaganda pieces) Chad Lawhorn, Cub Reporter, writes. Then vote against all incumbents in the next general election. Redo until we get a Commission that can live within a budget and doesn't attempt to extort more and more money year after year.This Commission needs to either cut all existing departments equally (except Fire and Police) and raise fares for the empTy to at least 25% (the national average is 22%) of the cost of the service, $2.00. Otherwise we simply must get rid of it and stop paying over $200,000/month, month after month, $2,600,000/year, year after year, in corporate welfare to MV Transportation.

cowboy 9 years, 8 months ago

did I miss the article that had all of the savings generated by new ideas from the commissioners and city staff. I thought for sure they would have had the T advertising sales program going by now , canceled the annual DTL flower budget , put a moratorium on city travel , and enacted that across the board department budget cut , not to mention a salary and new position freeze , and that auditor has sure been worth 87,000 , and that idea about letting people deal with their own grass clippings that cut the trash budget op cost by 50% , and the roll back on sewer fees cuz we ain't building the plant out south , and the the idea to quit planting trees where there is no water einstein , and the streamlining of municipal court , and the conversion of the PD from Crown vics to gas efficient smaller cars , and the new asphalt comp that lasts for more than six months on our new roads , and the ban on any new traffic inhibitors , and they cleaned the bums out of the colege neighbor hoods to keep our kids safe , and outlawed panhandling , legalized fireworks again in the city and allowed sales in the city which generated that big tax revenue event and brought lawrence back to life on the fourth , then they negotiated with Mosiman to bring the Wakarusa events into local venues and the town was full of money spending music fans , oh and that rental inspection program that inspects all every five years and does not discriminate , Oh crap , I'm sorry they didn't do any of that , they just looked the other way and put a bunch of new taxes on the ballot , My Bad

Trobs 9 years, 8 months ago

Really? I can pay more money for a service that is not only poorly designed but that I, and the majority of the city do not use? AWESOME! Where do I sign yes at?

gr 9 years, 8 months ago

"The 0.05 percent sales, however, could not be approved by itself. It only would be enacted if the 0.20 percent tax also passed."Whether it's the IRS or city government, why do they have to obfuscate things?Wouldn't it be simpler to just ask, which of the three do you want: No sales tax, 0.20 sales tax, 0.25 sales tax?By wording it awkwardly leads one to believe some intended deception is going on.

gccs14r 9 years, 8 months ago

Maybe people will get out to vote next time. Had people been paying attention, the chambercrats wouldn't have been elected.

SettingTheRecordStraight 9 years, 8 months ago

Three tax increases on the ballot? This is actually good news for those of us who want to reign in reckless government. The city commission will have its hand out three times asking for more money. We voters are smarter than to fall for that. Vote NO.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 8 months ago

Yes buttttttt what has increased substantially in the last two years? Water and sewer. Swimming pool rates. Police budget,municiple golf course budget. Actually the last time an actual mil levy was reduced was under Highberger,Schauner and Rundle.If your property value increased in this period of shrinking property values that is a property tax increase. Our property taxes have increased substantially over the 15 years due to inflated values.

Godot 9 years, 8 months ago

Merrill makes a good point. Did the commission base their budget on property values that are 10 to 15 per cent lower than last year?

jafs 9 years, 8 months ago

The figures quoted show the city taking in approximately $12.7 million/month and spending approximately $12.2million/month.How on earth are we in a budget "crunch"?And, why doesn't everything work well and look good in Lawrence? $12million/month sounds like a lot of money to me for an 80,000 population.

gr 9 years, 8 months ago

"asking for more sales tax to fund basic city services while giving money left and right for non-essential items."Is the question, 'What is governement?'

chocolateplease 9 years, 8 months ago

Why are the taxpayers funding the Chamber of Commerce which serves business owners? I checked, and many COC's are 100% self-supporting through member dues, though I don't know what percentage. Furthermore some who receive funding get it contingent on increasing their member base or other criteria. It seems like this Commission has a problem prioritizing.... asking for more sales tax to fund basic city services while giving money left and right for non-essential items.

jlw53 9 years, 8 months ago

Maybe those with many children should not complain about too high of school costs and pay your way instead of asking the general taxpayers to subsidize your choice to have more than average size family. You are free to make that choice (thankfully), but should expect to self-sustain without complaints.

Fatty_McButterpants 9 years, 8 months ago

A downturn in real estate? How about not letting any developer with a hammer, nails, and wood put up crap all over the city?? Maybe then there wouldn't be such a downturn. Maybe then there wouldn't be empty stores all over the city. Maybe then there wouldn't be empty, hastily-built apartment complexes (most of which look like shanty towns) all over the city.

