Archive for Monday, July 7, 2008

Douglas County commissioners considering mill increase in 2009 budget

July 7, 2008


Douglas County commissioners are pondering what could be a 2 to 3 mill increase in its 2009 budget, even with reductions in services.

All three commissioners said they are opposed to a 5-plus mill levy increase, which would be necessary to continue the same level of services the 2008 budget provides.

During Monday budget discussions, Commissioner Bob Johnson said he could support a 3 mill increase to support capital improvements, economic development initiatives and basic county operations.

Commissioners Charles Jones and Jere McElhaney said they were leaning more toward a

2 mill or lower overall increase.

"I would say nobody is off the hook," Jones said.

And that includes personnel, Jones said, although he stopped short of saying there would be job cuts.

"We're not going to be able to get through this without having a serious discussion about personnel costs," he said.

As a county resident, a tax increase will be difficult to take, McElhaney said.

"As a commissioner I've got to make a responsible decision," he added.

McElhaney said he is reluctant to drastically cut public works and law enforcement.

A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 of assessed valuation. A

1 mill increase in the county budget amounts to about $1.1 million, County Administrator Craig Weinaug said.

Increased costs, mainly because of fuel and employee health insurance, along with declining property valuations and weak sales tax revenue are among issues affecting the 2009 budget, Weinaug has said.

Johnson said he thinks the county should annually set aside 1 mill for economic development. Even if the money were not spent, a fund would be there when opportunities appear, he said. He said more needs to be done to make the county attractive to new businesses. More economic development will help alleviate future economic downturns, he said.

"If we don't do something about that then we're going to be fighting that problem for years and years," Johnson said.

The effect budget cuts will have became apparent during talks with some county-supported agencies and department heads on Monday. A variety of options have been presented by county officials for getting down to 2 or 3 mill increases. Potential cuts range from 5 percent to 40 percent. Commissioners have the final say and can come up with their own budget formulas.

The county provides funds to Cottonwood Inc., which has programs and jobs for the developmentally disabled. It could see budget cuts of 5 percent or 30 percent. Cottonwood Director Sharon Spratt said a 30 percent cut could mean closure or reductions in its program for disabled retirees who have suffered from strokes and seizures.

"That would really give us pause," Spratt said of dealing with a 30 percent cut.

A 30 percent cut to the Lawrence Humane Society could mean discontinuing 24-hour dog pickups and other reductions, director Midge Grinstead said.

Cuts would also affect maintenance at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds, said Bill Bell, county building and grounds director.

Commissioners, however, say some cuts to fairgrounds maintenance and cuts to some other budget items would be like dropping off from what is now an A-plus service, a level that the county can't afford this year.

"We've had it so good for so long," McElhaney said.

Commissioners will continue budget discussions starting at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. Discussions are expected to continue into next week.


Chris Ogle 9 years, 11 months ago

Yep, commissioners we get it. You allowed our homes to appraised past the point of true value. Now homes can't be sold at appraised value, so raise the mill levy. Stop this foolish, be like Johnson County crap. Instead of raising the mill levy, lets try to lower it.

Chris Ogle 9 years, 11 months ago

I e-mailed my comment to county commisioners. Maybe more of us should do the same. They probably don't care, but it is worth a try.

OnlyTheOne 9 years, 11 months ago

Hey guys! Read our lips, "No new taxes!"I especially like the "use prisoners" idea as a means to reduce costs. It may not do it but I'd feel better to see some prisoners out sweating instead of sitting inside watching tv in the air conditioning!

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 9 years, 11 months ago

Thankfully we have a couple of lame ducks. They know they won't get elected again due to: giving themselves a 50% raise at Christmas time, closing the Lecompton bridge, generally acting like imbeciles. A tax raise from these two would not surprise me. Thank you, Lynn

cato_the_elder 9 years, 11 months ago

Anyone with an ounce of common sense who has lived in Lawrence for the past 20 years has been able to see that the demand for housing by those moving here in the 90's and shortly thereafter resulted in a situation where the taxing authorities were able to rely on annual increases in appraised values of real estate to keep spending more money (the School Board and City Commission especially) while saying, quite disingenuously, that they were holding the line on the mill levy while our taxes were still going up. Now that a seriously overbuilt situation in Lawrence has resulted (in part from the fact that the perceived demand for new housing caused your average sheetrock hanger who owned a hammer to decide to become a "builder" and proceed to overbuild the City with junk) and real estate values are down, we are faced with many embedded, entitlement-type budget commitments that we can't afford. It's a critical lesson for the future, but few will listen. When people hold public office, there's nothing - I mean nothing - as easy as spending the taxpayers' money, and most of our local elected officials in recent years have appeared to be concerned not in the least about it.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 9 years, 11 months ago

Craig Weinaug is the only one down there that knows anything. He is also the only one that is worth the salary taxpayers pay him. The commissioners are a joke. Where would we be without Craig? In one heck of a mess, that's where. Thank you, Lynn

monkeyhawk 9 years, 11 months ago

"Johnson said he thinks the county should annually set aside 1 mill for economic development. Even if the money were not spent, a fund would be there when opportunities appear, he said." Considering there is little to NO demand for companies to locate in Lawrence due to the past examples of the business unfriendly environment, this is absurdly ludicrous. So, Johnson is saying that the county needs to build a cool million a year and have it pile up the interest waiting for an "opportunity". All the while, county residents are being forced out of their houses? Is that a hidden scheme by the county (and the city), to force people out so they can acquire and sell those properties on the courthouse steps to raise revenue?Don't we have some lame ducks on that commission who could become heroes by stepping up and doing what is necessary to cut taxes for a change?If not, how about an old fashioned audit of all city and county books by an independent auditor, of course?

Susan Mangan 9 years, 11 months ago

I have a "fair" suggestion. They raised my home valuation year after year...even this year, according to the one I received recently...but prices are down. According to my most recent tax valuation, my house is worth more than any in the neighborhood by a good $20,000! I think any taxing authority that is allowed to value property for their revenue collection should be required to guarantee that price. Give me three months to sell my house at that price and then it goes to the highest bidder with them paying the difference.Tanking home sales is the only reason I'm still in this screwed up town. Even if my house was really worth what they claim, it's hard to sell with about 30 more houses in my neighborhood on the market from people scrambling out of this town.LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS, LIKE WE DO!!!

skinny 9 years, 11 months ago

This is not a good time to be raisng the mill leavy. Times are tough.

Godot 9 years, 11 months ago

The counnty commissioners are just as derelict in their responsibilities to hold down expenses and provide basic services as are the city commissioners. That they can say, without fear of being tarred and feathered, that they will fund additional spending on industrial speculation from current tax revenues, and then raise taxes to fund the necessities of law enforcement and road maintenance shows that Douglas County citizens have not spoken up loudly enough.This must not happen. Write, call, show up on your county commissioners doorsteps and tell them they must cut administration salaries and non-essential services in order to not raise the mill levy.We citizens are suffering from the increased cost of goods and services, and we respond by cutting our budgets time and again; the county and the city respond to these tough economic times by taxing us more!! This must stop!!!!

yellowhouse 9 years, 11 months ago

The City commissioners have sat back and allowed the Lawrence Police Department to persue the Yellow House case for going on 3 years! And the basis of the case was based on an illegal search!This case has cost the City over 6 million dollars, and it has not been dropped yet! Of course there is going to need to be some tax increases, especially when the commissioners admit, they don't want any cuts in Law enforcement! How many other cases like this is this city funding?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.