Advertisement

Archive for Monday, July 20, 2009

Higher water, sewer, trash rates could be on the horizon

Audit finds water, sewer, trash services are struggling

City commissioners will discuss auditing a local trash service company at the Tuesday night meeting.

July 20, 2009

Advertisement

Related document

Performance Audit: Financial Indicators ( .PDF )

Water, sewer and trash rates will be under pressure to increase even more than expected, following the results of a new city audit that commissioners will discuss Tuesday.

A new financial indicators audit found that the city’s “enterprise funds” — funds that are designed to operate like a business in the fact that rates are supposed to pay for all expenses — are struggling to stay financially healthy even as city leaders increase rates.

“I think this is an area that we need to start asking more questions about,” said City Auditor Michael Eglinski.

The city’s trash service, in particular, may become the subject of a new city audit to determine why its financial condition has turned sharply downward. In 2008, the city’s solid waste fund fell $767,000 short of covering its expenses. That’s a sharp reversal from five years ago when the fund produced revenues that were nearly $670,000 greater than expenses. The downturn has come even as monthly trash rates have increased.

The downturn in Lawrence has been worse than in other cities that operate trash service, the audit found. A comparison of 10 other similar cities found that their trash services were still operating slightly above break even in 2008.

The audit also found that the city’s water and sewer fund — the largest of the enterprise funds — is struggling. In 2008, the fund had revenues of $2.3 million above expenses, but that is down from $6.1 million in 2003.

Mayor Rob Chestnut said the audit creates concerns about what rates for trash, water and sewer service will need to be in the future.

“What this suggests is that it will be a real challenge to keep those rates from growing even faster than we’ve projected,” Chestnut said. “We have to figure out how to avoid that for the next two or three years.”

Higher than anticipated rates are a concern because water rates, for example, already are projected to increase by 11 percent to 12 percent in 2010.

The audit doesn’t pinpoint the causes for the financial decline in the funds, but Eglinski said part of it is due to the city’s struggles to keep up with depreciation costs. Depreciation measures the loss in value of certain assets, everything from trash trucks to sewage treatment pumps.

The solid waste fund, for example, had about $730,000 in depreciation costs in 2008 as city trash trucks continued to age. The good news is that is not a cost that the city has to pay in actual cash. As a result, the decline in the financial health of the funds has not yet created any budget shortfalls. The bad news is that the numbers suggests the city is not setting aside enough money to pay for the trucks when the day comes for replacement.

“Depreciation is a real cost,” Eglinski said. “If you don’t cover it, somebody is going to have to at some point.”

City Manager David Corliss said he thought the audit presented an accurate picture of the city’s tightening financial condition. He said revenue in the city’s water and sewer and trash funds have not increased as much as expected because the city’s population has not grown as much as expected. The city built significant amounts of infrastructure — including an expansion of the Clinton Water Treatment Plant — based on a certain set of growth projections that are now too high. At the same time, Corliss said the city has challenges to adequately keep up with the cost of aging infrastructure.

“We agree that we particularly need to monitor the work in our enterprise funds,” Corliss said.

In other news from the audit, the report found the city’s tax supported funds were faring better. The audit found the city has adjusted the amount of per capita spending downward as city revenues have stagnated.

The city spent $760 per person in 2008, down from $791 per person in 2007. Both those numbers are down from a recent high of $926 per person in 2006.

The amount of long-term debt issued per person also is down to $790. That’s down from $809 in 2007 and from a recent high of $886 in 2003.

Commissioners will discuss the audit at their 6:35 p.m. meeting tonight at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

Comments

cowboy 5 years, 5 months ago

sounds like a fairly half ass audit with no causal factors identified , or publicized anyway. Always amazes me that in Lawrence , which purports to be a green capital , we use tax money to haul grass clippings each week , we start these routes before there are any grass clippings , then run them into the fall. I can understand hauling off brush / limbs maybe once a month but to use all this equipment and manpower because you don't want a few clippings on your lawn is a major waste.

the water department was a major cash cow just a few years ago , WTF happened Corliss , tell us. You have been slapping on double digit increases for many years now. The public wants some answers.

Time for someone on this commission to actually question what is happening in the city financial management.

puddleglum 5 years, 5 months ago

jesus, I am just getting picked apart by these freaking utilities.

where's obama? I need a bailout

jumpin_catfish 5 years, 5 months ago

I don't need a bailout, I want lower taxes. Simple

skinny 5 years, 5 months ago

Ya, we are in a recession and the City of Lawrence wants to beat us to death along with Westar.

No new taxes or rate increases until the economy recovers!

chzypoof1 5 years, 5 months ago

Why is the answer ALWAYS...just raise rates, that will fix it. How about they figure out how to manager their expenses better. That's what I have to do as an individual. I don't just go to my boss and say "it's costing me more money to live, so give me more". Won't happen.

