Archive for Thursday, May 7, 2009

City commissioners hear about effects of 5 percent budget cuts

Shoppers browse along Massachusetts Street.

Shoppers browse along Massachusetts Street.

May 7, 2009


Lawrence city commissioners mull budget cuts

Lawrence city commissioners listened to some of the potential consequences of proposed budget cuts. Enlarge video

City budget study session

Day One

The Lawrence Public Library may have to reduce some evening hours if city commissioners follow through on a scenario that reduces each department’s budget by 5 percent for 2010.

City Hall’s phone and voicemail system is so badly outdated that only used parts can be bought for the 16-year-old network.

Parks and Recreation leaders warn that they are getting closer to turning away participants if the city doesn’t come up with a plan for securing more gym and ballfield space.

Day Two of the City Commission’s work to create a budget for 2010 brought out a parade of red flags, but commissioners expressed confidence that they would be able to put together a budget that wouldn’t produce large-scale pain for the public.

“I don’t think there’s going to be very much in the way of service cuts, if any,” said newly elected Commissioner Aron Cromwell. “I think we’ve realized that a couple of percents can be trimmed from almost all the budgets, just in matters of efficiency.”

Commissioners didn’t make any decisions at Thursday afternoon’s study session. They have until late August to create a budget. Instead, they directed staff members to closely examine each departmental budget and begin adjusting individual line items closer to 2008 levels.

“We’re going to win this battle $10,000 at a time,” Mayor Rob Chestnut said. “I want to make sure we’re not just sticking numbers in there to have space holders.”

Among the issues commissioners heard on Thursday:

l Library director Bruce Flanders said a 5 percent cut to the library’s budget likely would require the library to close a few hours early on at least one weeknight. He said a Thursday or Friday evening was the most likely scenario.

l Jim Wisdom, the city’s interim director of information systems, warned commissioners the city’s phone and voicemail system at City Hall is about four years past its life expectancy.

“This is something that is eventually going to fail,” Wisdom said.

Cost estimates for a new phone and voicemail system are about $690,000.

l Acting Parks and Recreation Director Ernie Shaw said a 5 percent reduction in the budget would make it difficult for the department to pay electric and gas bill costs for the department’s various facilities. The department’s proposed budget envisions tapping into sales tax reserve funds to maintain facilities, and calls for the elimination of one part-time administrative support position.

Shaw said the budget crunch comes at a time when more people are using parks and recreation programs because they are looking for cheap entertainment options.

Shaw urged commissioners to take a long-term view of the facility needs for the department, noting that the city in the last couple of years has lost the use of Robinson Gymnasium at Kansas University, a softball field at Lawrence High, and several gyms at the former Sport 2 Sport facility.

“We’re getting back to being facility poor again,” Shaw said. “We’re already using everything we can get from the school district, churches, and we’re renting some large spaces from businesses in town.”

Commissioners are expected to discuss the budget again as part of their annual goal-setting session. That study session will be from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. May 26 at City Hall.


workinghard 8 years, 11 months ago

They need to make a decision about the crossing guards. What are they going to do, wait until school has been in session for two weeks? Let people know so things can be set up before school starts. Let working parents know so they can arrange transportation to and from school for kids that have to cross major streets.

Chris Ogle 8 years, 11 months ago

City Hall’s phone and voicemail system is so badly outdated that only used parts can be bought for the 16-year-old network.

Wow.... 16 years. The city was just rolling in money a few years ago..... Now they are broke, and whining about stuff that used to be "peanuts" to them... Why I am not surprised?

cowboy 8 years, 11 months ago

Ran a small manufacturing plant years ago and the accountant came and told me we needed a new phone system with all the bells and whistles , then quoted the cost. I suggested a novel idea , answer the damn phone when it rings and take care of our customers. Problem solved , customers happy and occasionally shocked.

Sigmund 8 years, 11 months ago

So when will the City Commission hear about the impact of higher fees and sales taxes on those in the community?

Chris Ogle 8 years, 11 months ago

"... answer the damn phone when it rings and take care of our customers. Problem solved.."

I love it cowboy. It is a rare pleasure to make a business phone call, and have a real person (that's speaks english) answer it.

