Archive for Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tax support

A tax increase may have been a little hard to swallow, but Lawrence voters saw the need.

November 6, 2008


Perhaps the biggest surprise in local election returns Tuesday night was the margin of victory for three sales tax questions put to voters by the Lawrence City Commission.

Not only were the sales tax increases to fund infrastructure and public transportation supported by around 70 percent of Lawrence voters, all three questions won approval in every single voting precinct in the city.

The overwhelming support of the sales tax increases, which will total 0.55 percent and will sunset in 10 years, is particularly surprising in light of the current economic downturn, a situation that wouldn't seem to encourage a vote for additional taxes. Nonetheless the voters have spoken and sent a message - with perhaps a few caveats attached - to city commissioners.

The positive vote on Question 1, was an apparent acknowledgment that the city has to do something to upgrade its infrastructure, buy firefighting equipment and attend to other necessities. The fact that city commissioners opted for a 0.3 percent sales tax to fund such basic city responsibilities raised a number of eyebrows. City commissioners should view this sales tax as an opportunity to catch up in some areas in which the city has been delinquent, not as an endorsement of the budget policies that left the city in such dire straits.

The positive votes on the two transportation sales taxes, totaling 0.25 percent sent a couple of messages to commissioners.

First, the vote should clear up the lingering question of whether the residents of Lawrence really support a public transportation system. Because the T had never faced a public vote, it seemed that commissioners, as well as many residents, had nagging doubts about whether the city should continue to support the system with tax dollars.

The 70 percent and 69 percent majorities that voted in favor of the two transportation taxes should answer that question. Whether they ride the bus themselves or simply think it should be available to others who do need it, Lawrence voters support the T.

The caveat on this vote, however, is that just because they support the T doesn't mean voters support the way the system currently operates. City officials must begin immediately to map out changes to make the system more financially viable. That will mean restructuring routes and looking at such steps as higher fares and perhaps concentrating service at peak usage times.

At the heart of those changes should be a serious effort to work with KU on Wheels, the Kansas University bus system. KU officials and students have expressed an interest in cooperating with the city or even merging the systems. It has never made sense for two separate bus systems to operate in Lawrence, but merging the systems may be tricky. The KU system is funded by student fees, approved by the KU Student Senate, which would have to be convinced it wasn't subsidizing a city bus system that wasn't geared toward student needs.

Especially on the transportation tax, voters have placed a great deal of trust in city officials to put their hard-earned tax dollars to good use. The voters who approved this sales tax with almost no details on how it would be used now will be carefully watching how quickly and how well the city proceeds with plans to improve its public transportation system.


WilburM 9 years, 4 months ago

Bowhunter makes a good point -- we are all in this together -- newcomers and 5th generation Lawrence residents. Old neighborhoods and new. At the same time, the idea that "Growth" is the answer for everything seems patently at odds with the data -- costs often outstrip benefits. Still, with these results, Lawrence for once gets a clear understanding of what its citizens want -- and for that, newcomers and veteran residents alike -- we should be happy to revel in a bit of consensus and hope that commissioners now negotiate a reasonable new, rational cooperative agreement with the KU bus system. It would be nice to be smart as we as being enthusiastic.

SettingTheRecordStraight 9 years, 4 months ago

Bowhunter makes too much sense!I think bozo would have us all sterilized to keep our species from growing.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 4 months ago

"The positive vote on Question 1, was an apparent acknowledgment that the city has to do something to upgrade its infrastructure, buy firefighting equipment and attend to other necessities."With the exception of the Burroughs Creek Trail, everything on the infrastructure list is an externalized cost of growth, whether it be from greater wear and tear on the streets from increased traffic or the need for additional firefighting equipment for new neighborhoods, or replacement equipment, funds for which have been diverted for other purposes. Even the flood control system is N. Lawrence is on the list to a large extent to pave the way for new development north of the river, although existing properties will also benefit.Even the need for a bus system is a cost of growth. If growth isn't required to pay for itself, taxes for all of us will continue to go up, and/or services will have to be reduced.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 4 months ago

I made no "anti-growth" statement, bowhunter. I merely pointed out that if it doesn't pay for itself, then someone else needs to pick up the tab, and that's why we just got a 7 1/2% increase in our sales taxes. I'm sure the growth industries have been mighty pleased with that rather substantial subsidy from the taxpayers.

Jason Bailey 9 years, 4 months ago

Man, sure am glad I bought my new car recently in Lawrence....your town used to have the lowest sales tax in the you're on par with the "bend over and grab the ankles" counties to the east! Congratulations, Lawrence!

gl0ck0wn3r 9 years, 4 months ago

With proper education, the proletariat will always vote in accordance with their class. When the class struggle begins and Lawrence citizens are grouped into work parties, we will no longer need to rely upon vehicles and other wasteful methods of transportation because the methods of production will be close at hand. Labor, education, production, reproduction and recreation will all blur.

Chris Ogle 9 years, 4 months ago

I voted no, and was in the minority. I will support the majority decision by making purchases in Lawrence whenever possible. Now is the time to monitor the T and make changes when needed. The 'Save the T' grass roots group did a good job, but please don't stop now. The real work is just starting. The need for more cost effective public transit still is here, and won't go away without input and hard work from the support group. .

SettingTheRecordStraight 9 years, 4 months ago

Catzilla,I'm sure your employer appreciates my subsidy to transport his employees to work.

SettingTheRecordStraight 9 years, 4 months ago

The vote to increase our taxes to bail out the bankrupt emp-T represents absolutely no change from the failed policies of the last eight years. We can all look into the figurative rearview mirror and see nothing but a transit status quo. Sad.

Catzilla 9 years, 4 months ago

To: SettingTheRecordStraightNow that I can keep my job at the East Hills Business Park due to continued bus service, I'll buy you a latte to cry in.

Steve Jacob 9 years, 4 months ago

How much does the Burroughs Creek Trail cost anyway. What people care about it? Just be a nice flat place for the homeless to sleep.

BigPrune 9 years, 4 months ago

Someone please show me the growth. How about obsolescence? How about wear and tear? How about contractors doing possibly shoddy work on our streets? Someone once told me that the city was lobbied to use concrete with shale in it. Would this explain why some curbing has had to be replaced every couple of years?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 4 months ago

"Just be a nice flat place for the homeless to sleep."Well, if they are all on one place, it'd be much easier for you to carry out your final solution on them, srj.

whatupdown 9 years, 4 months ago

Recount, scam, should have been inverted on the vote count with most against them. Its that darn invert tab in the program.

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