Archive for Monday, July 12, 2010

Lawrence city commissioners to set maximum spending levels for 2011

July 12, 2010


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.


KEITHMILES05 7 years, 8 months ago

Sucks to live in Lawrence and Douglas County!


Richard Heckler 7 years, 8 months ago

"Added together those proposals would increase property taxes by $247 per year on a $200,000 home."

In last 20 years how many times has this happened? How many times have we forgotten about the previous tax and rate increases?

Local Government people MUST STOP expanding the city limits and adding new infrastructure.

Lawrence taxpayers can no longer afford new houses or new neighborhoods.

"Expanding the tax base" cannot work in bedroom communities because 15,000 work elsewhere and spend their money elsewhere. "Expanding the tax base" in bedroom communities increases the tax dollar demand which after more than 20 years WE taxpayers should have learned.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 8 months ago

Let the Voters Decide When Spending Their Tax Dollars! Why ?

Simply because the Chamber,City Commission and Planning Commission cannot be trusted to make the most practical and prudent decisions. They are puppets of the real estate industry.

Let The Voters Decide every November!

Residential growth does not pay for itself because the funding of revenues generated by residential does not pay for the services they require from a municipality.

*Yes or No on light industrial sites – Let The Voters Decide Every November!

Let the voters decide on new retail development. Being more than one million square feet over built is an indication voting taxpayers need to become an active part of the equation annually.

How many is the question?

Which sites are fiscally prudent?

What does the Cost of Community Services Indicate?

What do the market impact studies Indicate?

The only real urgency is the developers lack of patience and accustomed to getting their way upon demand which is usually at a cost to taxpayers with no real benefit in the end. Unless tax increases to increase the wealth of local developers is considered a benefit .....NOT.

ronwell_dobbs 7 years, 8 months ago

OK, I'll bite. Please let me know if you are ready to do the following:

1.) Have perhaps an hour-long wait for police to respond to your call, even if it is an emergency 2.) Drive on streets that are flooded or full of potholes 3.) Take your lawnmower down to the park and mow the damn thing yourself 4.) Form a volunteer bucket brigade for your neighborhood in case the vastly depleted fire department is across town fighting another fire 5.) Purify your own water that you collected from the river 6.) Dispose of your own sewer waste into a field somewhere outside of town in order to prevent a cholera outbreak. 7.) Deal with the rapid dog, cat, squirrel, marmot, or hedgehog that wandered onto your property 8.) Deal with the dead dog, cat, squirrel, marmot, or hedgehog that is lying dead in the intersection

If you are willing to take on these things then we could probably make a substantial dent in the City's budget. Otherwise, quit pretending that there is some extravagant slush fund that is being spent just to rob you of your property taxes or utility fees. We expect this permanent backstop and complete elimination of risk and inconvenience from our Federal, State, and municipal government but are not willing to pay for it.

It will really be nice when (in very short order) the Grim Reaper comes to take the teabaggers home to Jesus.

no_thanks 7 years, 8 months ago

These are expenditures I believe most in our community clearly support those operations. The question in my mind is there a way to offer those services more efficiently. We seem to have a lot of City employees for a community our size. Second, maybe we should evaluate selling our waste management division. This would not only free up funds for "reserve", but the private sector will likely be albe to deliver the service cheaper than the City. Third, our operating budget spends a lot on social services. Those funds should be evaluated and pared back where possible. Finally, if the golf course can't support itself, its future should be evaluated as well. Either raise fees, cut costs, or sell the course.

jafs 7 years, 8 months ago

The streets currently flood quite a bit and there are many potholes. Animal control is pretty poor, and can't deal with catching animals when called. When we called the police on NYE because strangers were hanging around outside our house, and knocking on our door at 2am, they came, but after checking out the people, said they were just drunk and left. There was a car full of drunk people - as far as I know, none of them received a DUI, or disturbing the peace.

I also agree that there are basic city services that we all value, and should be willing to pay for, but it seems to me that our city spends a lot of money for the quality we receive - something's off here.

LadyJ 7 years, 8 months ago

You also didn't mention you live in Baldwin (according to your profile) so it doesn't affect you.

sundowner 7 years, 8 months ago

To No_Thanks & Jafs - So, you would rather see around 100 City solid waste employees be unemployed an lose their homes? Most of these people are homeowners in Lawrence and pay taxes too.

no_thanks 7 years, 8 months ago

No, I would not rather see these employees lose their jobs. My guess is, and I've been involved with several acquisitions, most of these employees would be hired by the acquiring company. The need for waste services does not go away, it is just being provided by someone else that would need employees who have the local knowledge to do the job.

