Archive for Friday, July 2, 2010

City budget plan holds line on taxes

City manager David Corliss said the 10 jobs lost would not be layoffs.

July 2, 2010


New budget allows purchase of new pothole patcher

The patcher will allow holes to be fixed even in cold weather. Enlarge video

Related document

City manager's 2011 recommended budget ( .PDF )

Pothole repair will increase in 2011. The city’s property tax rate will not, under a recommended budget from City Manager David Corliss.

Corliss released a 2011 recommended budget that holds the city’s mill levy steady at 26.7 mills, but holds out the possibility of increases in water, sewer and trash rates.

The budget continues a trend of the city’s mill levy holding virtually steady or going down slightly since 2003, but Corliss used Thursday’s release to remind the community that can’t go on forever.

“We either need to grow our tax base, grow our economy, or else an increase in the mill levy will be on the horizon,” Corliss said.

In the meantime, potholes will be a major focus of the 2011 budget. Corliss is recommending $164,000 to purchase a “spray injection patcher” that will allow crews to patch potholes in colder weather.

Currently crews don’t have the ability to make permanent patches during the cooler parts of the spring and fall.

Corliss also is recommending that employees in several departments such as parks and recreation and utilities be trained to patch potholes so that they can be called upon during the busy spring pothole season.

“We need surge capabilities to get at this community need,” Corliss said.

Here’s a look at other parts of the proposed budget, which will be voted on by city commissioners in early August:


Corliss recommends a steady mill levy for the city, but total tax bills in the community may go up. The Lawrence school board has begun discussing a possible 5 mill property tax increase, and Douglas County also is expected to face a tight budget.

But Corliss said he was able to recommend against increasing the property tax levy, in part, because home values in Lawrence did not fall anywhere near as much as once projected. New numbers from the county appraiser estimate the city’s property tax base shrunk only by 0.09 percent. At one point, there were fears the tax base may shrink by 5 percent or more.

Corliss’ budget, though, does count on sales tax collections rebounding. Corliss is projecting 2011 sales tax collections to grow by 2 percent over 2010 totals. That would mark a reversal of a recent trend of declining sales tax totals.

City employees

The recommended budget calls for 10 city positions to be taken off the payroll in 2011. But none of the positions are currently filled, meaning there will be no need for layoffs. Five of the jobs are in the city’s solid waste division, two are in parks and recreation, two in public works and one in information technology.

Corliss is recommending that city employees be eligible for raises. He said he’s budgeting for about a 1.25 percent increase in the merit pool for city employees, although that number could change depending on negotiations with the city’s police and fire unions.

Health care costs for the city are expected to go up by about 10 percent, with 5 percent of the increase being passed along to employees in the form of higher premiums.


Corliss’ budget is left open-ended on many city fees. City commissioners will be asked to decide whether to increase water and sewer fees by 2 percent to 6 percent, or to delay several water and sewer upgrades.

Rates for trash service are more likely to increase. The operator of the area landfill has proposed a 27 percent increase in tipping fees. City staff members are recommending a 7.5 percent increase in trash rates.

Major projects

The budget recommends funding for several large street projects, including: rebuilding Iowa from Yale to Bob Billings Parkway; repaving and widening parts of Sixth Street from Massachusetts to Iowa and Monterey to Folks; rebuilding Kasold from Clinton Parkway to 31st Street; and about $3 million worth of unspecified infrastructure improvements related to Farmland Industries property. The budget also includes about $970,000 to buy a new quint fire engine.

Economic development

The Farmland project, along with the projected opening of the biosciences incubator facility on Kansas University’s West Campus, has Corliss recommending a boost in the amount of money the city spends on marketing economic development efforts.

Corliss is recommending that the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce’s budget increase by $34,000 for marketing purposes.

Projects delayed

Corliss said he’s not recommending any money be spent in 2011 towards constructing a west Lawrence recreation center, which had been discussed for city-owned land near Sixth and Wakarusa. Corliss also said he can’t recommend that the city start a new sidewalk maintenance fee that would give the city more funds to improve sidewalks throughout the community.

