Archive for Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lawrence keeps options open for increasing water, sewer and trash rates

The city commission decided that $170 million would be the maximum amount spent in 2011.

July 14, 2010


More details emerged Tuesday night about possible water, sewer and trash rate increases at City Hall, although city commissioners weren’t quite ready to approve them.

In addition to paying an extra $1.04 per month for trash service, Lawrence residents may have to pay a new fee to have refrigerators and other large items picked up, and may be charged extra if they set out so much trash that it takes crews more than five minutes to collect it.

“I can’t believe everything we pick up for free,” Commissioner Aron Cromwell said after learning the city picks up refrigerators, washers and dryers, and even up to five tires per year from households free of charge. “I don’t go through that many tires a year. Our potholes aren’t that bad.”

The trash proposal has called for a 7.5 percent increase in rates to cover increased landfill costs and operating costs that include higher wages and provisions for higher fuel costs.

But the proposal also gives the director of public works the ability to establish a new bulk item fee to cover the cost to pick up large pieces of refuse that can’t be picked up with normal trash. It also would allow the city to charge an extra fee to any household that sets out large amounts of trash that take more than five minutes for a single crew member to process. The city has the ability to charge such a fee now, but the time limit is 10 minutes. How much the new fees may be haven’t yet been determined.

Water, sewer rates

More details also were presented about possible water and sewer rates. New rate tables showed that users of 4,000 gallons of water in a month would see their water and sewer bills increase by $1.95 per month to a total of $47.95. Users of 10,000 gallons of water per month would see their bill increase by $4.29 per month to $101.05.

City commissioners didn’t approve any of the rate increases Tuesday night, but left the door open for all of them. Commissioners unanimously set the maximum amount of revenue for the 2011 city budget at $169.9 million. That gives commissioners the flexibility to pass new rate ordinances later this month or in early August.

A majority of commissioners, though, said they want to find ways to reduce the proposed rate increases between now and then. Commissioners directed staff to look at ways to reduce diesel fuel expenditures for the trash division and to look for savings in the amount of chemicals and energy the utilities department uses to treat water.

City staff members have said they could eliminate the need for water and sewer rate increases in 2011, if commissioners are willing not to take on any major water and sewer capital improvements. Commissioners said they wanted more information about that option, as they expressed concern about the risks associated with not replacing several aging pieces of pipe and infrastructure.

Employee raises

Commissioners left unchanged a proposal to provide an average merit pool raise of 1.5 percent to city employees. Commissioner Lance Johnson did question why commissioners hadn’t given more thought to not giving raises this year.

“I’m still asking the question, why is that immune?” Johnson said.

City Manager David Corliss said he was recommending the increase in the merit pool because he believed city employees had worked hard to take on new responsibilities as the city’s work force has been reduced through attrition. He also said employees deserved the increase because they will see a 5 percent increase in out-of-pocket expenses for health insurance.

Other commissioners agreed, and said they could justify the increase because they figured out a way to do it without raising the mill levy.

Commissioners decided early on to keep the city’s property tax rate steady at 26.7 mills. County commissioners and Lawrence school board members both are contemplating mill levy increases of more than 5 mills.

“As we look across the countryside and see what other governments are facing, I pat all of you on the back,” Mayor Mike Amyx said to fellow commissioners. “We’re going to adopt a budget that doesn’t require a mill levy increase, and we’re still going to carry out all the great services that we provide. That is the mark of a pretty great city.”


cowboy 7 years, 4 months ago

Making some moves in the right direction , add increased charges for commercial / construction roll offs. The parking operation is finally paying for itself although is still a ritual dance we play. I'd like to see a profitability study on the sale of water to all these rural systems.

Will they please take a new look at the Big Elephant , The T. The development monies need a complete re-evaluation , I can't see anything this investment is accomplishing.

