Piece No. 1 of Lawrence’s property tax puzzle is about to fall into place.
City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting will take their largest step yet toward approving a 2011 budget that will hold the line on the city’s property tax rate, but increases water, sewer and trash rates. It also will give city employees a slightly larger raise than they received this year.
At their weekly meeting, commissioners will set the maximum spending levels for 2011. This step in the process historically has been the public’s last chance to get commissioners to make major changes to the budget.
This year, though, all eyes may not be fixed on City Hall. The city is the only one of the three local governments proposing a budget that doesn’t increase the property tax mill levy.
County commissioners are considering a recommended budget that would increase the mill levy by 5.44 mills, and the idea of a 5.3 mill increase has been discussed for the Lawrence public school district.
Added together those proposals would increase property taxes by $247 per year on a $200,000 home.
Here’s a look at details of the city’s proposed 2011 budget.
• Commissioners are being asked to set the maximum spending level for 2011 at $169.9 million. If commissioners approve the maximum level on Tuesday, a final hearing to approve the entire budget would be held on July 27.
• The city mill levy would be unchanged at 26.7 mills, but the budget calls for water revenues to increase by 6 percent and sewer revenues to jump by 2 percent. Commissioners on Tuesday won’t formally set those rates, but they’re building the budget so they will have the authority to increase water and sewer rates in the future.
• Trash rates are set to increase by 7.5 percent, which would result in a $1.04 per month increase in residential trash rates.
• The budget includes provisions for a 1.5 percent increase in the city’s merit pool pay program. In 2010, the city provided a 1.25 percent increase in its merit pool. City Manager David Corliss said he’s advocating for the slightly larger merit pool increase to compensate employees for having to pick up extra duties as the city has not filled several vacant positions.
Pay increases for the city’s police officers and firefighters haven’t yet been determined. Both those groups are represented by unions. The city and the unions are in negotiations on new employment contracts. Representatives from both sides said they expect a deal to be finalized soon.
“We’re where we need to be,” said Mike McMillen, president of the local firefighters union. “We just need to get some language worked out.”
Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.