They tell us to live within our means, but they can't do the same. Isn't Lawrence supposed to be different than other areas?

geekin_topekan 5 years, 5 months ago

"...Isn't Lawrence supposed to be different than other areas?" ++++ It used to be till the jocos came here after they had polluted their own environment. Waved their $$ around and a few saw great opportunity and fared well. But at what cost? Go away for eight or ten years and you will see the cost right acroos your face.

Dan Eyler 5 years, 5 months ago

Okay Beo, here is what I will give up; empty buses. That saves a few million a year. I will give up a golf course at about 150,000 G's a year. I will give up lawn clipping pickup. I mulch. That would save at least $300,000 a year. I will give up city trash and privatize it. Worked great in Salina, Ks. I would give up football fields with artificial turf. 4 million savings to the tax payer.

I just put about 7 million back into the pockets of Lawrence citizens. Who else has a few things our local government thinks we need but either cannot afford or consider a serious waste of tax payer money.

Godot 5 years, 5 months ago

Sewer, water, and trash, which every single citizen utilitizes, must operate "like a business" (ROFLMAO) and break even, but the T, which serves a small minority of the populace, is allowed to run a huge deficit???????????

This city is completely fubar.

pace 5 years, 5 months ago

Sanitation would be revived as a service if a true financial and practices audit was conducted. Yoo's skill is layering fat on fat. He was not a new broom that swept clean, he chewed on the cud till the old boys were satiated and bloated.

mdrndgtl 5 years, 5 months ago

I save by combining my sewage and trash services.

cowboy 5 years, 5 months ago

Sell the 500+ acres the city bought south of the Wakarusa for the new sewer plant , it's flood ground anyway , that'll raise a couple million .

Halt any expenditures or interest in buying Farmland

Kill the frigging T = 3 million , funny how after the tax hike passed the T has made no speed improvements , not initiated ad revenue .

Kill the grass pickups = 1 million

Charge for trash special pickups , appliances etc , bill a small fee to users , 250,00 per year revenue minimum

time to rollback expenses boys , no travel , eliminate staff take home cars , we can live with black and white graphics on all the city vehicles , we don't need four color glow in the dark. Forestry , if if can't live without a big water truck sustaining it don't plant it. Increase the ball league fees.

Water , quit mailing all this crap in my bill each month , print it on a single card , get bulk rate postage , set up a fee free online payment site. Save the envelope , first class postage , printing , inserting , It saves a ton of money and is GREEN.

Cutting expenses is not hard nor is the method a mystery , all it takes is leadership which we appear to none at city hall.

cowboy 5 years, 5 months ago

Seems to me I remember a rate hike discussion a few years back with the Boog that equated raising water rates with conservation. Well the city residents are using less water according to the audit and now the city is wah wahing about the loss of revenue while continuing to increase their costs and funding what should be capital expenditure improvements from cash funds.

One small note in the audit....the sales tax increase voted in is not factored into the future revenue , ooops

I know where we can save 87,000 plus benefits pretty quickly.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

There are some good ideas here to help the city save money - please get them to city hall. They probably won't listen, but it's worth a try.

Also, the most disturbing part of the article was the comment about how major infrastructure projects were done based on growth projections which were inaccurate.

I have been saying for some time that we shouldn't be putting our resources into growth projects, but into simply maintaining current infrastructure/services.

That way, we could work towards being sustainable, and not needing to cut services or raise taxes/fees.

Eric Neuteboom 5 years, 5 months ago

Outrageous, simply outrageous.

I will take time to write a letter over lunch to the commission. I hope others will as well. Forcing double-digit increases on your customers for two straight years is unfathomable.

Out of curiosity and for the sake of comparison, are there any other readers on here who live in other, neighboring cities, who would be comfortable posting their average monthly water/sewer/trash bill? Mine, in Lawrence, averages about $70 a month. I bet Lawrence's rate has to be near the highest in the state?

bliddel 5 years, 5 months ago

It certainly does seem that there are a number of reasonable suggestions about how to cut expenses, and that the city should look at them carefully. It is odd that the city has, for generations, insisted that recycling won't save us anything because we have such an enormous cheap landfill. OK, then why is the department losing money despite soaring rates? Then too, why is water/sewer costing us nearly 2 cents a gallon, when it is less expensive in more arid parts of the country? I never water vegetation even now. It is now to the point where if rates are raised again, I may actually pursue rainwater collection as an alternative for flushing toilets.

fed_up_in_law 5 years, 5 months ago

I know several people who work for the trash dept. They are hourly employees. Everyday its in by five a.m. and off by ten or eleven a.m. and paid for eight. If they work longer its o.t. You only have to work eight if your a new hire on on probation.

