Archive for Friday, May 23, 2008

City sales tax proposal gaining favor

Tight budget could affect street repairs and fuel for police cars

May 23, 2008


City jobs may be cut

City jobs are on the chopping block as commissioners pour through next year's budget. Lawrence city leaders look to keep taxes down and the city beautiful at the same time, but as 6News reporter Jesse Fray explains, getting rid of positions may be their only option. Enlarge video

Police budget under strain

The police department is also seeing increased prices. Though Chief Ron Olin has trimmed his budget, he says cutting it any more could impact safety. Enlarge video

They said it was a budget hearing, but it may have been city commissioners drafting the "vote yes" brochure for a new citywide sales tax.

City commissioners spent nearly three hours Thursday afternoon listening to department heads lament a lack of money to repair streets, fuel police cars and adequately maintain parks.

Afterwards, a pair of city commissioners said the most likely way to fix the city's 2009 budget is for voters to approve a citywide sales tax proposal that would fund street maintenance and the city's public transit system.

"There are only so many things you can do to cut budgets without impacting services," Mayor Mike Dever said.

Thus far, obvious cuts have eluded commissioners, bringing them back to the sales tax idea.

"We just have to hope that the voters say yes," City Commissioner Sue Hack said.

Sales tax ideas

Technically, city commissioners still need to ask voters. The past three mayors - including current Mayor Mike Dever - have suggested a new sales tax. But commissioners never actually have voted to put a sales tax on a ballot because there have been disagreements about the rate and what the tax should fund.

But commissioners say they're closer to agreeing. Dever said he wants to have a commission vote within the next month on whether to put a sales tax on the November ballot.

One hurdle may have been removed Thursday. Hack said she was fine with putting two separate sales tax issues on the November ballot: One to support public transit and another to support streets and infrastructure. She's the third commissioner - on a five-member commission - to support the idea of separate votes. Dever and Commissioner Rob Chestnut previously have advocated for two separate votes. Commissioners Mike Amyx and Boog Highberger have been lobbying for one combined vote.

Other details remain unsettled. Chestnut has suggested a 0.15 percent sales tax to fund operations of the city's transit system, and a 0.35 percent sales tax to fund street repairs, improve sidewalks and build other infrastructure projects needed to attract jobs. It's unclear whether a majority of commissioners support Chestnut's proposed rates.

But commissioners are scheduled to dive into the issue June 3 when they will devote much of their weekly meeting to transit-related issues. Figuring out how to overcome a $1 million shortfall in transit funding is expected to be the largest issue facing the city's 2009 budget.

Other departments' concerns

It's certainly not the only issue, though. Commissioners heard a variety of concerns from department heads on Thursday during the second day of budget hearings. Among the issues:

¢ Public Works Director Chuck Soules told commissioners that tight city and state finances means that there are no major road reconstruction projects planned in Lawrence for 2009. He said only maintenance work - such as sealing cracks, fixing potholes and providing a new topcoat of asphalt to some streets - will occur.

The amount of maintenance activities also will be less than in years past. Soules said without increasing taxes, he does not see a way to spend more than the $5.1 million the city is spending currently to maintain streets. With the price of asphalt and concrete rising sharply, he said that means fewer roads will be able to be maintained. His department has estimated it needs at least $9 million to adequately maintain the city's streets.

¢ Police Chief Ron Olin said his department is struggling with high fuel prices. He told commissioners he was unable to craft a budget using City Manager David Corliss' guidelines of planning for a 40 percent increase in fuel costs compared with what was spent in 2007.

Olin said he believes his department will be able to make cuts in other areas to avoid reducing patrol levels in the community but conceded a spike in fuel prices could require officers to do more foot, bike or motorcycle patrols to save on fuel. He also said those officers in patrol cars may be forced to be in a parked mode more often to conserve fuel.

