Archive for Sunday, December 28, 2008

City budget forecast stormy

Commissioners face raising taxes, cutting services as revenue declines

In a sign of the city's fiscal woes, City Manager David Corliss turned down a raise in his salary as part of his annual evaluation in October 2006. Corliss is pictured in his office at that time. The current fiscal status isn't any better.

In a sign of the city's fiscal woes, City Manager David Corliss turned down a raise in his salary as part of his annual evaluation in October 2006. Corliss is pictured in his office at that time. The current fiscal status isn't any better.

December 28, 2008

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories, looking ahead to 2009.


Batten down the hatches.

City Hall is ready to sail into choppy waters in 2009, as city leaders likely will be confronted with the first overall decline in Lawrence property values in memory.

“It looks like we’ll be headed into uncharted territory,” said City Commissioner Rob Chestnut — who as vice mayor is expected to be chosen by city commissioners in April to become the city’s next mayor.

The property values are expected to be a major story throughout 2009 both on the real estate front and with local government. Property values are a major component in how much money the city receives in property taxes.

If property values go down — which the Douglas County appraiser has said is likely — city government will receive less in property taxes, unless commissioners decide to increase the mill levy.

“I think that will be the crux of the issue,” Chestnut said. “Whether we increase the mill levy to maintain services or whether we cut services. I think we are going to have to have a discussion about what our core services are and what we believe they should be.”

Commissioners, in essence, had that type of discussion in 2008. Commissioners debated whether the public transit system was a core city service, and ultimately put the issue in the hands of the voters — who approved two sales taxes to keep the system on the road.

City Manager David Corliss said he doesn’t anticipate the debate taking that type of turn in 2009.

“I anticipate a serious discussion about prioritization,” Corliss said, “but it is difficult to see what other large services we have that we would give to the will of the voters.”

But city leaders may have the results of this year’s sales tax elections on their mind in 2009. Corliss said the fact that voters overwhelmingly approved all three sales taxes — two were for the bus system and one was for increased infrastructure funding — may give commissioners pause in making major reductions in city services.

“I think the community supports the current city services, but that makes reducing any of those services challenging,” Corliss said.

City Commission elections also will play a large role in 2009. Voters will elect three commissioners in April. Commissioners Mike Amyx, Boog Highberger and Sue Hack have terms that are expiring. None has yet announced plans on seeking re-election.

Highberger said whether he is there or not, he expects the city will have a hard time finding places to cut the city budget without cutting the level of service that residents also receive.

“We’re really at the point where we are getting as much as we can out of the current staff,” Highberger said “I don’t see any other place where we can cut positions and maintain existing service levels. Just maintaining what we have is going to be the real challenge for next year.”

The city has cut 15 positions — through attrition — from the 2009 budget. Corliss said the city will have to be open to other cost-cutting measures as well.

“We’re going to have to be nimble enough to deal with whatever the economy throws at us,” Corliss said.


jmadison 9 years, 3 months ago

I have faith that the city commission will find that raising taxes is the best way to prosperity for the citizens of Lawrence, just as the school board has concluded.

TopJayhawk 9 years, 3 months ago

Property values in Lawrence have been over-inflated for yrs now. The market is just correcting itself.

cowboy 9 years, 3 months ago

“We’re really at the point where we are getting as much as we can out of the current staff,” Highberger said I agree with you wholeheartedly Boog. This is the staff that can't ever figure out a way to save any money. Let me give you a few suggestions....Stop printing and mailing all the crapola you put in the water bills each monthMail water bills every 60 daysStop planting trees where there is no waterStop picking up peoples grass clippings weekly , run a chipper truck thru for limbs once a month.Stop funding the downtown parties , and the downtown flowersFreeze vehicle purchasesFreeze travelFreeze out of house studiesFire the auditorReduce the codes staff , the building permits are way downMandatory 10% reduction in all departmental budgetsAny department manager who cannot accomplish this should be relieved of their duties.Halt any new investment in the T for 2 yearsHalt any new land purchases for two yearsSell surplus city landtheres a start list for ya !