1moreopinion 5 years, 5 months ago

“We agree that we particularly need to monitor the work in our enterprise funds,” Corliss said.

1moreopinion says: Does Clueless-Corliss even know what he is talking about? Right on Godot! There are some very good ideas and comments posted here. I am withholding any further because they can't be posted. Well they could be but I would violating the user agreement. My outrage must stay within me.

tinker109 5 years, 5 months ago

I think that the way local and state agencies are taxing the entire population, We the population will be out of Funds and then were are those blood suckers going to generate revenue? I have been taxed to the flippin poor house. I have already suffered due to the recession I am one of those NOW un-employed! Thanks Mr.President's(notice the plural b4 you all jump on a one sided discussion I dont need to get involved in) I as well as many of you out here have taken our hits, when does anybody EVER get a wage increase?, oh wait we are expected to do something our own GOVERNMENT can't do "Produce continually an un-exhaustable source of monetary means to BAIL out everybody but Ourselves" as individuals. I say Bump-em Stop paying for ALL extra's and live like 3rd world countries on minimal "necessary clothing,minimal food,no entertainment,and that way when the spending stops what will they tax NEXT? Good luck everybody!!! The first order should be MORE JOBS without Jobs we have no monies to be taxed on !!!!!

Bassetlover 5 years, 5 months ago

Coach Eric - We live in NW Lawrence and also have a sprinkler system (though we probably only watered 2 or 3 times during this last billing period). Our water was $27.13, trash was $13.19, and sewer was $24.82. So we're pretty much in line with what you are paying.

Tammy Copp-Barta 5 years, 5 months ago

OK .. how about making these people actually work 8 hours or only claim the time they work. I know that many of the sanitation people only work about 5 hours a day (from someone I know who does this). Now I wouldn't want their job .. and I'm glad there are people who do it .. but nobody would probably want my job either and I have to work 8 hours for 8 hours of pay.

I also know that in the past, some of the supervisors of these utilities take home city cars for personal use -- WHY? and why if they don't live in the City of Lawrence are they allowed to take them out of city limits??????

midwestmom 5 years, 5 months ago

Listing for your convenience:

Mayor Robert Chestnut robchestnut@sunflower.com
/> (785) 764-3220

Vice-Mayor Mike Amyx mikeamyx515@hotmail.com
/> Home (785) 843-3089 Work (785) 842-9425

Commissioner Aron Cromwell aroncromwell@gmail.com (785) 749-6020

Commissioner Lance Johnson ljohnson@peridiangroup.com (785) 838-3338

Commissioner Michael Dever mdever@sunflower.com
/> (785) 550-4909

Sean Livingstone 5 years, 5 months ago

"skinny (Anonymous) says…

Ya, we are in a recession and the City of Lawrence wants to beat us to death along with Westar.

No new taxes or rate increases until the economy recovers! "

I like this one. This is where Bush got it wrong exactly. During the good times, tax increase is important, as it'll be used to reverse the deficits and stop the economy from overheating. Then, during the recession, tax can be decreased so that it'll jump start the economy again. This is where the Republicans got it wrong. During the better times, taxes are pushed down to the very low level, that it overheated the economy artificially. Remember retail sales hiked so dramatically from 2004 to 2007? But during those periods, the entire government was run under deficit. The excuse? Two wars.

Americans spent like there's no tomorrow during 2004 to 2007, alongside lower taxation, the entire deficits become out of control (yeap, imagine, during economic boom time), and government was still running in deficit! Of all, the tax cut has pumped more money into retail sales, which ultimately drive up the trade deficits between the United States and other countries. When you pass on the money to normal Americans, they spent it on retails, and thus widen the trade deficits, thus more money has to be borrowed to finance the deficits.

Now, then the economy downturn took place in December 2007. Revenue from taxation shrinks due to many reasons.... income tax shrinks, property tax shrinks, nearly every governments in this country face deficits and shortfalls.

The Republicans get it right. Lowering tax in this bad economy is the right thing to do. But the Republicans got it wrong to lower tax during the good time and force up the deficit so huge that it basically becomes not sustainable and if there's a recession (exactly what we have now), the deficits will be escalated. The Republicans are exactly eating up their own pies now, and they are really at fault, and they also get it right. Getting it right now, doesn't mean you don't have to pay for your faults. Pushing your fault to the Democratic House and Senate, and President Obama doesn't make your any less responsible for this huge deficit we're facing right now, and the irreversible higher taxation.

