Archive for Monday, August 10, 2009

City expected to arrive at budget that holds property taxes steady, but increases fees

City expected to keep property taxes steady, increase fees

August 10, 2009


Increasing rates

Here’s a look at how much water and sewer bills are expected to rise, if commissioners approve proposed rate increases. The bills are based on the total amount of water households use each month. City leaders have said most households use between 4,000 to 6,000 gallons per month, although that can increase significantly in the summer months.

• 1,000 gallons: up 32 cents per month

• 2,000 gallons: up 69 cents per month

• 4,000 gallons: up $1.43 per month

• 6,000 gallons: up $2.17 per month

• 10,000 gallons: up $3.65 per month

• 15,000 gallons: up $5.50 per month

• 20,000 gallons: up $7.35 per month

It is the end of the road Tuesday night for the city’s 2010 budget deliberations

No, there’s no pot of gold awaiting those who have made the entire journey. Instead, commissioners are expected to arrive at a budget that holds the city’s property tax rate steady, balances revenues with expenditures, largely avoids city layoffs, but increases a number of fines and fees that city residents pay.

All in all, city leaders said they’d take it, given the tough economy.

“It was a very challenging year,” City Manager David Corliss said of putting together the budget. “But what we’re seeing is that a number of our peer communities have been dealing with a number of the same, if not more severe, challenges.”

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County, for example, reportedly will force employees to take 15 days of furloughs, freeze employee salaries, cut 10 percent of its operating expenses and put a halt to most capital projects to make up for a $12 million budget shortfall.

It didn’t come to that in Lawrence.

“It has been a long summer, but I’ve been very pleased with the process,” said Mayor Rob Chestnut. “The credit really goes to our department heads and directors who saw that the challenges we’re facing on the revenue side are pretty significant. We started the process without having a giant gap between what they were expecting and what we could do.”

But the budget will ask a little more of city residents. The budget will increase water rates, trash rates, and various other fees. Monthly trash bills for residential service are expected to increase 69 cents per month — or about 5 percent — from current levels. Monthly water and sewer bills are expected to increase by $1 to $3 per month — about 3 percent to 4 percent — for many typical residential users.

The bulk of the utility bill increase will come from higher rates charged for water. The city undertook about $17 million worth of improvements at the Clinton Water Treatment Plant. That required the city to increase water rates by about 10 percent. Much of the plant expansion was geared to allow the city to serve a larger population base in the future, but now population growth has slowed as the economy has stumbled.

Commissioners also are set to increase a set of rates that are tied directly to new housing growth. Corliss is proposing significant increases in the city’s water and sewer impact fees, which are charged to new homes and businesses that hook into the city’s water and sewer system. Corliss is proposing a $200 — or 12 percent increase — in the city’s standard water impact fee. A $270 — or 18 percent increase — is proposed for the sewer impact fee. With the new fees, builders or homeowners will have to pay $3,500 in impact fees to hook up to the city’s system.

Chestnut said he wants to review Lawrence’s impact fees to see if they are comparable to other area communities.

“I think it is particularly important that we look at what they’re doing in Johnson County, Leavenworth County, places where we know we’re losing some population to,” Chestnut said.

A pair of city jobs also will hang in the balance at Tuesday’s commission meeting. Commissioners are set to decide whether to follow through on Corliss’ recommendation to cut the two remaining positions in the city’s Human Relations division. The employees are responsible for enforcing the city’s local ordinance that prohibits discrimination in matters of employment and housing.

Corliss is proposing that the city’s legal services staff take over those duties.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.


Richard Heckler 8 years, 10 months ago

These increases they offer as well not too damn much...

How many increases has Lawrence experienced in the last 20 years .... how many times have we been nickle dimed before this week?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 10 months ago

City Hall like to refer to increases as fee increases?? They are tax increases. Hold down property taxes but increase taxes everywhere else likely = a larger tax increase over all.

No favors from city hall from all the guys who said no to tax increases during campaigns.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 10 months ago

One problem that stands out is too much speculation. No way to substantiate why tax increases are necessary. A Cost of Community Services Study would help determine what is and what is not working. This is not a new idea but one that has been rejected for the last 15-20 years.

Taxpayers should know what has been the over all economic impact of the bedroom community and all the new retail. Constant increase in taxes and user fees after 25 years of expanding the tax base says something is not working. What exactly is it? No one knows.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 10 months ago

Face it bedroom communities are high tax communities due in large part to the fact there is nothing here to support them. It is no secret that residential dwellings demand more in dollars and cents from a municipality than they generate.

