Archive for Monday, July 12, 2010

Douglas County commissioners open budget hearings, discussion of 16.6 percent property tax increase

July 12, 2010, 5:15 p.m. Updated July 13, 2010, 2:48 p.m.


Douglas County commissioners opened budget hearings Monday morning, reviewing specific spending plans while wrestling with an overall document that would increase property taxes by 16.6 percent.

County Administrator Craig Weinaug may have compiled the recommended $69 million budget — taking ideas and suggestions from commissioners, department heads and others — but it will be the three elected commissioners who decide exactly which initiatives get included, and how they’ll be financed.

“Now it’s in our hands,” Commissioner Jim Flory said.

Monday’s budget hearings covered spending plans for seven departments, programs and initiatives, including the proposed hiring of:

• a psychiatrist for Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center;

• a full-time director for the Watkins Community Museum of History, which would use private money for new exhibits and programs, and;

• one of three new dispatchers for the county’s emergency dispatch center.

All of the additions would be financed through an increase in property taxes. Taken together with a number of fund-replenishments, work-force compensation, capital-improvement projects and other proposals — including $500,000 for economic development and $500,000 for heritage-related efforts and preservation of open space — the total bill would be equivalent to 5.44 mills, or 16.6 percent higher than this year.

With each mill equal to $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed valuation, the county’s increase would be equal to $93.84 for the owner of a $150,000 home.

Commissioners did not make any commitments about which spending plans they would approve, although some did offer a few insights.

Flory, for example, submitted a list of cuts for consideration. Among them: Eliminate the full-time director for Watkins ($75,000), and drop the county’s financing for one of three proposed dispatchers ($41,309). The Bert Nash psychiatrist would remain in his budget.

Thellman asked questions of presenters, but did not propose any cuts. Instead, she noted that the county’s current property tax rate ranks as the 12th lowest among the 105 counties in Kansas.

“Not that it makes a discussing the mill levy any easier, but it’s important to put it into context,” Thellman said.

Commissioners continue budget hearings at 8 a.m. Tuesday, and have more discussions set for next week before making formal decisions for the coming year.


John Hamm 7 years, 10 months ago

"tax rate ranks as the 12th lowest among the 105 counties in Kansas" English translation - "Well we're so low we can justify raising it."

xtronics 7 years, 10 months ago

The reason they are short money, is the sweet deals developers get here - no special assessments. Corruption starts at home.

It seems the government ought to try what the families in Lawrence are doing to face the economic slow down - we trim our spending - postpone projects. The city of Lawrence might consider sharing our pain.

craigers 7 years, 10 months ago

Is there any way to protest this? The county tax might be low, but our overall tax is not. Families can not take on an additional 16% in property taxes. This will further canabalize the state and federal income tax requirements which will mean they need to raise taxes too! Cut spending and delay those projects!

Don Whiteley 7 years, 10 months ago

I have to admire the County from one perspective: they're not operating like our US government where for 40 years, Republicans and Democrats alike think they can pass new spending bills without any revenue to support them. On the other hand, looking at where the money would go in the County, it appears 90% of this qualifies as "Nice to Have". Thousands of people in the Lawrence area who have lost their jobs or can see no meaningful increase in pay over the next few years have had to prioritize our needs, separating "nice to haves" from "basic needs". While it's too late for our federal government, where the only stop to the insantiy is national bankruptcy, Is it too much to ask our local governments to restrict spending to basic needs?

jafs 7 years, 10 months ago

Agreed generally.

But, during Clinton's administration, the deficits slowed steadily in his first four years, and the following four years produced budget surpluses - the only ones in 35 years or so.

That's the way to prevent national bankruptcy - do whatever he did, produce surpluses and start paying down the debt.

Patty Buchholz 7 years, 10 months ago

County, city and school officials do not see reality. Citizens do not have the extra money to give; this is Douglas County, Kansas. Wages are low, expenses are high and in these economic times we need to stick to the basics. If you feel the need to 'just spend money', build the bypass, it would save on road repair, traffic accidents and needless spending. By the way, when county officials speak, why do they always refer to Lawrence's problems and wants? Eudora, Baldwin, Lecompton and county residents should be included in the process.

inglec 7 years, 10 months ago

It just amazes me that our dear county commissioners and county administrator believes that we can pull extra money out of thin air. I want to know what rose colored glasses they are looking thru. Get back to the bare basics that are needed in these hard times. I don't think that it is too much to ask our local government to set an example by cutting out unnecessary spending.

George Lippencott 7 years, 10 months ago

I had pretty much written all I would on the subject of our proposed county tax rate increase. Then Mrs. Thellman was quoted by the LJW comparing our mil rate to the rest of Kansas. Only a knave or a fool would make such a comparison. The mil rate is half of the formula in determining the actual tax. The other half is the property value. Valuations in Lawrence are among the highest in the state. The average property here costs more – in some cases much more - than an equivalent property elsewhere. So we live no better - we just have to pay more for an equivalent home – pricing many local employees out of the market. Many if not most of the jurisdictions in the state charge a higher mil rate but collect less – rarely more - taxes.. It is the tax that matters not the mil rate. It is further aggravated here as Lawrence has a relatively low income rate compared to other equivalent cities. Sorry, Mrs. Thellman but we are heavily taxed – particularly when you consider the income levels of the average home owner. Me thinks our county law givers have become confused. The people they hang out with have lots of money and are not overly averse to paying more taxes. Of course, those people are among the wealthiest in our community. Our county law givers, like many of our other law givers, take care of the top and the bottom at the expense of the middle.

Danimal 7 years, 10 months ago

Is anyone really surprised that public officials in and around Lawrence are complete idiots?

gatekeeper 7 years, 10 months ago

when is the next election for county (and city commissioners) so we can vote the jerks out of office?

craigers 7 years, 10 months ago

So honestly, what can we do about this? Is it phone calls to our commissioners?

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