Sean Livingstone 5 years, 5 months ago

No one likes taxation. But with shrinking government revenues, and the lack of oversights by many of the fundamental government functions (that got us into this mess again), it began to tell us we should restrategize what we need to do to pull America back to life. The Republicans are right here again, having a smaller government is the key to lower taxation. However, how can an economy expands correctly, and crooks and cheats get their punishments or even be stopped before they are allowed to go further to do more damage? Well, only the government can do such thing, to regulate the economy. If Americans prefer the wild wild west type of government, well, we might as well remove all secretaries, and eliminate the military... and the police force... and everyone buy a gun, and start shooting at one another to enforce your own laws. Sounds very wild wild west? Yeap, if you cut back on public facilities, you won't get the swimming pool, you won't get the parks, you won't get public buses, you won't get the roads you drive on.... I bet you love driving on dirt road that probably get you from Point A to Point B in 25 mph. It'll be your responsibility to bury your own thrash, or you can simply throw them anywhere you like, maybe we can do away with mayor. We don't even need newspapers. The signal lights can be done. Car inspection and record keeping can be do away. Maybe no one ever needs to check if you park illegal or not, since you're going to impose your own laws. We don't need public lightings, maybe not even public schools, we can all homeschool our kids at home, and teach them whatever we want, and we don't need Universities. Those research are getting us nowhere. We don't need pro-sports, it's just better to play ourselves.

If you all can accept that, we can go back to zero taxation. Cheers.

chzypoof1 5 years, 5 months ago

Livingstone, you must be a commissioner. Only they would come up with gibberish like this.

NO ONE is asking for NO taxes. We all understand that taxes are necessary to help the system work. But looking at your expenses and doing a better job of managing them is EVERYONE's job, not just the citizens.

The T is a disaster. We do NOT need to buy the Farmland crappy land We do not need a $15 million library We did not need artificial turn on the fb fields And on and on and on.....

there are plenty of places to trim the fat without going "wild wild west" on the population.

Get a grip......

Sean Livingstone 5 years, 5 months ago

chzypoof1, apparently, I'm not the commissioner. But let me address your issues:

The T is a disaster: Right. Remove the T, and KU students don't have any transportation, some of the really poor will not have any transportation means. Yes, it's poorly managed, but can you blame them when you aren't paying for the very best to manage the T? How many millions are we talking about here?

We do NOT need to buy the Farmland crappy land: Great, let it rot then.

We do not need a $15 million library: Yeap, we have a free Borders by the way, maybe they have to give our kids and retirees some free video watching time....

We did not need artificial turn on the fb fields: Well, how many "millions" is this?

And on and on and on…..

Well, we can go on complaining.... that's good. But did we ever recognize that any sensible and talent persons will never want to be a commissioner, run for a mayor, do all the jobs for the city. There are better paying jobs out there. So, let's begin clearing out the pig house, beginning with you... do you want to run for mayor?

You're the one who should get a grib.

Cheers.

there are plenty of places to trim the fat without going “wild wild west” on the population.

Get a grip……

Sean Livingstone 5 years, 5 months ago

"swan_diver (Anonymous) says…

Though they'll have to defend their incompetence with your money — it's past time for a new citizens organization to form in Lawrence, raise a little cash, hire a couple good attorneys — and file legal actions against the outrageous mismanagement of municipal governance, by the so-called 'city commission,' and its well-paid (for Kansas) management staff — on behalf of the taxpayers. Period. Stop the chit-chat folks. To the barricades! We're all being taken for a bunch of stupid suckers by these poeple."

Why don't you run for mayor this year?

Tony Kisner 5 years, 5 months ago

There better be more than this behind the numbers. Sounds like an audit to fit the requested result. "We need more revenue, so find the reason"

George_Braziller 5 years, 5 months ago

What really ticks me off is that I'm the only person who lives in my house yet I still pay the exact same basic sewer, water, and trash rates as my neighbors who have two kids. I usually have one bag of trash each week and flush the toilet maybe four times a day.

A family of four obviously uses 400% more of the services. The solid waste rates should be based on water usage.

workinghard 5 years, 5 months ago

Did you know if you turn off your water, you still have to pay because you have a meter. If a tenant gets his water turned off and leaves it off, a bill is sent to the property owner. So you can't get mad and stop using the service like you can the phone company, you will still be charged.

fed_up_in_law 5 years, 5 months ago

Just curious. If you work less than eight hours, yet get paid for eight hours wouldn't that be considered a bonus? Shouldn't that be taxed at a higher rate? Isn't it fraud to falsify a timeclock record? Isn't it preferential treatment to pay someone for more than he or she does?

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

The 25 year expanding of the tax base is a failure because a high tax bedroom community was pushed by the chamber and the real estate/development leaders", "boom town economics policy" adopted by commissioners AND too many decisons were made without:

a variety of economic impact studies Cost of Community Services Study( determines which growth is or is not paying back plus: too many tax abatements for a small community too many free lunches at the expense of the majority of tax payers For example: http://www.democracynow.org/2008/1/18/free_lunch_how_the_wealthiest_americans

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

Basic findings:

  1. Lawrence is overbuilt in housing: Homes were built faster than popualtion growth supporting these homes. Excessive subdivisions caused an outmigration from older neighborhoods causing a severe loss of value, a loss of dwelling units, and a variety of other problems such as school closings.

