Archive for Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Prepare for stiffer fees and fines

June 9, 2009

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Commission surveys proposed budget

City Commissioners got their first peek Monday at the proposed 2010 budget. Enlarge video

Lawrence residents should not expect a higher property tax bill from City Hall, but they should prepare for higher fees and fines for everything from speeding to golf.

“We anticipate the mill levy will be stable, the budget will be balanced, and the unhappiness will be evenly distributed,” City Manager David Corliss told city commissioners Monday as he outlined major items he expects to include in his recommended 2010 city budget.

Corliss said it is clear that the economic times make it imprudent to raise the city’s property tax mill levy. He said he expects the city’s tax rate to remain unchanged from its current level, which means some homeowners may pay slightly less in property taxes to the city because property values are on the decline in many areas.

But Corliss said he plans to recommend a host of fee increases to offset lower property tax revenues. Among the increases Corliss plans to pursue:

• Downtown parking: Corliss is promoting a plan that would raise the fine for overtime parking at downtown meters to $3 from the current $2.

The time limit for parking at Massachusetts Street meters also would be changed from two hours to 1.5 hours. Corliss is recommending that the city issue tickets for all meters downtown from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Currently, enforcement ends at 5 p.m. Corliss said he is proposing that parking remain free on Sundays.

City commissioners ultimately will get to decide how to set the rates, and some said they may look at being more aggressive.

“I think we all had a consensus that $2 was just a really small fine,” Mayor Rob Chestnut said. “I thought we might be talking about an increase that was a little larger.”

Corliss is estimating the proposed changes would generate about $164,000 in new revenue.

• Speeding and traffic fines: Corliss said he plans to recommend the fine for driving 1 to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit increase from $38 to $50. Fines for other traffic offenses — such as running a stop sign, improper turns and driving left of center — would increase from $68 to $80. Fines for a notice to appear on parking fines would increase from $40 to $55. Court costs would remain steady at $52.

Corliss said he also expects the city will issue more tickets in 2010 because his budget will recommend filling all vacant police officer positions. “We will benefit from having a fully staffed police department,” he said. “Speeders won’t benefit.”

The higher fines are expected to raise about $250,000 in new revenue.

• Parks and Recreation fees: Corliss is proposing that the Prairie Park Nature Center and the South Park Wading Pool both start charging admission fees. Currently, both are free. Corliss said he’s awaiting a recommendation from the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board on what those fees should be.

Corliss said he is not recommending adding fees to use the city’s community buildings, weight rooms or cardio rooms. He said he’s also not recommending a reduction in hours at recreation centers.

Golfers at the city-owned Eagle Bend Golf Course could see higher fees. The current proposal is to increase weekend greens fees by $2 and to increase the fees for carts by $1, Corliss said. Prices for annual passes also would increase by $50.

• Utilities: Corliss did not provide specific information on water, sewer or trash rates. But he said increases in those areas would be considered.

At least two job losses also are being proposed by Corliss. Corliss said he’s proposing to eliminate the city’s two Human Relations investigator positions. Corliss said the three attorneys in the city’s Legal Services Department could pick up the caseload of the investigators.

The investigators examine complaints of housing and employment discrimination throughout the city. Corliss said the department has had fewer than 10 cases for the first quarter of the year.

City Commissioner Mike Amyx said, however, he had concerns about eliminating those positions and wanted it discussed further by commissioners.

For the most part, though, commissioners did not express much opposition to Corliss’ proposals.

“I think we’re coming to a fairly revenue-neutral situation, and we’re not considering lots of major staffing changes,” Chestnut said. “I know there are municipalities in situations much more dire.”

Corliss will present a complete recommended budget in early July. Commissioners have until late August to approve a 2010 budget.

Comments

Chris Ogle 5 years, 11 months ago

Corliss said it is clear that the economic times make it imprudent to raise the city’s property tax mill levy

We will see !!! It aint over till the fat lady sings.

cowboy 5 years, 11 months ago

The annual shell game begins....You really have to work at it to be this non-inventive in approaching budget reduction / efficiencies.

lawthing 5 years, 11 months ago

messing with the already messed up parking downtown is not the answer. Downtown is already in jeapordy,

businesses are struggling with the downtown fees and high rents, and the one thing still brings me downtown is the after 5 free parking.

Messing with the parking will only drive more people to the Walmart and other competitors of downtown, where the parking is closer and free.

Sharon Aikins 5 years, 11 months ago

Your recommendations would be what then, cowboy? As I see it, these are basic fees that are not rising significantly, would be more widespread, hitting even those who are not property owners, some nonresidents even.

Irrelevant, but I always laugh whenever I get a bill from Black Hills Energy. The first line is a $16 customer charge. Is this just for the privilege of being their customer? If they can do that, why not have the city charge all of us a resident fee? In 2007, the population was estimated at just under 90,000. Heck, at a dollar a month/resident, that would generate $1,080,000. I am being facetious here but it makes as much sense.

