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Archive for Monday, July 12, 2010

Douglas County makes case for tax hike

Officials say we can’t afford not to seek money for economic development, heritage efforts, open space

The Douglas County commission is trying to find a way to get more money in hopes of creating more local jobs. Budget hearings are set to begin Monday morning.

July 12, 2010, 12:00 a.m. Updated July 12, 2010, 1:43 p.m.

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A proposed increase in property taxes would help Douglas County generate $1 million to:

• Inject money into promising bioscience companies.

• Plant protective preservation into farm fields, historic sites and other culturally sensitive areas.

• Bankroll community objectives that have languished for more than a decade without specific financing.

The components — all part of a vision to create jobs and protect finite resources — are included in a plan to be considered by Douglas County commissioners as part of their 2011 operating budget.

It’s also part of a package of improvements and expenditures that would boost the county’s property tax rate by as much as 16.6 percent, already the largest single increase County Administrator Craig Weinaug has ever proposed, much less seen enacted.

The major initiative couldn’t come at a more important time, he said.

“This community for years, at the leadership level, has talked about how economic development cannot be done by itself, that there’s another side of the equation to a healthy community: protection of open spaces and historic resources,” Weinaug said. “There needs to be public funding to meet both of those needs, and neither is more important than the other. …

“But it will cost something. And this is not symbolic funding — it’s something that can make a difference.”

$500,000 X 2

Specifically, Weinaug has outlined a proposal that would generate $500,000 for new economic-development projects and programs, ones designed to support existing and expanding companies, attract new employers, and invest in infrastructure to help the community succeed in a competitive business-attraction environment.

Likewise, Weinaug’s proposed budget calls for dedicating another $500,000 for protection of heritage resources and open spaces — land, structures and landmarks said to define the county’s historical, social, economic, political and agricultural heritage, plus open spaces identified as necessary for the county’s long-term needs.

For now, commissioners and officials supporting the efforts see hope in what otherwise would be considered bad economic news: continuing joblessness, fragile property values and insecure consumer confidence.

Nancy Thellman, commission chairwoman, acknowledges that the prospect of raising taxes to boost economic development and preservation efforts will be a “tough sell,” but she’s willing to push for it.

‘Time to move forward’

“There’s never a good time to ask for more money,” Thellman said, “but I think, at some point, there is a time to move forward on these initiatives that our community has talked about for a decade, if not more.

“Whether these initiatives will be voted in or out, I don’t know. But it’s definitely worth bringing up and talking about whether our community is serious about economic development — whether we’re going to be able to compete with our neighbors.”

Weinaug envisions the economic-development money to be used annually for financing incentives and otherwise covering public costs that go into encouraging businesses to expand or attract new employers into the area. Examples being discussed these days include Berry Plastics possibly building a warehouse at the northwestern edge of Lawrence, and Deciphera Pharmaceuticals potentially locating a manufacturing operation at the former site of the Farmland Industries fertilizer plant at the southeastern edge of Lawrence.

“The ability to keep Berry Plastics will take some level of public funding to make that deal work,” Weinaug said. “For Deciphera … to make that work, when it happens — and streets, roads and infrastructure need to be added at that site — that will require public expense.

“In the environment of 25 years ago, all that infrastructure could be provided by the industry. The way the competitive makeup now is, if you can’t provide those things, they go to Topeka. They go to Canada.”

Step ‘sorely needed’

Brad Burnside, co-chairman of the Economic Development Committee for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, doesn’t want the Lawrence area to lose its edge. The area already has lost at least 1,500 jobs in recent years, he said, and setting aside $500,000 to prime the pump for economic initiatives would go a long way toward keeping Lawrence and Douglas County in the game.

“This is a significant step and one that’s been sorely needed,” said Burnside, Lawrence market president for US Bank. “At the end of the day, these investments will bear fruit to the folks paying taxes. We just have to step up to the plate.”

And businesses looking to move or expand no longer are relying solely on the “bottom line” of an incentives deal, said Judy Billings, president of Destination Management Inc., the operation behind the new Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area. Employers want to be sure their employees also enjoy a solid quality of life.

And that, she said, means living in a community that values its history, embraces its resources and preserves what has made the community unique and successful and sustainable.