  2. Lawerence is overbuilt in retail: Stores were built faster than retail spending growth supporting these stores. This excessive growth has hurt the public and private investment in downtown redevelopment (e.g.: the empty $8 million parking garage, the empty Hobbs-Taylor space, etc.) and has caused deterioration and blight in existing shopping centers (e.g.: Tanger Mall, Food-for-Less, etc.)

  3. Douglas County is overbuilt in manufacturing and warehousing; employment in these sectors is declining, not growing. Yet, the Chamber calls for more and more space in the false belief that more supply creates more demand.

  4. Office space in Douglas County is relatively well balanced, but the market for office space is severely crippled by the excessive supply of unused retail space which is competing for office tenants.

Basic strategy:

Lawrence should adopt a policy of "cooling off" the pace of development. Note: This is not a moratoriam; it is a consicous effort to redirect growth to existing neighborhoods and districts where it can be beneficial.

Housing: The city should stop approving new subdivisions until the existing supply of surplus homes is eliminated. It should direct housing investment back into older neighborhoods so as to preserve and protect the existing public and private investment there.

Commercial space: The city should stop approving plans for new commercial space until the existing surplus is eliminated. It should direct investment into the preservation of the downtown and other existing commercial districts so as to preserve and protect the existing public and private investment there.

Kirk McClure

Work Graduate Program in Urban Planning, University of Kansas

Education Ph. D., City Planning, University of California, Berkeley, Department of City and Regional Planning, 1985. Concentrations in Housing Economics and Public Finance.

Master in City Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, 1978. Specialization in Housing Policy Analysis.

Bachelor of Arts, University of Kansas, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 1974. Special Major in Urban Studies.

Bachelor of Architecture, Graduated With Distinction University of Kansas, School of Architecture and Urban Design, 1973.

mdrndgtl 5 years, 5 months ago

I would speak to the garbagemen about this outrage, but they are busy washing the feces from their hands.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

In essence Lawrence,Kansas has never had the financial resources to support a town aka bedroom community that requires high taxes to function. The only source of taxes are property owners primarily.

While retail and light industrial will pay higher property taxes it is so obviously apparent it requires more than property taxes to fund a community.

For so many years our property values were artificially inflated to meet financial demands while at the same time costing homeowners more to live. And costing business owners more to operate in addition to experiencing rent increases.

Economic boom towns always fall hard.

Meet anti economic growth aka economic displacement instead of responsibly planned economic growth.

Where is the money? Where did it go? Who got it?

Katara 5 years, 5 months ago

Frankly, I don't begrudge the garbagemen any "extra" time they get paid (the whole they work only a few hours a day but get paid for 8 bit). It is a nasty, yucky, icky, blechy job and they do it regardless of weather conditions. They have to lift cans and other items that weigh more than most people on here. They are exposed to all sorts of nasties that lurk in garbage that has been sitting out and fermenting for at least a week. Let them have their few hours of pay. The job deserves it.

As far as complaining about the T, well, now we have more need for it since the school board pretty much ditched the students and their parents on transportation to and from school - transportation that was paid for by the parents. Why advocate eliminating yet another option for school kids to get their butts to school where they belong? Not everyone has the option to walk to school nor have a parent drop them off at school.

As it is the T is going to have to make some big changes in their routes and it could have been done sooner had the school board done the T administration the courtesy of an advance notice that they were planning to drop busing for students living under 2.5 miles from the school.

Sean Livingstone 5 years, 5 months ago

merrill (Anonymous) says…

Oh... you're ticking off the Republicans....

Your Basic strategy:

Your strategy: 1. Lawrence should adopt a policy of “cooling off” the pace of development:

Cost: So you have to pay for an oversight committee or a control authority who really has the authority to stop development. Yeap, the Republicans are shouting socialism. That's what United Kingdom has.... government planners who tell you whether you can develop that land or not. I'm all for it, but will your Republican counterparts tell you that that's socialism?

  1. Housing: The city should stop approving new subdivisions until the existing supply of surplus homes is eliminated.

Cost: Yeap, someone needs to be paid to control it. So where the money come from? Yeap, your tax. Thanks.

  1. Commercial space: The city should stop approving plans for new commercial space until the existing surplus is eliminated.

Costs: Yeap, do you wish to pay more for the authority? A real urban planning expert who is impartial, and not run on the potential of tax gains from these development? Man, to a Republican, that's socialism.

Right, these are all "elite" schools... oh, man, I love how you tip off the Republicans...