Richard Heckler 9 years, 3 months ago

Building more residential will only add to the home value problem in Lawrence,Kansas. Tighter markets retain the values. Bedroom communities screw residential values which is typical of boom town economics as it always comes to an end. This mentality is unfriendly to existing residential owners.Building more retail in Lawrence is unfriendly to existing business due to overstock. Why keep approving more and more? Where is the logic? Why bring on more economic displacement? Economic displacement is unfriendly to business.Instead of building new roads which increases the cost of community services let's fix existing roads and sidewalks to keep folks employed. There is plenty of repair work in Lawrence = no need to expand tax bills with new infrastructure. Think fiscally responsible.People may be forced to leave Lawrence as a result of bad economics which seems to represent republican thinkers of the last 30 years. Lawrence certainly does not need more new neighborhoods for years to come until Lawrence can afford to take care of what we have. Property values and personal property taxes have been dropping however user fees such as water,trash,swimming etc etc have been increasing to make up for the property tax decreases aka facade.

Sigmund 9 years, 3 months ago

Gee, these are tough questions...-pause-I know let's raise property taxes on homes, apartments and businesses. Agreed!Time for lunch.

Stephen Roberts 9 years, 3 months ago

Merrill: Yawn another cut and paste. If you don't like what is happening, run for the city commission . Come on Comrade run, run run. Maybe just run away. Don't go away mad- just go away.!!

KsTwister 9 years, 3 months ago

Little by little those speedbumps add up, not that they slow anyone down by any means. The city continues to spend even though warnings about the local economy was not heeded for the last couple of years. So ask us if they are truly trying to help the citizens by limiting their requests in all departments and the answer is a sarcastic "sure they are",and "are you kidding??!!!" Still have the trails, renovation to the art center and the library on the books as well as eyeing Farmland real estate just to name a few. And the "T",golf course like we need to fund those 100%. I have seen many people rave about holding budget costs down for quite a while...............your city government is either stupid or very hard of hearing.

Sigmund 9 years, 3 months ago

"Batten down the hatches."Better, "Put on your boots because the Bull Sh-t is about to get really really deep around here." The new LJW poll question should be, "How long before Chad Lawhorn's "series of articles" begins to tout new real estate taxes?" Seriously, when has LJW lackeys ever written any "series of articles" that opposed a City tax increase, or uncovered City waste, or exposed unneeded City services? So after increasing sales taxes, to near the maximum allowed in the state of Kansas to run empTy buses downtown and repairing roads, the City Commission are committed to millions of dollars of spending that are off the table. Not a lot of wiggle room. My, my, what to do?If you believe the City of Lawrence will ever voluntarily and significantly cut it's budgets or reduce staff (not freeze new hires, actually fire or layoff even 5% of staff) when given the option to raise your taxes I have some glow in the dark Farmland you might like to buy. Just think of the money we'll save on light bulbs!Nope, all the Commission has to do is call Dolph Jr. and tell Chad Lawhorn to crank up the propaganda machine. Good old Chad's "series of articles" touting new tax increases will have you believing that raising taxes is really lowering your taxes, the empTy buses are really full, and all the pot holes are traffic calming devices. Still it should be good for some laughs watching Lawrence taxpayers being played for suckers again, and again, and again.

BigPrune 9 years, 3 months ago

XD40 is right. The City needs to make it attractive for businesses (any businesses) to come to Lawrence. When businesses say they have heard about how bad Lawrence is to do business with and they need to justify the extra expense and time they'd spend over other communities or when a business who has just done business with Lawrence says they will NEVER do business with our City again - things need to change, period. Lawrence is restricting itself out of business. With the national economy going down the toilet, now is not the time for Lawrence leaders to cozy up and give in to every fringe kook that lives here. The kooks, though they are vocal, are still in the minority.Things were done by the former City Commission that deters any positive economic advancement and the sitting Commission has done NOTHING to change those negative things that were implimented.Lawrence just passed a sales tax which includes funding a bus system the NOBODY rides! Is the City getting their tactics from the school district when it comes to the "We don't have money and don't know what to do" b.s. we have to hear every couple of years?Stop spending. Get rid of employees that no longer have any work!

repaste 9 years, 3 months ago

look out west 6th all those sewers, water lines, roads on empty land - they (the developers want 10% growth. we are overbuilding. It will bring down values.

KsTwister 9 years, 3 months ago

Won't be long before those "special" sales taxes earmarked for specific services get rerouted. Just watch.