Hell, I have enough extra envelopes that come with the water bill to pay for a phone system..

Lawrence is so special.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 11 months ago

It's the city commission that adds to taxpayers expenses have we not figured that yet. This is poor management. Just goes to show that local business people do not make good city managers. Why do they annex and add miles and miles and miles of new infrastructure to our tax bills with no way to pay back the taxpayers?.

*Repair eastside sidewalks instead of adding more new miles of new infrastructure which equal more new miles of tax dollar expenses.

Don't fire the lower wage people. Start at the top with department heads.

  • Stop Annexing - that adds to our tax bills.

  • Stop All New Infrastructure Projects - Taxpayers cannot afford the additional expense of more and more miles of water lines and sewer lines. Taxpayers have been saying this for quite sometime. This activity does not pay for itself or pay back the taxpayer.

  • Stop the Multimillon Dollar Clinton Lake Regional Park Project as it duplicates the USD 497 sports facilities project - this is a rather lavish Park Department project. This portion of the one cent sales tax could keep people on the job. We do not need a regional park. Keeping people on the job is good for the economy.

  • No more neighborhoods within the city limits. They do not generate enough revenue to support themselves. Lawrence became a high tax poor job market community = NOT smart planning.

  • Taxpayers CANNOT afford more infrastructure to the airport. Taxpayers have to pay for all the maintenance with no proof that this will ever pay back the taxpayer. It's all based on speculation.

All of the above explain why this city/county should be doing Cost of Community Services Studies along the way to discover what taxpayer projects are or are not paying back the community. This protects the tax dollars from mere speculation. Instead of a 30 year guessing plan which protects nothing.

Our city current fiscally irresponsible situation is one more reason why all new developments should be put to the voters once a year. Local business people do not necessarily make good city managers. Taxpayers can be far more objective.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 11 months ago

It is imperative that communities conduct a market capacity studies to understand their market potential, before any vote can be taken on retail,residential or light industrial proposals. Communities are increasingly asking applicants to underwrite the cost of an independent analysis to determine a market capacity and the economic impact.

Citizen taxpayers deserve to know how new development will impact property taxes,sales revenue and employment generated at other businesses in the community.

All new development is often mistaken for economic development when instead it could easily be promoting economic displacement instead of economic growth. Generally the people it affects the most are least likely to understand it.

Could this be a reason for our extraordinarily high taxes? Could this be a reason we might become the most expensive place to live and do business in Kansas?

The big box corporations are waging a war of indoctrination. They need us as accomplices in the destruction of our own hometowns. Consumers are best served when there are numerous competitors in the market. The big retail corporations, like Home Depot, Toys R Us, Wal-Mart and Best Buy, are known in the industry as "category killers." The name is significant. These businesses do not intend to compete with local stores; they aim to be the primary games in town.

Every developer that comes before a City or Planning Commission make their projects sound like they were written in Lake Wobegon where all the site plans are good looking and the economic impacts above average. The symptoms of retail over saturation are everywhere.

Our governing bodies must remember there are still only so many retail dollars available in any community and Lawrence is but a small town surrounded by established commercial competition aka KCMO/JOCO and Topeka Metro.

DoUntoOthers 8 years, 11 months ago

Woe is the City; Woe are the taxpayers. We have an office with over 50 phones and we've used nothing but used replacement parts for over 15 years. AND WE MAKE MONEY!!! The City needs to get real, especially when it is just spending other people's money.

think_about_it 8 years, 11 months ago

I can't wait to see what Richard Heckler has to say about this topic.

justsayno 8 years, 11 months ago

Here's a novel approach. Why doesn't city management require city workers to work the full 8 hours that they are getting paid for? I have personally complained to the city manager and the city commisioners about this and it still continues. Check out your city sanitation workers. Sometimes they work as much as 6 hours (although rarely) to get that 8 hours of pay. But of course our illustrious city manager thinks that this is a very valued program. Another yes-man to everyone but the taxpayers. Disgusting.

jafs 8 years, 11 months ago


It's my understanding that if they finish their work more quickly, they can leave.

Results-oriented workplaces make sense to me - if they finish their allotted work, why should they stick around? In fact, this encourages efficiency.