“I think they’re both good ideas, but we just don’t have the funds for it,” Corliss said.


grimpeur 7 years, 7 months ago

Forget 6th. Make with the sidewalks. Especially in a four-block radius around LHS. And stop building more parking at the schools! JFC, no wonder our kids, like their parents, are fatties.

You know what might ease the burden of these pie-in-the-sky 6th St. improvements? 2% tax on everything purchased at Lowe's. Oh, Lowe's gets to keep that? What a silly idea.

Matt Schwartz 7 years, 7 months ago

bike lanes please, so we don't turn into fatties.

think_about_it 7 years, 7 months ago

Mr. Corliss shows some common sense. What a breath of fresh air in a city long known for its waste of tax dollars.

walkingonwater 7 years, 7 months ago

I must respectfully disagree. He said, "We either need to grow our tax base, grow our economy, or else an increase in the mill levy will be on the horizon."

How about living within our means - that should have been an option. Instead, staff will get raises, they always do, and meanwhile, the people of Lawrence will be asked to pay more to live - fees, taxes, whatever - we're paying more.

Moderateguy 7 years, 7 months ago

Wow, an entity of government attempting to live within it's means. I read the headline and had to check my calendar to make sure it wasn't April 1. Thank you Mr. Corliss. I wish everybody else had your perspective.

Kontum1972 7 years, 7 months ago

hey dave wave the tax wand some more....POOF

EarthaKitt 7 years, 7 months ago

Look up "towards" - bad bad bad. Check your AP style book.

think-about-it - raising trash and water fees is still money that will go to the city for improvements. I don't see how the source of the money will affect whether the city "wastes" it. Isn't raising city fees just taking money from one pocket rather than another? Sounds like Corliss, perhaps wisely, merely found a quicker way to get some cash rather than depending on floundering property values. Why is everybody so scared of anything that's called a tax?

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

I'm glad they're not raising property tax rates, but:

Raising water, etc. fees still takes more money out of our pockets. I agree that the 6th St. project seems unnecessary at this time. The trash rates should be commensurate with how much trash is thrown out.

Thats_messed_up 7 years, 7 months ago

what about 23rd east of haskell? It's terrible! wakarusa north of clinton parkway is terrible, billings west of wakarusa is terrible.

The Worst streets of any large city in Kansas by far. Nobody comes close.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

The streets are bad and should be improved, but Lawrence isn't a "large" city.

Keith 7 years, 7 months ago

"Corliss is recommending that the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce’s budget increase by $34,000 for marketing purposes. "

If there was any sort of performance based evaluation of the CoC, they would be getting a subsidy cut.

BigPrune 7 years, 7 months ago

The City of Buffalo, New York, rents an injection pothole patcher for $70,000 for one month. I wonder which is more cost effective? I wonder what the reliability is for one of those machines when owning as compared to renting one for a month?

inatux 7 years, 7 months ago

Scottie, we get it. Lawrence is a big fat failure compared to Buffalo. Geez.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

I wonder why, with such a large city budget, we haven't gotten or rented one of these machines before - they sound like a very good investment.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

Lawrence needs to stop building houses. More and more demands on the same tax dollar availability defies logic aka makes no sense whatsoever.

National surveys (through American Farmland Trust) show that county costs in services required by farmland and open space generally is only 35 to 60¢ for every $1.00 in revenues they generate, producing a net gain for counties. Green space aka vacant land makes money.

In contrast, residential use in counties costs $1.11 to $1.60 in services for every $1.00 generated = tax increases.

Growing the tax base is rhetoric. By building a high tax dollar bedroom community and flooding residential,retail and light industrial markets the city has over extended its' capabilities. "Growing the tax base" is how the powers that be manipulated taxpayers into the high tax dollar bedroom community. After "Growing the Tax Base" where did the money go?

Building more and more miles of NEW infrastructure to accommodate the real estate industry is reckless city management and reckless spending.

More and more miles of new demands on the same tax dollar availability defies logic aka makes no sense whatsoever.

The city is projecting a new budget on 3% growth which is not impossible. However it opens doors for the city commission to spend based on that projection EVEN THOUGH the new dollars will not be there. That will bring on tax increases to cover the reckless "over spending".