And surely the city doesn't expect us to believe that they are being as efficient as they possibly can be. I'm sure there is a lot of fat that could be trimmed without doing any major damage to the population in general. Then again, wherever they do, it will affect some of us and the screaming will start. Guess I'll just worry about trimming my own budget. I don't play golf and I rarely park where there's a parking meter. But I have been known to get caught up in the general flow and speed around town.

lawthing 5 years, 11 months ago

The Investigators are a waist of tax payer money.

The City could easily establish a Citizen Review board, organized by a group of volunteers from within the community willing to serve for one year.

The Citizen review board consisting of at least 7 people, could review and investigate complaints, and would include one attorney or law intern.

This group could investigate complaints in various areas involving discrimination and misconduct of officials within housing, City, and Police.

It would save the City money, because Citizen review boards can help to resolve issues before they become lawsuits.

They also would handle issues that the City is currently ignoring or paying high dollar attorneys to deal with.

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 11 months ago

"lawthing (Anonymous) says… The City could easily establish a Citizen Review board, organized by a group of volunteers from within the community willing to serve for one year."

Yeah, because if there is anything this city needs it is more quasi-governmental, unelected citizen boards. The city already has quite a few and they are typically populated by the same group of people over and over... Ironically the same people who helped get us into this economic mess through advocating their own pet projects.

The proposals above will help further destroy the Lawrence economy such as it exists. More expensive parking downtown? Good idea - we wouldn't want to encourage people to stay longer. Taxing the poor through parks and rec fees and increases in utilities? Fantastic. At least Lawrence will keep the "inexpensive" public transit system that no one uses.

Stanley Rasmussen 5 years, 11 months ago

Cutting the time on the downtown meters is stupid. Shopping and dining is less enjoyable when you have to fret about getting back to the meter every 90 minutes. Why not just raise the price to park on Mass. St. (say 25 cents per 15 minutes) and allow people to park longer....Perhaps that would generate more revenue from the meters and allow people to tarry longer. As for speed traps and using the police to collect tax reveneue (excuse me I mean speeding fines), I think it is nothing but weak shallow thinking. Come on Dave Corliss can't you do better than that?

BigPrune 5 years, 11 months ago

shop downtown but if you stay too long, we will punish you. welcome to lawrence. does this sound co-dependent anyone?

i wonder if there would be more sales taxes generated by increased sales downtown if the parking was free? would the increase off set the fine for staying too long?

c_dubya 5 years, 11 months ago

Give Corliss a little credit. At least he's not proposing a sales tax increase, a liquor or cigarette tax increase or some other across the board increase. He's also talking about eliminating positions. I think these answers, while not fun, are at least a balanced and thought out approach to a difficult situation.

I do like JrMint's meter proposal, but seriously - what's $3 worth to you if you go over the limit? Just max out the meter and relax at your dinner. If you get a fine pay it immediately and forget about it.

If you don't like increased speeding fines then a) don't speed or b) get a good radar detector.

timetospeakup 5 years, 11 months ago

@BigPrune - I'm confused as well. I thought the purpose of paid parking downtown was to encourage people to shop then leave so the spots turnover and other people can come spend their money. Paid parking in a retail district isn't supposed to be a revenue source.

SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 11 months ago

I'm certain the fees and fines will go down once the economy improves. Er....

Amy Heeter 5 years, 11 months ago

Get over it people! If you go to any neighboring community the fines are way higher than in Lawrence.

John Spencer 5 years, 11 months ago

How about free parking, sell off the meters, get rid of the meter maids I bet that will equate to a substantial cost savings and increased downtown revenue.

SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 11 months ago

artichoke,

That mindset will keep us over-taxed, over-fined, and over-"feed" forever. We should not aspire to the least common denominator.

Angela Heili 5 years, 11 months ago

At least use some of the money to maintain the darn round abouts! We have one in West Lawrence, on Legends drive that is literally crumbling and falling apart. It looks awful. If you're going to put the darn things in, take care of them!

Eric Neuteboom 5 years, 11 months ago

Parrysmom...

Agree, but tear that darn thing out! Of all the round-a-bouts in this city, that is BY FAR the dumbest!

Richard Heckler 5 years, 11 months ago

These are tax increases no matter how they are described.

This is what happens when city commissioners approve more growth than a city can afford. The so called expanding of the tax base has never and is not paying back the taxpayers. It is also unfriendly to homeowners and unfriendly to local existing business yet more and more has been approved.

Have Lawrence,Kansas commissioners ever been warned that this over growth would have a negative impact? Absolutely many times over the past 12 years or more.

Remember each time talk of tax incentives aka tax breaks surface ask yourself " Do I want to pay more taxes,higher water and trash bills,higher sewer rates or increased swimming rates to cover the loss of tax dollars created by tax incentives aka tax breaks?" The loss must be made up somehow to cover the cost of expanding and running a city.

The wealthy real estate development know how to stick the city taxpayers with the bills that increase their own wealth and they love it. http://www.democracynow.org/2008/1/18/free_lunch_how_the_wealthiest_americans

Richard Heckler 5 years, 11 months ago

Maybe city hall will not be increasing property taxes but what about USD 497 and the $15-$20 million new athletic projects? The school district knows the state of Kansas is never friendly about funding public schools so where in the world is the money?