Work Graduate Program in Urban Planning, University of Kansas

Education Ph. D., City Planning, University of California, Berkeley, Department of City and Regional Planning, 1985. Concentrations in Housing Economics and Public Finance.

Master in City Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, 1978. Specialization in Housing Policy Analysis.

Bachelor of Arts, University of Kansas, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 1974. Special Major in Urban Studies.

Bachelor of Architecture, Graduated With Distinction University of Kansas, School of Architecture and Urban Design, 1973.

pace 5 years, 5 months ago

The people who pick up our trash do a great job. They work in all kinds of weather, they do and should take pride in how well they have done their job. I have seen them take those extra moments to clean up an area, they take care how they leave the cans. you would not believe what a heroic job it can be. Many times I have thought about how certain landlords and exiting tenants leave piles of garbage and then they come and it is gone. I think the bosses should back up the staff by charging the outlaw trash piles. A few fees and the landlords and tenants would get over the mile high pile method. I do have to say the Sanitation Supervisors are just not led well, I consider the administration of that department crappy, they should get someone who has business or real construction type experience and some sense to head that department.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

  • Why should those who reduce demand for trash service through recycling, which have reduced the number of trips to the landfill in 2 mpg trash trucks be charged the same fee as rental owners and others whose tenants create an extraordinary demand on our trash service? Through their inconsiderate and wasteful living practices such as throwing away housefuls of stuff.

  • Pay As You Throw is the only practical and legitimate avenue towards a fair trash charge for all. Landlords can add a “irresponsible and wasteful” lifestyle charge to the rental fee.

The more that is thrown away the more that is paid!

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

How much is in the reserve fund?

How much of OUR tax dollars are invested?

How much does the city have access to if the city decided to cash in OUR investments aka OUR tax dollars?

Let's put it all on the table. Then like the T allow the taxpayers to vote AFTER taxpayers know all there is to know.

What plans does the city have for OUR reserve funds?

What spending plans does the city have in store?

Taxpayers deserve a chance to vote on these increases and all increases in the future.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

Let's talk socialism

http://www.democracynow.org/2008/1/18/free_lunch_how_the_wealthiest_americans

Is land in your community used as prescribed, or are you hooked on downers? Has anyone overdosed yet? Just one official or landowner can set an entire community into a cycle of abuse.

There are many warning signs. Citizens must learn how to recognize the signs, and help the afflicted.

Medical professionals have obligations regarding proper drug use. However, some folks--even professionals--lack self control. They may use drugs for the wrong purpose, or without concern for side effects, seeking ever larger doses. Some may use drugs in ways that are unsafe--even illegal--or seduce friends into joining them. The behavior is damaging to them, to others, and to society. We recognize it as drug abuse.

Public officials have obligations regarding proper land use. However, some folks--even public officials--lack self control. They may use land for the wrong purpose, or without concern for side effects, seeking ever larger parcels. Some may use land in ways that are unsafe--even illegal--or seduce friends into joining them. The behavior is damaging to them, to others, and to society. We recognize it as... land use.

We often say "land use," when we mean "land abuse." The paraphernalia are visible (weeknights, around 7:00 pm) in scattered rural municipal halls. The problem usually springs from ignorance of the community's own approved plan for future conservation and development. Obtain a copy of your community's Comprehensive Plan, Master Plan, or Land Use Plan. Study this document! It is your prescription.

Is land in your community used as prescribed, or are you hooked on downers? Has anyone overdosed yet? Just one official or landowner can set an entire community into a cycle of abuse. There are many warning signs. Citizens must learn how to recognize the signs, and help the afflicted.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

The top ten signs your community has a land abuse problem:

  1. A public official doesn't recognize quotes from the local plan.

Memory loss is tied to land abuse. Sufferers of land dependency forget promises made in their own plan. Gently reassure them, reading from the plan until they recover a sense of responsibility. If an official doesn't even know they have a plan, shake them firmly until they awaken.

  1. The land use plan describes the community's future "through 1990."

Addicts may fail to attend to normal bodily functions, like updating the plan, or implementing it. As this syndrome progresses, they increasingly lose touch with reality. Many fall into a '60's groove: "Man, I am so huge and the world is, like, infinite--I could do anything." Sufferers may inadvertently injure others. Restrain (or retrain) them until they become lucid.

  1. The plan or ordinance 'discourages' a certain use, but large areas are zoned for it, and it expands every year.

Abusers ignore label warnings. ("Use permits only as directed. Do not exceed recommended density. Avoid operating motor vehicles or heavy equipment in wetland areas.") Real estate pushers then take advantage, encouraging experiments with more harmful trips over time. (The most commonly abused class goes by the street name "strip commercial.") Implementing the plan through clear ordinances, and fair enforcement, is the only way to end the madness.