Fort_Aubrey 9 years, 3 months ago

no more new 5 passenger pickups for the supervisors to drive around in

Fred Whitehead Jr. 9 years, 3 months ago

KS Twister - "your city government is either stupid or very hard of hearing." And how long did it take you to come to this understatement of the obvious. The city commission consists of 5 limp minded minions of the city manager that manage to get elected by who has enough money to buy the most yard signs. No expertise, no credentials, nothing to qualify them to lead and manage a large city, just emotional crap to get elected, and then slam the door on any meaningful process of good government. How do you like your new roundabouts?? Do you love those "restored" brick streets that were paved over decades ago?? I could go on about hidden misconduct and criminal activity I know of, but as I have seen, that is no concern to these dunderheads. The solution, there is an election coming up this yer for some more dolts. See if you can get some sense out of the new pledges.

BigPrune 9 years, 3 months ago

Someone told me the City "invested" in carbon credits a few years ago.Can carbon credits be resold? No.Please tell me the City didn't buy carbon credits.

Godot 9 years, 3 months ago

Apparently no one in city hall has access to the Wallstreet Journal or Bloomberg. If they did, they would have known this was going to happen before they put the T up to a vote.

Robert Marble 9 years, 3 months ago

So the liberal idealism and economics of Lawrence have resulted in economic crisis? wow, go figure...

Sigmund 9 years, 3 months ago

Top Ten Ways For The City of Lawrence to Weather a Stormy 2009 Budget10. Blame Bush (doesn't help, isn't true, but gets you reelected).9. Invest Rainy Day Fund in Powerball tickets.8. Hire an auditor to audit what the new auditor audited.7. Rename the emptY to "Club EmpTy," install cash bar, hire strippers, and add a $10 cover charge.6. Buy Farmland, build a wind farm, bankrupt city, ask Obama for a bailout.5. Two words, "Dechipera Deux!" 4. Raise taxes on newspaper and cable monopolies (just kidding Dolph, they wouldn't dare).3. Raise taxes on older neighborhoods to cover their increased cost of maintenance (just kidding Richard, they wouldn't dare).2. New $100.00 fine for not cleaning sidewalks to be split with the snitches who turn in their neighbors.1. Get Chad Lawhorn to write yet another in a series of one sided articles touting new property taxes which unfailing parrot the City Commissioners without questioning the truth and accuracy of their statements.

bunkinbaby 9 years, 3 months ago

Maybe we should get rid of all the ass. city managers.Wilgen got by without any. That would get rid of a few 6 figure empolyees!!

lawthing 9 years, 3 months ago

I wonder why the city never mentions all the settled lawsuits when talking about the budget. I believe there were several major ones just this year.

Steve Jacob 9 years, 3 months ago

I think the city is in A LOT better shape then most, and should stop whining. How many cities collected more sales tax and had a single digit drop in property value in 2008 compared to 2007?

KsTwister 9 years, 3 months ago

I would not hire a marching band for a celebration parade. With 10 years of "robbing Peter to pay Paul", Peter is at the door now.

Godot 9 years, 3 months ago

lawthing, please, share what you know about settled lawsuits.

Chris Ogle 9 years, 3 months ago

Leave it to Lawrence Kansas..... Real estate appraiser said his ballon was about ready to pop, so he couldn't blow it up any more. ...that is one of our problems, . lets think about this,, I have an idea, why don't we quit buying stuff.... Sorry I forgot, this is Lawrence Kansas, we can't stop buyiing stuff, Lawrence is progressive... Besides that, what would the neighbors think. I have an idea.... We need to hire a consultant, and tell him that he needs to advise us to raise the mill levy... Then we can say the consultant, who is an expert in revenue production, explained that we (city commision) didn't overspend. The Levy simply had a production problem, and was in need of minor adjustments. The consultant assured us that after the Levy was repaired, our revenue would be just fine.... Problem solved. Toohigh Burger, moved to perform routine maintenance on the Levy, and Nutchest seconded the motion. Motion carried 4-0. The barber was absent.

Becky Berglund 9 years, 3 months ago

how i see it we will be paying for the problems 4x's over with the bail out the state county and towns of kansas are not making the revenue they should be so we will be paying higher taxes over and over again.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.