How should the school district pay for a $16.5 million maintenance backlog in elementary schools? This was a known equation before the sports facilities project was approved Where will the money come from? School Maintenance http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/oct/how_should_school_district_pay_20_million_maintena/

http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/jul/what_do_you_think_proposed_3mill_property_tax_i ncr/

The one cent tax funding the PLAY project aka Clinton Lake Regional Park project could have been used to fix streets and side walks in the older east Lawrence neighborhoods PLAY aka Clinton Lake Regional Park Project ( which the voters never had a chance to vote for) http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/may/should_city_spend_20_million_or_more_play_project/

The voters suggested an Ice Rink would be acceptable but instead taxpayers are funding a 1,505 acre approximately $15 million PLAY/Clinton Lake Regional Park Project without voter approval. http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/apr/recreation_survey/

In essence commissioners continue to approve many expansions without any way to pay for them except for you and me the taxpayers who never get to vote on how our tax dollars should be spent! Is this mismangement of tax dollars?

Would voters want to vote on projects that expand our tax bills? I say yes. The T funding approval is a perfect example in which a high percentage of local voters took the time to vote on this issue. Lawrence voters are not stupid people.

sinverguenza 5 years, 11 months ago

If I have enough money to shop/dine on Mass, I don't think a $1 increase for parking too long will deter me. In fact, many, many, many times my meter has run out, but I've only ever received a ticket once or twice. I think it's safe to say that this increased fine and shortened time limits will only deter a few hard-nosed shoppers.

Merril -

What's up with the T? What changes have been discussed and when will we be seeing some action?

jjt 5 years, 11 months ago

Serious now. Why not put the fines up to a real fine say $20 as it is now $2 or $3 is not enough to make it a concern I am not going to get up from lunch for $2. On the other hand $20 would make me think about it.

Amy Heeter 5 years, 11 months ago

SettingTheRecordStraight (Anonymous) says…

"artichoke,

That mindset will keep us over-taxed, over-fined, and over-“feed” forever. We should not aspire to the least common denominator."

Paying a extra dollar or two for failure to pump a meter is hardly reason to relive the Boston tea party

Evan Ridenour 5 years, 11 months ago

I don't really think lowering the time limit on the meters is reasonable. But increasing the cost of them, increasing the time they apply and increasing the fine definitely is.

Anyone who has been to the downtown area of pretty much any other city knows how ridiculously low the $2 fine is and $0.25 an hour is really low as well. The reason I want them raised is to encourage people to use the free parking options further away from the main street if they are able to do so (read employees of the businesses on Mass). There just isn't enough parking to allow people to just not care about the cost of plugging the meters and/or the resulting fine.

If anything is hurting parking on Mass St. it is the things I listed above, and increasing the cost of parking helps... it doesn't hurt. If it is more expensive to park right on the street people who don't need to do so will park further away (which isn't actually far at all I might add) allowing people who actually want or need to park close to do so.

At the very least the Downtown Commerce Assoc. needs to make a concerted effort to get the employees of the member businesses to stop parking directly on Mass...

cowboy 5 years, 11 months ago

This is Corliss's annual get the natives stirred up about some insignificant BS tactic. He does this every year. In the end the city will raise your water / sewer , increase fees across the board and do nothing to cut any operating expenses or capital spending.

The parking enforcement operation has not been sustaining itself for some time. Nothing has been done to rectify it. Raise the meter fees and make it pay for itself , raise the fines to $5 and get on with it.

Fire the auditor , he has produced nothing and burned up over 90,000 dollars in salary and probably another 30,000 in benefits.

Cut all of the city senior staff , manager , commission salaries by 10%. Reveiw again in 12 months.

Stop all behind closed doors meetings to pursue Farmland.

Cut yard waste pickup services in half , every other week. Force people to stop filling the trucks with lawn clippings. Let the trash boys either take time off or put them on a mowing crew and cut the outside services that are mowing the medians and parks. Next year stop all lawn related pickups. Pick up brush once per month. Save gas , save labor , save equipment.

Move the city staff riding around in big pickups while carrying nothing in them either to a sub compact or small truck. This is a waste of gas

Collect municipal court cost fees at time of bonding out of jail. Build a reserve fund ahead of time instead of chasing these folks for the next year.

Convert the water meter readings to monthly averages and verify with a quarterly meter read instead of every month. cut the meter staff. Cut the monthly vehicle and gas cost. Stop all the print mailing in the water bills , heck convert it to an online billing and go paperless for the majority of residents.

Do something inventive , creative , tough . Quit with the hysterical crapola you put out each year.

purplesage 5 years, 11 months ago

A $2-3 fine is probably "reasonable" for the crime of letting the meter run out. I do have to admit to wondering the other day when observing a ticket writer working Mass St. how much she gets paid, + equipment etc. and whether there are enough revenues generated to pay for it?

If you can park for free at Target, why not downtown?

Kontum1972 4 years, 11 months ago

make stop signs 200.00 then go hang out on kasold..both those stop signs from 6th to 11th primo areas for sign running...even with pedistrians in the crosswalks

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