Clues of a bad habit may appear in the budget. Do officials spend hundreds of thousands of dollars paving roads and building sewers-- though the plan doesn't recommend it--then pretend they are surprised by development? They expect you to buy that, literally. Just say NO!

Once the stupor sets in, most addicts lose sight of cause and effect. They pave; Orchard Estates pops up; they disavow any link. Hot asphalt seems to dull their pain. They pave; the plat of Turtle Ridge appears; they shrug their shoulders... Denial ain't just a river in Egypt!

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

  1. Officials can't state what a permitted use is, or agree what the ordinance means (or one official decides for everyone else).

Deep confusion is a symptom of serious land abuse. Hallucinations increase the chaos. Officials see four men sharing a garage with six trucks and heavy equipment--and imagine it is just a hobby. The 'clean' officials admit that the ordinance agrees with common sense: new dwellings are incompatible with sounds or smells of farms. Others deny it ("I visited the site, but I didn't inhale"). Interpreting or clarifying ordinances on the fly is not within the authority of elected officials or a planning commission. Only a trained Zoning Board of Appeals should undertake this task. If ordinances or officials are delusional, seek professional help.

Hopeless land junkies become deceitful, and hurt other folks. For example, officials tell Bryan, in private, that he can start an industrial use in an agricultural area, if it remains hush-hush. He buys property, only to discover that his business is not a legal use. In a commercial area, Jim asks permission to operate a semi-industrial use. The same officials obstruct his request, but won't openly vote against it. The officials lose respect, while the community loses business opportunities. Time for a little tough love!

  1. Official debate on variances, site plans, or rezonings include phrases such as "We know him," "Nobody will complain," or "Let's waive that requirement."

Even subtle abuse makes an official feel above the law. They crave more and MORE. (Higher self-dosing may lead to so-called 'bull-dosing.') They soon stop following rules, and begin rolling their own. Ordinances are law, however, and apply to officials, their friends, and families. Variances typically require unique circumstances and/or demonstrated hardship. Site plan standards must be documented clearly, and applied uniformly. Rezoning should occur only when consistent with the plan and other standards. Breaking these rules leads to greater abuse, further eroding self discipline. A loud reading of local ordinance or state law may snap an official out of this condition, if only temporarily.

  1. When citizens document specific ordinance violations, an official says, "So, what do you expect me to do?"

Irresponsibility is a tragic symptom. An official, accountable for community welfare, may abandon the public trust and ignore the ordinance. If the abuse is severe, you may even see ordinances rewritten to eliminate the violation on paper, rather than address underlying problems. This very dangerous condition requires professional intervention.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

  1. An official says, "Don't worry, [insert agency name] will protect [insert resource name]." Common usage: "Don't worry, DNR will protect wetlands."

In deep dependence, we see elevated levels of irresponsibility. Blame for all past problems also goes elsewhere. However, no outside agency is responsible for preserving the character or livability of your community. To protect wetlands, farmland, groundwater, or other resources, a community must act through proper plans and ordinances. The state laws that enable local planning recognize purposes such as soil conservation, forest, wildlife refuges, and others. After years of being oblivious to this reality, an official may regain consciousness only after lengthy treatment.

  1. An official acts as though more sprawling growth will help the tax base.

This is an advanced symptom, usually chronic, and often lethal. Since new development brings more taxes, it's good, right? Think! Cows don't dial 911. Turtles don't go to school. Trees don't need sewers. Since the demand for services increases more than the tax base, scattered development costs the community more than it returns in taxes. This is so well documented that one would expect the pushers to manufacture propaganda to the contrary. They hate stepping out into the light. They hope old superstitions will keep the product moving.

Land abuse is worse near big cities. Cities spawn real estate pushers because (1) that's where it's easy to learn the trade, (2) the pickings look easier in the country, and (3) even with their larger tax base, cities can't afford to maintain services. So, pushers and potential abusers leave in droves. Arriving in the country, they demand downtown services. Officials borrow from our children to provide them. Meanwhile, the existing downtown infrastructure rots. Build rural schools; demolish urban schools. This is your society. This is your society on sprawl. Any questions?

  1. The building inspector (also a builder) is paid per house. His construction business partner is the municipal attorney. They, and your chief enforcement officer (also a Realtor), are pals with the local developers and their investors. Their incomes rise only as more plats, conflicts, and land sales occur.

(I am not making this up.) Land abuse requires pushers at all levels. Cash provides them a false sense of self worth, enticing them to abandon ethics, principles, and the welfare of the community. The abuse so controls their behavior (and their comrades') that they believe it is the norm.