Doing what the much larger metro areas are doing is not the key. Lawrence is a small town with limited retail dollar availability. Economic displacement and NOT smart growth only increases taxes and user fees.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 10 months ago

Economic displacement brings on higher taxes and user fees... meet economic displacement:

July 24, 2009

To the editor:

The July 14 editorial asks, “What’s downtown going to look like five, 10 or 15 years from now?” The answer can be known, and the picture is not pretty.


Lawrence has enough spending to support about 4.1 million square feet of retail space, but the City Commission permitted developers to expand the supply to over 5.5 million square feet.

Lawrence has too much retail space chasing too few vendors, which means that many stores go empty, especially in the older shopping centers like downtown.

The surplus development has stalled redevelopment plans downtown and has pushed the vacancy rates so high that disinvestment and blight now threaten. Investment, both public and private, is wasted. The taxpayers’ $8 million parking garage stands largely empty. The Hobbs-Taylor building and the 600 block of Massachusetts should be the top performing spaces in the community, but they have significant vacancies.

The recession has contributed to the problem, but had we properly managed our growth we would be much better off.

The developers’ short-term gain is now our long-term loss. Managed growth would have prevented much of the problem and would have protected and enhanced our downtown.

It will take many, many years to absorb this surplus space and, until this happens, it will be hard for downtown to compete. We can only look forward to many years of high vacancy and disinvestment. We need a City Commission that knows how to pace the growth of supply so as to protect our unique downtown.

Kim McClure is from Lawrence

cowboy 8 years, 10 months ago

Simple truth , the city matched expenses to revenue after jacking up the revenue with additional user fees , sales tax , water rate increases.

City management and especially this commission is a frigging joke. They have failed to make any significant decisions to improve the efficiency of city operations and continue to spend like drunken sailors.

Question , How much of a pay cut are all of those who were involved in expanding the city's water capacity taking to offset their mistake and the wasting of taxpayers money ?

The city is raising all fees while playing " I wanna buy a waste site " and " I wanna buy a homeless shelter" while they are doing nothing to generate the funds to do so.

Enjoy your large salaries boys and girls because it's very apparent you are not earning them.

jafs 8 years, 10 months ago

This is why I've been against spending money on "growth projection" projects for a long time.

Stuart Evans 8 years, 10 months ago

are they waiting for these fees so that they can complete the sidewalk project that was started awhile back on Iowa street. seems that there are about 3-4 blocks around Harvard & Iowa that have had sidewalk areas cut, gravel laid down & even a few crosswalk cuts made, but now the weeds are starting to grow in. it looks extra sh!tty. If i owned one of the homes along there, i'd be extra p!ssed.

George Lippencott 8 years, 10 months ago

merrill you are . . . . I can't say it here.

Residential Properties more than pay for the services they actually receive. It is only when you define all services the city spends money on as applicable to the residential property owner that you can even come close to your argument. I wonder just how much of the tenant landlord dispute process or renovating the train depot are costs that a residential property owner woud agree directly benefit him/her?

MattressMan 8 years, 10 months ago

AreUNorml...IIRC; they started the sidewalk project on Iowa only to realize that water line updates were being planned for that area. Rather than do sidewalks twice they stopped until the water line is done.

KsTwister 8 years, 10 months ago

Just to prove how long we have been paying for this Sewer Plant --enjoy
In 2004, commissioners approved a five-year wastewater rate plan that increased the rates for many residents by 9 percent or more, in part, to pay for a $80 million wastewater treatment plant planned south of the Wakarusa River. The plant, which is scheduled to open in 2010, will operate under the new environmental certifications.

George Lippencott 8 years, 10 months ago

Seamus (Anonymous) says…

And who paid for your roads and infrasturcture??

Impact fees pass some of the cost of growth on to the "new folk" but just how much should be is debatable since in your process somebody had to pay for the initial increment.

Some people out there seem to want growth in order to keep increasing revenue. That seems to be inconsistent with your views? Where lies truth?

But - some growth is a social responsibility as the increase in population has to go somewhere. We must take our share! If you argue for liberal immigration - that might be even more!

cowboy 8 years, 10 months ago

Charging us for the plant that will not be built . did the city figure out they bought 534 acres of flood ground and back off the sewer plant ?

George Lippencott 8 years, 10 months ago

Seamus (Anonymous) says…

Didnt miss the point - did not understand you wanted to discuss class warfare.

I earnbed what I have and have no need to appologize to anyone!

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