¢ Ernie Shaw, interim director of parks and recreation, said his department plans to eliminate five positions that are currently vacant but ideally should be filled. The positions include a horticulturist, three park maintenance workers and an administrative support specialist.


cowboy 9 years, 9 months ago

Here we go again with the " I can't possibly cut any of my budget speeches "Heres a short listStop weekly grass pickups , half of the residential refuse collection budget savedShut down the T to a level of sustainability , ooooh , like that word , save 1.5 millionReduce the subsidy of Downtown LawrenceCancel the purchase of flowers for the downtown areastop running the street sweepers on clean streetsInstitute a 5% across the board budget cut for all departments. any staff manager who cannot deal with this effectively and positively should probably look for work elsewhere.Set up a billing system for actual use billing on sewers instead of the estimate system currently used.Do not dispatch the big fire trucks on medical emerg callsAudit the adult sports league fees and adjust appropriately to reflect actual costsStop planting trees that require the watering truck servicesNo city travelAnd finally stop commissioning studies for crap you can't afford ! Spend your time on job and economy development.

KsTwister 9 years, 9 months ago

Gaining favor like the "special" election for schools we just had. I doubt this one too. Think its time to investigate the elections here in Lawrence.

OnlyTheOne 9 years, 9 months ago

Cowboy has the answer.Anybody here think any of the Furry (brained) Five will read it?Thought not.

doc1 9 years, 9 months ago

Just cut the T. Thats one piece of fat that isn't muscle.

Godot 9 years, 9 months ago

The commission should shut down the T until the election is held.

skinny 9 years, 9 months ago

How about using some of that water drain off tax you started charging us several years ago!!!I am voting NO!

BigPrune 9 years, 9 months ago

If Lawrence was friendly towards business and new growth we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Godot 9 years, 9 months ago

Funding the police department is more important than funding the T or the Parks and Rec dept. This commission needs to get realistic and make some tough decisions.

Becky 9 years, 9 months ago

I predict that with the price of gas going up, and new taxes I will be moving. This city better wake up before it looses its tax base.Then they will have budget woes.

gr 9 years, 9 months ago

"City earnings tax. Bring it on."No New Taxes!Pogo, your attitude is what makes the government so bad. You want to add yet another level of taxation.

Janet Lowther 9 years, 9 months ago

More taxes to support a bloated, out of control city government!The city needs to do what so many corporations are doing: Concentrating on their core business.In the city's case their core business is limited to the streets, sewers, water, fire, and police.Dump the rest of the nonsense they are squandering tax money on and there could be a major tax cut, not new taxes.

daddax98 9 years, 9 months ago

"The city needs to do what so many corporations are doing: Concentrating on their core business.In the city's case their core business is limited to the streets, sewers, water, fire, and police."Which of these "core businesses" of the city are revenue generating? What a pi$$ poor analogy.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 9 months ago

Lawrence needs a better T not a gone T and have permanent funding not temporary funding. And instead of a sales tax let's encourage creative thinking on how to generate more revenue. A better T is one that comes with more frequent riding opportunities on the more demanding routes. Let's be fiscally responsible. When commissioners talk about spending for more jobs how can that be done without knowing what jobs? A good public transportation system would be one thing to have in place plus bike trails that ultimately lead to employers. The T and Bike to Work Trails and lanes are a whole lot less expensive than new roads and cost wayyyy less to maintain.So lets's think in terms of reducing traffic congestion and saving tax dollars in the process. Let's be fiscally responsible.Back to this jobs thing. Spending tax dollars for what jobs? This deserves far more discussion and needs to be explicit. Jobs is a favorite political term which has been used for about 20 years in Lawrence,Kansas. 20 years later Lawrence is still using that term as a carrot. Maintaining and rehabbing older infrastructure is far more important than expanding the city's infrastructure and citizens maintenance tax bill. Let's be fiscally responsible. The average "job site" is approximately 12-14 acres and there are plenty of those sites available. Perhaps it would be best to fill those sites first? Let's be fiscally responsible

igby 9 years, 9 months ago

For starters:Cut the Chamber of Commerce's $500,000 free ride off completely because they don't represent but a fraction of the business here in Lawrence.Secondly, we need a political house cleaning for all those leftover liberal shirt tale, pork barrel citycrats that still have jobs. These people have helped expand the city budget to cover services and projects that are far beyond what city government was ever intended to do. Besides their not taking care of the basic business of street repair, which they should be. New taxes for street repair is prof of their misuse and evidence of their longterm exploitation of the tax payers dollar. Thirdly, make these builders pay their fare share of the new cost of additions commercial and residential. The city having to wait for 5 to 10 years to regain it's labor and material cost of adding new additions is draining the budget. Any new tax dollars will just be sucked up in the mix of the quagmire of the old government and the new government fighting over their own special interest needs.Why do you think the city street are like driving through a mine field? They have to justify their need for more money.