Providing $500,000 to help such efforts is as much about economic development as it is about preserving and supporting a community’s very identity, Billings said.

“The timing is right,” said Billings, who notes that so-called “heritage travelers” spend, on average, $300 more per trip than do travelers as a whole. “There’s a lot of talk around the country in terms of heritage development, as it relates to economic development, and I think we need to look at both: jobs, and conserving and preserving our heritage, how these both fit together.”

Raising taxes is never easy, she said, but Billings is confident commissioners will be able to follow through and help the heritage area and the community build a strong foundation — through support of the Watkins Community Museum of History, embarking on a survey of the county’s historic and cultural resources, and making other efforts to ensure what’s important today remains available for future generations.

“Making an investment in the future is the right thing to do,” Billings said.

Comments

Mud_Flap 3 years, 9 months ago

The county tax hike will seem like peanuts when the feds get around to raising income tax rates for everyone. Check this out...Obama's hand picked debt investigator.

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/39038/

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Mud_Flap 3 years, 9 months ago

The county tax hike will seem like peanuts when the feds get around to raising income tax rates for everyone. Check this out...Obama's hand picked debt investigator.

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/39038/

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Healthcare_Moocher 3 years, 9 months ago

Yet another envelope changes hands...

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Stain 3 years, 9 months ago

I don't mind paying for schools and street repairs.

I don't see why the city had to buy an empty nearly-new office building.

The city commission is the most corrupt of any city I've lived in. Developers own these people.

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Alexander Neighbors 3 years, 9 months ago

• Inject money into promising bioscience companies.

HOLD UP ! they want to inject money into BioScience companies with public funds......am I mistaken or do members of the city counsel own stock in Bioscience companies ?? What ever happened using public funds for public projects ? NOT for Private Bioscience companies with IPO's..........

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igby 3 years, 9 months ago

Looks like Cesar's tenth is not enough to keep the government from eating it's self. The crumbling of a welfare state into a ruble pile is the best sound on earth. The state, county and city is just too much government to support.

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billslu 3 years, 9 months ago

Two words came to mind. TAR and FEATHERS!

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Jimo 3 years, 9 months ago

" land, structures and landmarks said to define the county’s historical, social, economic, political and agricultural heritage, plus open spaces identified as necessary for the county’s long-term needs."

So here we have Lawrence, Kansas, a living, breathing real-life example of how land-use regulations run up housing prices and restrict affordable housing, and what do the City Fathers now propose? MORE restrictions on land-use!

Here's an idea: take $100k from the proposed $500k, hire a land-use dictator who'll take a year to cross-out all of the accumulated crap in our current code and emerge into world where the working poor can actually afford a modest abode of their own.

NIMBYism is just a means for a minority of well-off individuals to pretty-fy their own world at the expense of the majority of less well-off individuals -- the most immoral form of theft: stealing from the poor to give to the rich.

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notorious_agenda 3 years, 9 months ago

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iMvc6UO9Un2QvjSaOdKFXjEegrUAD9GPG6KG0

Who is to argue that Douglas county cannot do the same as the other counties listed in the link above. And why if we are doing so well comparably to the nation do we even have the need to bring this up?

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oneeye_wilbur 3 years, 9 months ago

Lawrence has always had a history of certain local business families being on the take and the county's operation is no different.

I really don't know why if Economic Development is so important that the so called wealthy of the communinty don't put their money together and buy land and develop it. What is the history behind the Santa Fe Industrial Park?

Maybe the Journal World needs to turn into a reporting newspaper instead of a daily blog for the city, county and school district which all so far have been not very productive.

Mr. Weinaug, please inform the public if the $750,000 spent by the taxpayers in 1985 has been repaid or is it a gift? If so, who are the recipients of the "gift".

I can document how ms. miller spent the $750,000 , some of which she even forgave the county interest on. What is the county forgiving interest on?

For Weinaug and the county commissioners and the backdoor politicians to continue fleecing the rustics, they could at least inform the dolts who aren't smart enough to know where their money is going, where this million dollars is going to pay whom?