Columbian cartels have nothing on these guys. Their conduct is erratic. They quote imaginary laws, and fanciful rights. They exhibit paranoia about open meetings. They attack the citizens as a trivial 'minority' of their empire. Warnings about impending risks to their position--even the kingpin--fall on deaf ears. They're simply unable to swear off the demon dollar. Call the narcs!

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

AND the number one symptom:

  1. Someone says, "If you deny this residential rezoning, you might see hogs out there tomorrow!"

The speaker may be desperate, DWI (Developing While Ignorant), or both. He is either an unsophisticated developer, or a seriously strung-out official. He is about to go cold turkey, and will do anything to score.

This threat is to (1) supply more of the rural character neighbors are defending (2) in a way the speaker knows will taint his own property, (3) by doing something the speaker obviously knows nothing about. This person is under the influence. Do not administer coffee or other stimulants!

The swine threat is proof of land abuse, revealing the speaker's belief that bullies are somehow more entitled to rezoning. (Of course, even that is more honest than threatening a lawsuit. You know they're even further over the legal limit when they're DUIL: Developing Under Intimidation of Litigation.) Hogs or attorneys. Why do you think they call it dope?

The only cure for land abuse is public participation. It can be slow, painful therapy. People who care about the community must come back month after chilling month to end the cycle of abuse. The addicts who compulsively focus on personal and financial goals will fight desperately for another hit, then another. Some can come clean for good, but only with a lot of help.

justtired 5 years, 5 months ago

Many have jumped out against the men/woman doing their jobs. They work in all kinds of weather, almost hit by cars, and put up with a lot of stuff to earn a check. How many of you would want to work when it is time for students to move out of their apartments? work holidays so retailers can continue with an empty can? get sprayed by all kinds of "liquid" and then have to smile when getting berated by the public. The grass program doesn't come out of the city budget. This is a federal grant program. It runs because the feds give the city money to pick up the grass and leaves. I have a feeling that most of the whiners are those who work in a nice clean environment, and look down upon the laborers. Just think, what would the town look like if no one collected trash? I know that some of the crews check the welfare of customers, put out extra effort to help the disabled/elderly, and I even know of a crew that stopped to help a customer who had tripped and fell in his front yard. Do you ever hear about these "extra duties?" No, because the crews do their jobs and go home to their families. The next time you want to complain about the trash, I am sure you could call the city and work with them for a day to fully understand their jobs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sean Livingstone 5 years, 5 months ago

"merrill: The only cure for land abuse is public participation."

Then you have the argument: Why do someone (or everybody) else has the right over the land that others own?

The private attorney is a private practitioner, just like the homebuilder. The argument is, who has to enforce of the legislation to make sure that they do not have conflict of interest? A public hearing? Yeap, I agree it can be slow but good. However, who has the right to tell what others can or cannot do?

I'm sorry, but the land restriction that you've proposed is very restrictive, and need multiple layers of reform. Lands were free in the past, as US tried to encourage development. Things have changed, do we need a stronger authority to control development? Relying on civic movement and market forces will not help.... history shows.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

Lawrence could simply stop extending infrastructure at taxpayer cost for new developments.

If developers had to pay all of the costs associated with the new developments as well as impact fees for future maintenance, I suspect the houses would be much too expensive to sell (since they'd obviously pass the costs on to the homeowners).

Also, several of the proposals don't require new boards or employees - they simply require the decision to stop approving new development/expansion of the city.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

How we the taxpayers subsidize not sensible growth yet get nothing back in return as more and more and more city does not necessarily improve the local quality of life.

How we subsidize not sensible growth:

  • building new and wider roads
  • building schools on the fringe
  • extending sewer and water lines to not sensible development
  • extending emergency services to the fringe
  • direct pay-outs to developers

How do we subsidize not sensible growth? Through an array of state, local and federal programs-and through incentives built into the develop-ment process itself. The biggest contribution to not sensible growth is the billions of dollars spent on building new roads.

Of course all new housing and retail demand more from the city thus the taxpayers. The city needs more staff and equipment,fire stations,schools and constant maintenance of the infrastructure or in many cases right here in Lawrence older infrastructure gets ignored...are we getting our money's worth?

Over built housing and retail markets are bad for business but great for increasing our taxes and user fees.

Again: * Why should those who reduce demand for trash service through recycling, which have reduced the number of trips to the landfill in 2 mpg trash trucks be charged the same fee as rental owners and others whose tenants create an extraordinary demand on our trash service? Through their inconsiderate and wasteful living practices such as throwing away housefuls of stuff.

  • Pay As You Throw is the only practical and legitimate avenue towards a fair trash charge for all. Landlords can add a “irresponsible and wasteful” lifestyle charge to the rental fee.

The more that is thrown away the more that is paid!

This town simply cannot afford tax abatements considering WE get to make up the difference.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

The fee Lawrence pays to the landfill is incredibly low so how can the city be losing money?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.