igby 9 years, 9 months ago

Also, tar and feather anyone who suggest that we need to pay for any new studies at $250,000 or $500,000 a pop.

BigPrune 9 years, 9 months ago

My commuter VW Golf (same thing as a Jetta mechanically) has cost over $12,000 in repairs in its lifetime. The City had a Police VW Rabbit diesel back in the '70's and its engine started on fire while on patrol.I agree with just about everything Hawk says. He (or she) should run for City Commission.

Sigmund 9 years, 9 months ago

dorothyhr (Dorothy Hoyt-Reed) says: "What? So is Lawrence a town where only the wealthy can afford to live or is it full of welfare people? Good grief."This is a town where the only growth in high paying jobs are courtesy of the taxpayers and at the expense of rest. The "wealthy" that are here learned to live within their budgets, something the City Commission seems hell bent against. Insolvency does not happen overnight, it happens $2,600,000 per year, year after year, pursuing projects that make no economic or environmental sense. It is the City and MV Transportation that need the welfare and not Lawrence citizens.

Sigmund 9 years, 9 months ago

"City sales tax proposal gaining favor" No its not. What is gaining favor is the idea of the city cutting jobs, dumping the empTy, and living within their budget. Why is it that commissioners and mayors are either bankrupt grocery clerks, bong hitting KDHE state employees, lawyers for the teacher unions, morally bankrupt Downtown Lawrence, Inc. shills with faulty memories or spineless business executives?Time to throw them all out again and take our chances with a new group.

been_there 9 years, 9 months ago

Do you think hawk is making all the typos on purpose to make a point or has he had too much of something? Or is he just losing it?

crackers 9 years, 9 months ago

Let us have a new city wide sales tax, and also annex 157 acres of land outside the city limits which will cost tax payers millions for proper infrastructue.

Godot 9 years, 9 months ago

Vallejo files for bankruptcy to deal with budget shortfallBy TERENCE CHEA Associated Press WriterArticle Launched: 05/23/2008 10:56:22 AM PDTSAN FRANCISCO-The city of Vallejo filed for bankruptcy protection Friday to deal with a ballooning budget deficit caused by soaring employee costs and declining tax revenue. The San Francisco Bay area suburb of about 120,000 residents became the largest California city to declare bankruptcy. Mayor Osby Davis said the city's attorneys filed papers seeking Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in federal court in Sacramento. "We've exhausted all avenues at this point, and this is all we had left," Davis said. "I had hoped to avoid it all the way up until yesterday. It's something we can't avoid. It just doesn't work. We can't pay our bills."

monkeyhawk 9 years, 9 months ago

Agreed, Sig.Seems the CC wants the citizens of Lawrence to be the hatchet men. It is ludicrous that we have to vote for a sales tax to fix/improve roads. It's just a given that's one of the basics a city does with some of the millions it receives from the overly bled taxpayers. Or, is our new CC suffering from amigo lag? How many years will it take to recover from the ruination of the bankrupt bagger, the angry one and the union lawyer?"MissionOur MissionWe are committed to providing excellent city services that enhance the quality of life for the Lawrence community.Our ValuesIn order to fulfill our mission, we have established several guidelines.We are committed to these basic principles: * Integrity * Courtesy * Fairness * HonestyHow we get the job done is as important as getting the job done.Our interaction with the community will be professional, responsive, direct, personal, caring and appropriate.We will promote teamwork, employee satisfaction, and professional development in order to provide innovative, cost effective, efficient service.We want our citizens, clients and customers to have high expectations of government service, and we will do our best to meet and exceed those expectations."I have read this a few times over the years and have to wonder if I am getting a bang for my buck. Maybe they need to rethink their mission, or at the very least, rewrite it. My expectations have only decreased steadily, and now they are asking us to do their job.