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remember_username 3 years, 9 months ago

I'm all for tax increases to maintain necessary public services in difficult times. However, I'm not at all convinced the proposed plan has enough justification for the burden it will cause in our current economy. Raise taxes as necessary to keep what you already have from falling apart not make new investments. That seems like starting a new addition on the house when you're having difficulty making the house payment. Sure a new addition will add value to the house but it will not help you if the bank ends up owning it.

First of all we already have the Kansas Bioscience Authority to encourage development of bioscience companies. If the KBA and K.U. aren't enough to attract bioscience companies why through more money into the pot? If the county infrastructure can't support new bioscience industry then find an industry that the infrastructure is capable of supporting. Make improvements later when you can afford them.

As for the heritage travel idea. Who thought that an investment in this project is a good idea? When the economy is in a downturn people aren't traveling or spending money on traveling nearly as much as when the economy is up. Who cares if heritage travelers spend 300 more that other travelers if nobody is traveling? Wait until things get better and people start spending money on things other than basic needs.

Why have community projects languished for more than a decade? Why wasn't the investment made when the economy was much better? How about this - we vote for all these community projects to be funded, but only when the economy turns around. When raises start coming down the pipe for the counties biggest employers then we commit to funding some of those community projects through tax increases.

New employers do care about the quality of life for their employees. To some this is measured by local attractions, schools, community facilities. A smart employer might also look at local leadership and community morale. What does this proposal say about the foresight of our local leadership? What will this proposal do to community morale?

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TriSigmaKS 3 years, 9 months ago

I am NOT kidding here, my family will move out of Lawrence, give up our home and move to Franklin County, and send our son to a private school in Johnson County to if this happens. I am NOT over-exaggerating, I am dead serious. We're not alone either...I can guarantee that our neighborhood will pretty much empty out and that will be with most of them abandoning their homes. I can't afford $24k extra a year, that's double my current mortgage! No way... Actually, forget Franklin county, probably just move back to NC or on to CO, or TX or just somewhere better.

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yankeevet 3 years, 9 months ago

Goodbye Kansas......................hello Colorado.........

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jobohe 3 years, 9 months ago

I get the impression that the Douglas County Commission has operated many lemonade stands, and the decisions leading to this tax increase are based on the entire depth and breadth of this business experience.

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edjayhawk 3 years, 9 months ago

Raise the tax dollars on the back of the developers.

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oneeye_wilbur 3 years, 9 months ago

A million dollars? Why doesnt Douglas County pay back to the county coffers the $750,000 they spent in 1985 to by the farm on K10 that belonged to Wilma Miller?

Hasn't that property produced the $750,000 in the sale of the lots?

Either YES or NO. And if either yes or no, who got the money?

Would Mr. Weinaug be able to answer such question, since the Development Association 'not for profit" has never disclosed the actual workings of their group.

Let the bankers who profited from East Hills, the developers, let those persons create a fund for Economic Development.

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pomegranate 3 years, 9 months ago

Mr. Wine Dog needs to sober up and see what he is doing.
We, the citizens of Douglas Co., should NOT become known as "the Business and Developers Taxpayer funded Bank of Douglas County".

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beezee 3 years, 9 months ago

Two recent articles of relevance: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/12/opinion/12douthat.html http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/09/business/economy/09rich.html

Government at ANY level ought not to be taxing the general public to line the pockets of a very few. The belief that government creates jobs is 100% mythology. The recent stimulus efforts to do so have, like those past, dangled before us tax money (wrested FROM us, by the way) that can be used to short-term fund a few jobs that for the long run will require ONGOING taxpayer funding for salaries, benefits, and retirements. But local officials cannot seem to figure this out, despite it not being at all in the realm of rocket science!

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George Lippencott 3 years, 9 months ago

In defense of our county officials, we knew their philosophy when we elected them. Mr. Weinaug is a long tenure public official who has historically had the better interests of the county in mind. His proposals on their face are consistent with that service. We elected him, why are we surprised?