Why is the city renting space instead of using our own city-owned resources?

If all city buildings adjusted their thermostats, and didn't use any heating/cooling during spring and fall when it's not necessary, that would save quite a bit of money. Also, I've noticed that the guys who mow the grass in the park near our house seem to come back several times before it's done - one trip would be more efficient, and it would look much nicer as well.

And, I completely agree with merrill - we should immediately halt all development oriented taxpayer expenses.

jumpin_catfish 8 years, 11 months ago

This is a true story:

I was a crossing guard at Sunset many years ago and one morning as I was walking a small group of kindergarden's across the street a car with a woman doing her make-up in her visor mirror came down the street and never slowed down. I hurried my little flock across and all was well (the woman never saw a thing). Do we really want to cut the crossing guards?

Sean Livingstone 8 years, 11 months ago

Hey, with all the complaints about how inefficient the city commissioner is, and how bad the money is managed... I'm not one of them, but can I suggest something? if you think you have better ideas, why don't you run for office? That will give you the opportunity to show what you have for us?

justsayno 8 years, 11 months ago


Efficiency has nothing to do with this. Check your information first. Do you know what happened the last time the city workers were informed that they had to work their full eight hours? Well they just proceeded to slow down and then charge the city overtime for the same job that they could do in four hours. That's not efficiency, that's blackmail. I contend that if you can get your eight hour job done in four hours then apparently you are not allotted the correct amount of work. If this was an occurence that happened every once in a while then maybe it would be understandable. But this is a pretty much every day occurence. A very rare occurence that they even work six hours. If the city allotted them the correct amount of work for their eight hours, then how many crews are not necessary. That is a lot of tax dollars that is, and has, been wasted over the numerous years that this procedure has been in practice that could have been utilized in a more efficient manner. Now, that is efficient. I have heard from many people that one of the most prized jobs working for the city is the sanitation worker. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why that is.

kmat 8 years, 11 months ago

jafs - in the real world, if you finish your allotted work in less than the time they think it should take, you'd better find something else productive to do if you want to keep your job. If you can get what is supposed to be a full time job done on a part time basis, then you need to be paid as a part time employee. I've never worked for a company that allowed you to just go home if you thought your work was done.

kujayhawk 8 years, 11 months ago

Who's the dumba$$ in the Mizzou shirt?

BigPrune 8 years, 11 months ago


The City needs to redo the development code that was passed by the Progressive Commission.

Did you know the City now considers strip shopping centers obsolete?

No wonder sales taxes are down.

jafs 8 years, 11 months ago


You may have a point there - if we have 2 crews out doing 4 hrs of work, we could have 1 doing 8. That would eliminate a couple of salaried positions and save money.


Results-oriented workplaces are becoming more common, and make a lot of sense to me. Requiring that everyone spend 8 hrs at their job just means most people will slow down their work to make it take that long. Why should people who are more efficient be penalized for that?

If the point is that there's a certain amount of work to be done, don't we want everyone to do it as efficiently as possible?

If I can do in 4 hrs what it takes others to do in 8, shouldn't I be rewarded for that, rather than punished?

kmat 8 years, 11 months ago

jafs - being in management myself, if my employees can get their allotted work done in 4 hours, then they need to do additional work with the remaining 4 hours they're being paid for. The employee gets rewarded for being a productive employee that can do more work than the average. I wouldn't pay them for work they didn't do. BUT, if they take on additional work because they are so efficient, they'll get better pay.

If you have an employee that slows down just so they don't have to do more work, they need to go.

Unless you've found the most awesome employee in the world, most people aren't going to be able to do their jobs twice as fast as everyone else does. Usually, doing the job quickly means they rushed through it. I'd prefer an employee that can work at a regular pace and always do great quality work instead of someone that rushes through it.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 11 months ago

They'd better hope the budget cuts don't hurt any union members. Barry will be on them like ugly on an ape.

1moreopinion 8 years, 11 months ago

Cuts! Cuts! Cuts! Budget crunch! Budget crunch! Budget crunch! The commission needs to cut services and the budget so they will have extra money for the almost 1 million dollar phone system, Corlis needs a new executive office chair because he has worn the current one out, and they must find a way to get that Farmland property.

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