1wetwilly 9 years, 9 months ago

A scenario similar to Vallejo is highly likely for Lawrence over the next two to five years:The increasing high cost of commuting to acceptable paying jobs in KC and Topeka will dissuade prospective new residence from moving to an increasingly expensive bedroom community like Lawrence.Likewise, a significant number of current commuters will move from Lawrence to a less expensive KC or Topeka.KU enrollment will decrease as students & parents seek less expensive institutions that are closer to home.Vacancy rates will increase in Lawrence, empty properties will proliferate, local real estate values will plummet, more people will leave, local government will increase taxes to counter-act the ever shrinking tax base:the spiral continues:Lawrence is in the path of an economic storm courtesy of 30 years of greedy self interest and collusion between city-county government, a few developers, bankers and local business owners.

notajayhawk 9 years, 9 months ago

Makes no difference to me if Lawrence wants a sales tax. We can drive to Gardner or Ottawa as easily as to Lawrence.And will.

gccs14r 9 years, 9 months ago

It's not the 70s any more. As for your $12k lemon, that sounds like a statistical outlier and a vehicle that should have left your stable much earlier than it did.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 9 years, 9 months ago

This tax may pass. The people living on taxes outnumber those paying them in Lawrence.What? So is Lawrence a town where only the wealthy can afford to live or is it full of welfare people? Good grief.

KsTwister 9 years, 9 months ago

" the hole in the town raoad budget is best solved by eliminating those who are in charge of the holes"Especially when they fill a pothole but ignore the real BIG one less than 2feet away. Go on city, make it harder on yourself, people are moving for good reasons--permanently and not to Lawrence.

Sigmund 9 years, 9 months ago

monkeyhawk, lets not ask the City-O-Larryville to redo its Mission Statement. It would take a consultant to pick the consultant who will insist it be written by a local writer who the City Commission will need fourteen agenda items and countless staff and additional consultants to pick. Two years and $750,000 later and Chad Lawhorn will be writing yet another award winning "City sales tax proposal gaining favor: If you don't approve it you won't have any police nor fire fighters nor decent streets, but we will continue to pay MV Transportation's $2,600,000 Corporate Welfare Check" article that Merrill will post a "buy local pork and protect my existing investments" blog to which Bozo will insist that "tripling the bus subsidy and run on electricity from a wind farm" that doesn't exist as they scratch each others beards knowingly.So I have given up, I am going to get a cushy job with the city as a 'Mission Statement Writer/Bus Washer/Restaurant Inspector/Business Czar/Pothole Measurer, Senior Manager Trainee, Grade 3' and rearrange Lawrence's Mission Statement of the Month as it slowly sinks into insolvency. Do you think the city will notice that I never show up for work and if they do will anyone have the ability or the cajones to fire me from my $65,000 job?

pace 9 years, 9 months ago

I think it should be one tax vote, Defenbaugh costs more per service level than the city program, not a good buy.I also think most of Cowboys suggestions are good.Anonymous usercowboy (Anonymous) says:Here we go again with the " I can't possibly cut any of my budget speeches "Heres a short listStop weekly grass pickups , half of the residential refuse collection budget savedWeekly grass and leaf pickup is NOt half the budget and i think it serves a real need.Shut down the T to a level of sustainability , ooooh , like that word , save 1.5 millionKU and the City should get real and work together, small chance, neither has a good reputation for keeping to promises, I would suggest investing in the t, inculding some smaller buses, mass transit will help the community economics more once it gets slugged by $5. a gallon, it will help the employed taxpayers of this city as well as the retired and, well everyone.Reduce the subsidy of Downtown Lawrenceamen.Cancel the purchase of flowers for the downtown areaI hate the little flags.stop running the street sweepers on clean streetsok, but combine this with turning the garage sale sign police to anti litter police with tickets to give out to offenders, some of that could go to support the t.Institute a 5% across the board budget cut for all departments. any staff manager who cannot deal with this effectively and positively should probably look for work elsewhere.Get rid of Yoos and the good old boys who can't manage staffing with out using overtime as a carrot.Set up a billing system for actual use billing on sewers instead of the estimate system currently used.Do not dispatch the big fire trucks on medical emerg callsAMENAudit the adult sports league fees and adjust appropriately to reflect actual costsAMENStop planting trees that require the watering truck servicesAMEN and the plants should be picked for Kansas weather too.No city travelThe City actually has a very low percentage of travel, but more front line people to training and less department heads would be smarter.And finally stop commissioning studies for crap you can't afford ! Spend your time on job and economy development.They need to do audits of both spending and practices. If that is called a study, then they need a study.