However, that does not mean I agree with this proposal. Just when did government become responsible for job creation? A public taking of the land for a warehouse for Berry Plastics sounds like a cop out to every more morally bankrupt business. Once you open the door to public funded welfare for business (jobs) where does the corridor end. The city just bought the “Farmland” property on the east end of town. Will the taxpayers benefit from that or will business interests and developers benefit. Jobs are great but unless they generate sufficient tax revenue to repay the taxpayers how can they be fiscally prudent. Merrill where are you when I need you. More residential people by your reckoning just increase civic costs – right.

Just when did cultural heritage become open ended – I think many would be willing to pay for specific acquisitions of merit but not for an open ended slush fund. What policies will guide such a fund? Will it enable debt to support acquisitions without further taxpayer input? I am not opposed to this effort per say but I am fearful of an open ended government leader kitty.

This accounts for a million of the increase. Where does the rest go? Are we playing “Wizard of Oz” were we distract people from the real increase sought? Perhaps a property tax payer other than I can look at their tax bills and see just how much increase the county has seen in the last decade. My “gut” suggests that they (not me) are way ahead of inflation so that any need for a further increase should be well documented and more thoroughly and accurately presented.

Careful what you wish for – you just may get it. Maybe that is our problem – we wish for too much?

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avoice 3 years, 9 months ago

This is quite likely to have significant impact on the library expansion vote.

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Randall Uhrich 3 years, 9 months ago

Sounds like taxing everyone to benefit a few. And a whopping one-sixth increase! If this were up to a general vote, it would be soundly defeated. Don't let them get away with this!

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toe 3 years, 9 months ago

This will pass, but by a smaller amount. The large increase is just a smoke screen to make people feel good about an increase that is smaller. We see this all the time in Lawrence. The city, county, and school board all meet privately and settle on the tax increase of the year. It rotates so one entity does not compete with another. Lawrence has decided it does not want to grow and prosper, so tax increases will be a fact of life for decades to come.

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Chris Ogle 3 years, 9 months ago

Please let our county commissioners know how you feel about this important issue. http://www.douglas-county.com/

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Richard Payton 3 years, 9 months ago

Could Heritage Trust be a code name for Farmland cleanup fund or some other pet project. I live in the Wyandotte area so this increase will not hurt me unless I move back to Lawrence. I care about Lawrence and the people that live here. This increase during a time when people are being laid off in record numbers is the wrong time for such an increase.

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melott 3 years, 9 months ago

So we have potential tax increases by the county and city that can be best characterized as business welfare, and another by the school board for more construction and development (business welfare).

I support teacher salaries and historic preservation, but I can't support any of this stuff. But, with a 15% voter turnout in local elections, Chamberpots is what you get.

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kansasmutt 3 years, 9 months ago

Great input from all of you. I am a business owner and was about to pull the triger on a huge new building and put on 4 new full time employees, but now i dont know. Right now we have 3 part time empoyees and were going to add at least 4 full timers and keep our part time help.In the last 4 years our property overhead has gone up 42% due to property tax alone. If this idea that Craig has becomes law, we will have to leave Douglas County. Our business has included in its future of, becoming one of the areas bigest at what we do and to become a leader in the area.I as of this weekend have now put our goals on hold in Douglas County and have contacted a property owner in another town and county. This one act by Craig may cost Douglas County over $100,000.00 alone just from our business. If the plan is to drive out small business, they got that goal down pat. We are lucky that our business has loyal customers who will follow us to another town, so it wont hurt us. The smoking ban has allready droped our business 20% in just 2 weeks. That in itself is another whole issue. Craig, why the John Deere,s and why the red rock ???? Talk to us please. What can some good old interaction with the common folk hurt ? If all the waste is justified, i see no issues, but if not, then we need to know why the waste.

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Godot 3 years, 9 months ago

How about taxing every single piece of property, not just some of them. Tax KU for the value of its property, tax the endowment association, tax KU Athletic Association, tax the churches, tax the non-profits that own property and pay no property tax.

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c_dubya 3 years, 9 months ago

“There’s never a good time to ask for more money,” Thellman said, “but I think, at some point, there is a time to move forward on these initiatives that our community has talked about for a decade, if not more."

Personally, I couldn't agree more. Build the freaking highway already.

Repeating myself: this is new spending. This is not 'catching up' with paying the bills. They are in the depths of a down economy and doing the exact opposite of what they should be doing. November can't get here fast enough.