And, I can't believe I left off the EmpTy.

jafs 7 years, 8 months ago

I would like to see the city provide services that are on a par with the amount of money spent, which either means providing higher quality services or lowering the costs.

whatadrag 7 years, 8 months ago

for that matter, no employee anywhere should get a raise

craigers 7 years, 8 months ago

I haven't gotten a raise in over 3 years so no way should the city workers be getting another raise! This is completely bogus. Commissioners are trying to balance by increasing the top line when they should be trimming and not expanding anything until growth returns. This will further damage the economy in Lawrence. Less to spend in Lawrence means fewer funds. Moving out of town seems more and more likely all the time.

lgreen17 7 years, 8 months ago

I haven't had a raise in two years working at KU, and won't get one until NEXT SUMMER, which is basically fiscal year 2012, that's only if things don't get worse......

What they hey?

lgreen17 7 years, 8 months ago

I haven't had a raise in two years working at KU, and won't get one until NEXT SUMMER, which is basically fiscal year 2012, that's only if things don't get worse......

What they hey?

Munsoned 7 years, 8 months ago

Just because some of you have not received raises does not mean other folks should not receive raises. I understand what you are trying to say in a sense, but that argument is just not sound.

craigers 7 years, 8 months ago

The point is that money is tight everywhere. When our business or place of employment has a tough year we have to deal without getting a raise until things rebound. Why isn't that a good reason for the city or county employees to deal without? We are basically their employers (and I don't say that to demean), but if our pocketbooks are tight and running low then how in the world can we shell out more simply so they can get a raise? The people of this city are on tight and contracting budgets which should mean the city does not expand a bunch of services or give raises.

nouseforaname 7 years, 8 months ago

Mainly because the public service sector is notorious for wage compaction meaning that the City increases incoming job positions x% every year, but if current workers are not given a raise then new employees with limited experience will be making more than employees that have been there for a few years. I saw this a lot at KU, which is probably why KU is such a money pit (since there's almost no incentive for any of the support staff to do anything above what is required of them. At least with the City workers do try to make things more efficient and productive while still maintaining a decent final product). Corliss knows that keeping around that experience is well worth the pittance that the City gives as raises (1.5% is crazy small and even then not every single employee is going to get that much. Merit raises are pooled, so some people will be getting only .6% while some people can get more than the 1.5%).

I know that City finances are very complex, but Lawrence is doing a lot better in relation to our surrounding neighbors. Most of the problems like the roads seem to stem from poor past leadership and vision, all of which is extremely difficult to overcome in hindsight. Chuck Soules has said before that Lawrence lacked a comprehensive sealing program which is why there was little preventative maintenance in the past; however, starting a program like that requires a lot of extra money. Right now, from the study session materials I've read, O&M gets minor increases, but most capital improvement projects that are not already started are getting slated until the future. As for the raises in rates, if you read the study session materials there is comparative data included for Lawrence and other Kansas cities. Generally, we fall in the middle-range for rates. We could increase them a lot more and still be relatively competitive with other cities. Be glad this isn't Seattle, which has the highest water rates in the country (the average water bill (just water, not sewage) is over $100).

phoggyjay 7 years, 8 months ago

Could we please start a rational discussion on the benefits of re-legalizing and taxing cannabis. Save our communities, schools, infrastructure and way of life. Go green!


pantheon 7 years, 8 months ago

You know, I don't know why you guys aren't lined up around the block every time a city position opens up if they're such sweet gigs.

Godot 7 years, 8 months ago

In a declining economy, where businesses are shutting their doors, when private sector employees are being laid off or having their hours cut, there is zero reason why any public employee should receive a raise. The public employees should receive a pay cut, just like the rest of us. Why do they think they are immune?

Godot 7 years, 8 months ago

In a declining economy, where businesses are shutting their doors, when private sector employees are being laid off or having their hours cut, there is zero reason why any public employee should receive a raise. The public employees should receive a pay cut, just like the rest of us. What makes public employees think they have the right to be immune to the effects of the recession?

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