gccs14r 9 years, 9 months ago

$11 million for a parking garage for a private business. That's one thing that could have been cut. Proposals for a new library, a new airport business park, and purchasing Farmland are other things that need to be shelved. A couple of million for the bus system pales in comparison to the tens of millions that are given away to businessmen who don't need it. As for the cops, they don't really need Crown Vics. Diesel Jettas would work and would be both more fuel efficient and last longer.

gccs14r 9 years, 9 months ago

Marion, The Crown Vic isn't particularly safe. It's better now that they have the plastic plate between the fuel tank and the differential, but it's still an old-tech vehicle. Fords catch fire, hop into reverse, and roll over. I'm surprised they're still in business. Here's at least one department using Jettas: another: to mention departments in Europe. The Passat is probably a better choice, given the abundance of super-sized Americans, but that's not as much of an issue here in Lawrence. Wouldn't it be nice to get 300,000 miles out of a City vehicle?

gccs14r 9 years, 9 months ago

Yes, because the best time to destroy public transportation is when private carriers are going bankrupt. It cost me $60 to fill my Camry the other day. That's 3 months of bus travel. I just need to figure out where I can catch the bus and at what time.

Godot 9 years, 9 months ago

"May 26, 2008Fuel suppliers demand airlines pay cash in advanceCarl Mortished and Amanda AndrewsAirlines are being forced to pay cash in advance for jet fuel as the major oil companies tighten the screws on an industry that is being crushed by an extraordinary surge in the price of crude oil.Sources within the airline industry indicate that credit is being denied to most of the leading American carriers and the practice is moving to Europe and Asia. So uncertain is the cash solvency of the industry that jet fuel suppliers insist on prepayments into special bank accounts.A credit controller at a leading European multinational oil company told The Times that the oil industry was moving to jet fuel prepayment. "It's common in the US and it is moving to Europe. We have been moving to prepayment since Swissair went bust."The need to put up money before delivery of fuel is a huge financial burden that has been shifted from the oil companies to the airlines. According to John Armbrust, a US jet fuel consultant, the oil industry had $5 billion (£2.5 billion) of jet fuel credit outstanding to airlines before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now they are demanding that airlines leave cash on deposit.Related Links* Silverjet airline fights to stay in the air * Oil to climb further after hitting new $130 high * BA will ground jets over rising fuel cost "The airlines can't afford it. Traditionally, oil companies extended credit for 14 or 21 days and some as long as 30 days. Now, most American airlines are on prepay. South West is one of a few likely to still get credit."The extent of the cash squeeze was highlighted last week when American Airlines said that it would charge $15 per bag checked even as it revealed plans to shed 75 aircraft, shrinking the airline's capacity by 12 per cent.The price of jet fuel has risen by 60 per cent since January and American Airlines paid $665 million more for fuel in the first quarter of this year than in the same period of 2007." airlines are not wanting for paying customers. Yet the City of Lawrence can afford to fund the empty T? The Lawrence City Commissioners need to get realistic, they need to make the decisions they were elected to make. They need to take control of the part of the budget they can control.

sjschlag 9 years, 8 months ago

cutting the T would be ludicrous right now. Just this summer alone, I have seen ridership jump on the T from zero to half full buses. What we need now is a smarter public transportation system with more convenient schedules and routes. This is possible with our resources. We need to commit funding, but only if the routes are evaluated and changed for efficiency.

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