Archive for Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Economic vision

June 11, 2008


Lawrence and Douglas County need to find ways to invest in our economic future.

Voters in Johnson County will be asked this November to make a financial commitment to their economic future.

Should Douglas County residents be making a similar commitment?

On the Nov. 4 ballot, Johnson County voters will be asked to approve an additional 1/8-percent sales tax that would be allocated through a new Johnson County Education Research Triangle Authority. The sales tax would be equally divided among projects for the Kansas University Medical Center, the KU Edwards Campus and Kansas State University's campus in Olathe.

Among other things, it would fund the construction of three new facilities in Johnson County: an engineering, science and technology Center at the Edwards Campus, a food and animal health innovation institute for KSU and a new clinical cancer research center for KUMC. The hope is that the new facilities will foster new academic research that could lead to new scientific, and possibly commercial, opportunities.

The county's commitment of local sales tax to academic enterprises would not be unprecedented, but it nonetheless is a significant move. The outcome of the vote is uncertain, but this could be the kind of bold action that would show the community's willingness to make a tangible investment in its future. It's an example that other counties - including Douglas County - might consider emulating.

There are, of course, major differences between Johnson and Douglas counties. The relatively minor 1/8-percent sales tax will raise an estimated $15 million a year in Johnson County; an equivalent tax in Douglas County would bring in closer to $1.75 million. While Johnson County is considering a sales tax increase to build its economic future, Lawrence city commissioners are looking at a considerably larger sales tax increase just to try to maintain its bus system and existing streets. Where's the vision?

Douglas County can't match Johnson County's investment dollar for dollar, but that doesn't mean that city and county officials shouldn't be trying harder to set aside funds that could allow it to take advantage of economic opportunities. Simply finding enough money to raise an East Hills Business Park tract out of the floodplain and make it more marketable is a major undertaking for Lawrence.

Lawrence is the home of KU, for heaven's sake. It would be wonderful if Johnson County wants to invest in advancing KU research, but shouldn't Lawrence have at least a piece of that action? Various efforts to promote KU research have benefited Lawrence in the past, but we seem to be losing momentum in that area, perhaps because of a lack of vision and leadership from both Mount Oread and Lawrence.

Adding to the local sales tax to raise research and development funds may not be the right strategy for Lawrence and Douglas County, at least right now, but it wouldn't hurt local officials to take a look at Johnson County's vision for paying for worthy projects and consider how our community might get moving in a similar direction.


Richard Heckler 9 years, 10 months ago

Comm Sue Hack suggested last night "but wanted to make sure that part of the sales tax was slated for future infrastructure" NO NO NO because this is vague at best. What future infrastructure? You do not leave tax dollars laying around for politicians to spend for who knows what. Why does Lawrence need additional sales tax when some older neighborhoods have been paying into the street maintenance cookie jar for 35-100 years?

BigPrune 9 years, 10 months ago

Since EVERYTHING KU gets is subsidized by the citizenry, a special tax or fee is needed for KU students so they pay their fair share.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 10 months ago

JOCO is raising money for money making ventures. Educational institutions bring money to a community. Warehouses do not. The Chamber of Commerce warehouse sites asking for taxpayer assistance develop the personal wealth of local investors not Lawrence,Kansas proper. These projects will likely boost our city tax bills without much if any payback. The new water line going through North Lawrence to southeast Lawrence is for warehouses,retail and more residential that is not necessary in an already flooded market. This is not smart spending. That water line will likely never pay back Lawrence taxpayers for it is more like local corporate welfare.East Hills has a NEW 600,000 sq ft warehouse built with tax dollar assistance that has been sitting empty for 10 years:. just in case a buyer dropped by. Poor use of tax dollars. And you want taxpayers to throw more money at East Hills? If it were not for JOCO community college there would not be much vo-tech activity in Lawrence,Kansas. Lawrence, Kansas officials spend $2.3 million tax dollars on astro turf instead of rehabilitating the exterior of Central Junior High School. What's up with that? Educational Institutions aka schools do well even in slow economic times as the work force decides to upgrade its' skills or degrees. But the Lawrence focus is on over retailing and over stocking the residential market which are not revenue generators.Bedroom communities are tax liabilities not necessarily revenue generators. The KCMO/JOCO area is focusing on the new green collar industry/ job market while Lawrence is focusing on warehouses. Farmland is part of the new green industry ag movement due the high cost of fuel. Why cover up a long term money maker?

igby 9 years, 10 months ago

Here's a vision for you.Gas at $7.95 a gallon.France, Spain and most all other European countries are paying about 37% to the state on a fuel tax. This is why they can afford national health care. If the dems and republicans have there way, it will be like this in America, too. Both parties plans will bring the same outcome. War=broke or Welfare=broke.Betch'in about your taxes now is history. The American Dollar will soon no doubt fall to 50% of its pre 911 value by March 2009. The new economic model of currency will be equal to the Euro and breaking America and Americans and their saving is necessary for this to happen. The credit markets will devour all your savings, ie. after lossing your pension or getting a reduced pension and all your savings in CD's are paying nothing . American social security will be reduced and so will Your home equity be reduced, it will be at Zero unless you have no mortgage.The quality of life will change for millions of Americans all over the country. College will not be the party its been for so many years because the party will be over. Who'll find a job with so many companies economically frozen because of zero growth. For the world economy to balance out, America has to be drained of it's wealth. First the wars.The oil.The food crisis.Debt, national and personal.Failing health through illnesses will force the government to mandate national health care. They will tax the oil just like in Europe.

dandelion 9 years, 10 months ago

The powers that be in this town only want to bring low paying businesses and housing developments. They would have to pay higher wages if they got any competition. They don't want good paying businesses, but those who fight to keep out slave wage businesses are allowed to take the blame for no new business. They also don't have the power and the positions to hunt for good businesses.

Stephen Roberts 9 years, 10 months ago

With people like Merrill and his "Bud"dies wanting to spend spend spend spend spend spend spend money all day along it is hard to do what is necessary. The current city commission is having to make some choices that were caused by the previous city commission. Rundle, Boog, & Schauner were spending down the reserve funds while they city revenue was decreasing.The city commission needs to slow down the spoending. Social programs are great but there is a huge costs. If Merrill wants this stuff, maybe he can start paying more. I think the city needs to stop buying art, planting flowers downtown and should increase the amount to ride the T.

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