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sherbert 3 years, 9 months ago

If these projects have been sitting on the sidelines for the last 10 years, I don't think now is the time to drag them out. Yes, we need jobs, but this is crazy. People are losing their homes right and left because they can't afford them now! If this town is so wonderful with it's unique downtown, let's impose a tourist tax like all the tourist areas do. Let the out of towners pay to play. Personally, we're thinking about leaving.

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Godot 3 years, 9 months ago

The O team just plopped another piece of bad juju on homeowners this weekend: a serioius proposal to eliminate or limit the mortgage interest deduction. How many homeowners in Lawrence can afford to keep their homes if their mortgage payment increases due to a huge tax property tax increase, and then get hit with losing thousands of dollars in deductions on their income tax? Add to that the fact that the child credit is disappearing.

Douglas County commissioners and Weinaug deserve to all lose their jobs for even proposing this outrageous increase in taxation.

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handley 3 years, 9 months ago

So in 2010 ss did not get a raise taxes went up insurance went up utilities went up gasoline went up diesel went up groceries went up and ss will probably not go up in 2011 how are we going to pay 16% more in property taxes?

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jayhawklawrence 3 years, 9 months ago

We have all had to make do with less. We have had to focus on the essentials and give up the toys that we might have purchased in better times.

All of us, except, our politicians.

As long as they believe they can sell you a scheme and better themselves in some way, they will try it.

It is their job to hold their hand out and beg for more money. That is the only conclusion you can come to. The responsible thing to do is to say no. Do with less. Like the rest of us.

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Keith 3 years, 9 months ago

"Brad Burnside, co-chairman of the Economic Development Committee for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, doesn’t want the Lawrence area to lose its edge. The area already has lost at least 1,500 jobs in recent years, he said, and setting aside $500,000 to prime the pump for economic initiatives would go a long way toward keeping Lawrence and Douglas County in the game."

You mean to tell me, for all the eco-devo money that's been shoveled out the door to the Chamber, we've still lost 1500 jobs? Time to pull the plug on the Chamber welfare and find an organization that can produce results.

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formerlyanonymous 3 years, 9 months ago

Let me get this straight.....

It seems like every year, everything goes up, and we spend less in the local economy. First we stopped going to have our hair done professionally. Then we cut back on how much we eat out. Then we stopped going to the movies, the pool, and taking parks & rec/arts center etc. classes. Last year, our grocery budget got cut. This year we stopped buying books and started garage-sale-ing for clothing.

I don't see how people think that raising taxes stimulates economic growth. Truly, I don't. Don't we have a huge empty building on Wakarusa from the last time we tried to recruit bioscience jobs??? I understand the importance of incentives in encouraging companies to locate here....but it seems like our local officials are just throwing money, and hoping something will happen.

Why can't we just be a university town that lives within its means?

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kansasmutt 3 years, 9 months ago

WOW , this is what they want to jab us for 16.6% more for. They have lost any concept of what is going on in the real world and what the common person is going through now. Ever hear this " you cant milk a dry cow " Why does the Chamber not ask for a miilion in donations from the upper crust business owners to finance this. Have fundraisers and do it with private money. Craig, i ask again, why the red rock when you chip and seal, when it last only 1 year ? Why all the new John Deere Cab Tractors , when open station ones at less than 1/4 the cost would work ? Craig, why not lease trucks and save on repairs and 1/2 the price of buying ? Craig, Why not stop the driving of county trucks home at night ? If you want this money, put it to a county wide vote in November and see if it will pass. ................................ If this money was needed to fund new Sherriffs officers to fight the upswing in crime , due to the people who are out of work and the bad drug problem Douglas County has , i would be all for it. But it is a wasteful idea and not the time for that waste to be funded.You (Craig) ,show us your mamagment skills and cut the waste we now have and maybe you can come back in 5 years and ask for more tax money. At this time i see a failing grade in cutting out the waste and running a tight , well oiled County with little or no waste. I see millions being wasted every year. A good start would be to send all that red rock back to HAMM and get the white rock for 1/3 the price. Again Craig, come on here and talk to the common folks and get to know your people, not the Chamber members and special groups.