Lori Nation 9 years, 8 months ago

Why waste taxes on the T isn't education more important??? Here's the break down for public schooling in Lawrence:4th grader: $367.50 in school lunches, $112 in school fees, $100.00 for bus fees, $25 in school supplies. Not including any extras throughout the year.5th grader: $367.50 in school lunches, $112 in school fees, $100.00 for bus fees, $25.00 in school supplies. Not including any extra fees during the year.7th grader: $411.25 in school lunches, $162.00 in school fees (not including sports, and individual class fees, and field trips), $25.00 in school supplies.10th grader: $411.25 in school lunches, $162.00 in school fees (not including sports/extracurricular activities and individual class fees) $? in school supplies, $100.00 in school bus fees, and this is not including yearbooks, pictures, games, and etc.grand total: $2485.50 *(if your wealthy)(of course with the school fees being so high we won't be able to afford everyday school lunches the total just to attend public school is- $948.00

seriouscat 9 years, 8 months ago

Cowboy says: "a bunch of sensible stuff...especially advertising helping to finance the T"Cowboy, when are you running for office. You have my vote!

simplyamazed 9 years, 8 months ago

I think everyone should know that the City is making cuts in the area of its employees. There have been several long time employees released over stupid stuff lately, they voted to cut the longevity pay in half, some of the unnecessary driving of vehicles home have been slightly curtailed, (although I see many of them going out 59 hwy to various other towns for conveniences of the management teams who are not truly on call for emergencies) and by golley they recycle! That is an area that really needs to be looked into because there are more dead beats working over there and making big money for the little service that we recieve! On touching the surface of the sewers, (a little pun intended) that is another really interesting area that if the public would demand to see how the money is really spent everyone would be appauld! I know because I worked there and still have friends there and it is disgusting what they get away with and no one says a word. You go Cowboy! and I would vote for you too!

Richard Heckler 9 years, 8 months ago

"Why waste taxes on the T isn't education more important???"Why didn't the superintendent and school board use taxpayers excess(?) bond money ($2,300,000) to reduce overhead/energy costs instead of adding new athletic fields?Anyway USD 497 money blah blah blah is not the responsibility of the city commission. You need to talk to the USD 497 BOD.

Lori Nation 9 years, 8 months ago

Why not use that increase towards the school system instead paying for all these ridiculous outrageous school fees!!!!!

cowboy 9 years, 8 months ago

I got too much baggage to run for office , that iran contra thing , the 7000 acre pot farm when I was in my 20's , then there was that weekend in Manhattan , damn sheep , Just kidding really !But isn't it pathetic that these folks can't find the beginning , you know , the place where you start a dirty job , at the beginning , then work your way thru it and before you know it you are in a good position again. They are so wrapped up in treading water that they can't figure out how to swim to the dock. Any way , cheers ! Vote Heck No

Richard Heckler 9 years, 8 months ago

The Chamber has issued a mandate to our city commission to cut property taxes. Apparently the mandate did not necessarily touch on reducing the cost of living. When I think of property taxes being reduced I do not think of increased user fees,swimming pool rates increase etc etc as reducing my cost of living. This is a pull the wool over taxpayers eyes approach. When I discuss property tax reduction I think in terms of someone exercising their skills required to bring in some small light industrial employer that pays higher property taxes that actually would begin to impact our property taxes. There are several empty spaces available which cost taxpayers money because they are not generating increased property tax value or employment that would generate sales tax revenue. Empty downtown space has the same impact.I do not think in terms of adding more space that requiresNEW infrastructure that expands our tax bills because then Lawrence is certainly going nowhere. The chamber/developer people say lots and lots of space is needed but they want taxpayers to subsidize their ventures. I am not interested in tax abatements,tax rebates or handing out TIF for that matter.This is the same group that brought taxpayers the problem of over stocking residential,office and retail space. Which leads me to believe they don't know what they are doing in regard to managing city revenues, economic growth or urban growth for that matter. Yet they are running city hall. This is the same group that brought taxpayers this problem:Our city's current budget crunch could easily be tied directly to infrastructure expenses needed to serve new housing developments. The community is way over extended in this regard. If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive, we would not be in a budget crunch. But with increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential housing does not pay for the services, they require from a municipality.Cutting employment does nothing for economic growth. That seems counter productive. Lawrence needs people with the skills to attract employers that fit Lawrence taxpayers needs and job market. Someone who realizes what is available in existing resources and sets out to find employers to use our existing resources and match our job market.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.