Increases in water rates,sewer and trash rates are tax increases no matter how they are disguised. Let's just call these items what they are.... water ,sewer and trash taxes.

Jimo 7 years, 7 months ago

"Green space aka vacant land makes money."

Those vast wastelands of western Kansas counties must be rolling in the dough! (Or at least farm subsidy welfare checks.)

The fact is that you're confusing direct tax payments versus indirect payments. Government loves to tax people indirectly because human beings are idiots who don't notice taxation if they don't personally have to write out the check. When Wal-Mart makes out its tax payment is it Wal-Mart or the local citizens who are paying those taxes? Ultimately, only people pay taxes and whatever the activist Supreme Court might say corporations aren't people.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

Part of the reason that the tax base hasn't "grown" is that the city keeps giving new businesses tax abatements, which make no sense if the goal is to enlarge or balance the tax base.

steveguy 7 years, 7 months ago

What difference does it make if the city holds the line on tax increase if the school board raises the mill .

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

It would be better than if they both did, wouldn't it?

gbaker 7 years, 7 months ago

Dave You do a good job but there is not enough city employees left to cover everything.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

"“We either need to grow our tax base, grow our economy, or else an increase in the mill levy will be on the horizon,” Corliss said. "

Growing the tax base will do no good. We've been doing that for 23 years and the cost living aka taxes and utility rates have always increased.

We have a bedroom community which = high taxes because there have never been enough good paying jobs in Lawrence,Kansas.

Why build more houses with so many on the market? And values still dropping?

Why build more retail when the market has a million more square feet than Lawrence,Kansas can support?

There are so many residential and retail vacancies as we speak. Let's fill up first and see the city budget in the black,taxes in check and utility rates in check.

Concentrate on growing the economy for the next few years to the point taxpayers are realizing a payback for a change.

Expanding the tax base will not grow the economy. IT WILL grow our tax bills as it has done for the past 20 years.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

In the spring of 1998, the League study committee on Planning in Unincorporated Areas of Douglas County presented background information on current settlement patterns in Douglas County, the costs and problems resulting from this sprawl, and our analysis of why it is occurring.

This past year the committee tried to answer the question of whether we should modify our local Land Use Position to include agricultural land and land use: i.e, whether there are positive reasons for preserving farmland and farming in Douglas County.

Nationwide there are five basic reasons to save farmland: 1. To sustain economic opportunity. (16% of our GDP and 18% of our national employment is dependent on agriculture.)

  1. To ensure food security. (We should never allow ourselves to become dependent on imported food, but some of our most productive areas are being lost. For various reasons it is important that metropolitan areas preserve and encourage nearby agricultural production.)

  2. To protect our natural resources. (Once lost, it's gone forever.)

  3. To support communities and community infrastructure. (Economy, social fabric, tax base, and community fiscal health are all dependent on growth paying for itself.)

  4. To sustain our quality of life. (A clean, aesthetically pleasing, convenient, functional environment is what most of us seek.

Therefore, we asked three basic questions:

  1. Of what importance is it to Douglas County to preserve its agricultural land, especially in view of current surpluses?

  2. Of what importance is it to Douglas County to preserve its agricultural land use; that is, active farms?

  3. How much prime farmland is there in Douglas County and where is it located?

Our greatest surprise was to learn from Bob Plinsky that 55% of land in Douglas County is classified as prime agricultural soils, based on Department of Agriculture classifications. Our soils, especially in the Kaw Valley bottomland, are among the best in the world. Our rainfall and availability of surface water make our area less vulnerable than western Kansas, and to lose our soil would be to lose a precious, irreplaceable resource, regardless of whether we need it now.

On the issue of placing value on active farms in Douglas County, taxes generated is only one aspect of value, but it is economic and measurable. From the Douglas County Appraisers's Office we found that the total appraised value of farmland in 1998 was $26,098,255.

AGAIN National surveys (through American Farmland Trust) show that county costs in services required by farmland and open space generally is only 35 to 60¢ for every $1.00 in revenues they generate, producing a net gain for counties.

In contrast, residential use in counties costs $1.11 to $1.60 in services for every $1.00 generated.

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