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januarygirl 3 years, 9 months ago

" THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A GOOD TIME TO ASK FOR MORE MONEY" BUT PLEASE!!!!! THIS IS THE WORSE TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE COUNTY OFFICIALS??? HAVE THEY BEEN IN LIMBO SOMEWHERE OTHER THAN DOUGLAS COUNTY. WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE ON A FIXED INCOME AND ALL THOSE FAMILES WHO LOST HOMES AND JOBS. SOME PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO GET BACK ON THER FEET FROM SO MUCH LOSS, AND THE COUNTY WANTS TO , NOT JUST RAISE THE PROPERTY TAX BUT SENT IT THROUGH THE ROOF GET REAL!!!!! AT THE VERY LEAST, THIS RAISE IN PROPERTY TAX COULD BE DONE OVER A SPAND OF TIME AND NOT ALL IN ONE YEAR!!!! THIS IS TO MUCH ALL AT ONE TIME FOR MOST PEOPLE.

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Healthcare_Moocher 3 years, 9 months ago

It's just fine. We have the empT, the viable self supporting answer for those of you who think someone else should pay your bills.

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cowboy 3 years, 9 months ago

ludicrous ! Any one got them one of those bio-science jobs yet ? If you do please let us know cuz we have spent a small fortune on them so far.

In a time when folks are struggling , businesses are dropping like flies right now , the peeps on the gov't dole want to raise taxes 16% . Are you effing crazy ?

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OonlyBonly 3 years, 9 months ago

Bad ideas at a bad time. Absolutely no concept of real world.

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Nick Vaughan 3 years, 9 months ago

Lol...they said business growth and economic recovery... hahah. What idiots we have here in Lawrence. Seriously, we all knew the mistake it was for the city to purchase the farmland property, and now they want is to clean it up so some piece of land lays dormant and a contractor full of illegal workers get fat. With this government, we won't see any long term growth. Projected 13.6 trillion in national debt at this years end, and congress approves a 750 billion dollar war budet...

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purplesage 3 years, 9 months ago

When will public employees awaken to the plight of the public which employs them? The idea of a 16.6% property tax increase is obscene.

Food, energy, medical and other day-to-day living expenses are all up significantly. Wages are down. I know people who cannot afford anything more. I don't mean it would be inconvenient to be taxed more heavily. I mean they will lose their homes.

Wake up government. The solution to the budget woes is not to just keep taking money out of the pockets of the citizenry.

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purplesage 3 years, 9 months ago

When will public employees awaken to the plight of the public which employs them? The idea of a 16.6% property tax increase is obscene.

Food, energy, medical and other day-to-day living expenses are all up significantly. Wages are down. I know people who cannot afford anything more. I don't mean it would be inconvenient to be taxed more heavily. I mean they will lose their homes.

Wake up government. The solution to the budget woes is not to just keep taking money out of the pockets of the citizenry.

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purplesage 3 years, 9 months ago

When will public employees awaken to the plight of the public which employs them? The idea of a 16.6% property tax increase is obscene.

Food, energy, medical and other day-to-day living expenses are all up significantly. Wages are down. I know people who cannot afford anything more. I don't mean it would be inconvenient to be taxed more heavily. I mean they will lose their homes.

Wake up government. The solution to the budget woes is not to just keep taking money out of the pockets of the citizenry.

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ILoveLawrence 3 years, 9 months ago

They are truly insane to think that this is going to fly. Everyone in this county is feeling broke right now.

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LogicMan 3 years, 9 months ago

“Making an investment in the future is the right thing to do,”

Yes, but this is what should be done during gravy years, and not during starvation.

Wake up and smell the humidity. We are in a long term no-growth period nationally, at best, and possibly heading into a national debt- and unfunded liabilities-induced economic coma for decades to come, like Japan. Or even worse, another great depression.

Hold the line on spending, and "investment" schemes. It isn't fun or easy, but its the mature and responsible thing to do during these belt-tightening times.

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Keith 3 years, 9 months ago

Hooray! More business welfare.

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Practicality 3 years, 9 months ago

Sigh. Where to begin on this one.

On second thought, I don't have the energy nor a time machine, so I won't even start.

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