Stuart Evans 7 years, 4 months ago

“I don’t go through that many tires a year."

well la-de-da mr. fancy, always buys his tires new, instead of off the $10 rack behind the gas station.

princess 7 years, 4 months ago

Charging for extra trash pick up should have happened a long time ago. You should get your one container and they only take that. If you want a second container, you should pay more per month. If you need a "large item" pickup there should be one or two free days a year so that extra staff can be on hand to accomodate. Otherwise, you should have to call for a special pickup and be charged accordingly.

I am disgusted every week when I see how much trash is put out for pick up. RECYCLE people!

Of course, then it is on to the discussion of curb side recycling run by the city with all of the profits from the recycled materials being used to fund the project. It can be done!

Joe Ryan 7 years, 4 months ago

Remember the story on the inefficiencies of the city trash services? What about the more recent article about the over $4 million dollar annual transfer from the services account to the general fund? Increasing fees is disingenuous. The city should take responsibility for cutting costs or raising taxes. A 1 1/2 percent merit increase sounds reasonable but what is the total percentage of the wage increase when you include longevity?

ILoveLawrence 7 years, 4 months ago

Property taxes, water rate increases, sales taxes - sure it's only $10 or $150 or so here and there, but folks - but to folks on fixed incomes that adds up and makes other things in our budgets a lot less - ie food.

pizzapete 7 years, 4 months ago

Agreed, I was thinking the same thing. It's all starting to add up to a big expense.

WHY 7 years, 4 months ago

“I can’t believe everything we pick up for free,” Commissioner Aron Cromwell said. Me neither when is it going to be free. I was pretty sure we paid to have the trucks pick up stuff. I guess it is amazing when a government department does what it is paid to do. Quit electing retards.

yankeevet 7 years, 4 months ago

Getting expensive too live here in this town........

Liberty275 7 years, 4 months ago

Really? Higher fees? In Lawrence? Maybe we should just put our entire paychecks into an escrow account for all our wonderful governments to raid as needed. They know what's best for us all, so it follows they know how to best spend all of our money. Maybe next they'll get really smart and figure out what jobs we should have and how many rolls of toilet paper we should allowed per month.

Land of the free.

somedude20 7 years, 4 months ago

soon it will be a better value to just move into the or the Jay Hawker (or the Holidome for that matter)

Liberty275 7 years, 4 months ago

Our potholes aren’t that bad.”

Of course they aren't. When you don't live in a part of town with old roads and constantly hit them, they don't even exist. Kudos on 23rd street, maybe this time you'll do it right and not leave speed bumps every 100 yards. How many speed bumps is that per dollar on a road that supposed to be smooth while I'm paying 55 cents per gallon in taxes on gasoline?

StephHawk 7 years, 4 months ago

For far too long, our city/county government has taken on too much responsibility and needs to seriously look at outsourcing the non-essential functions currently performed by our local governments. The responsibilities of city government have evolved from maintaining the essential functions of public safety (police/fire), streets, sewers, and other infrastructure, to providing services, like solid waste/recycling, that were once and continue to be provided by non-governmental entities.

The most important difference between privately owned entities and local government are that local governments face no competition. I would argue that the major advantage private entities, profit or nonprofit, enjoy are clear goals. In private enterprises, they want their companies to be fiscally sound and profitable, whether that profit is measured in cash dividends and stock prices, or in the successful achievement of its organizational goals.

By contrast, government and local government in particular, is now run by people who have no firm convictions as to what government can accomplish. As a result, they are prepared to burden it with responsibility for accomplishing everything any constituent group demands of them (i.e. Arts Center, Downtown Lawrence, VanGo, Gaduci Center, Drop-In Shelter, etc...) to rescuing souls from sin, and a host of other social ills.

I would encourage our county and city governments to evaluate the benefits of outsourcing several non-essential government functions such as waste management/recycling, as well as Transit services, law enforcement center entry security personnel (with the exception of the courtrooms), building maintenance, animal control, municipal airport management, and infrastructure management.

Outsourcing is not always the best choice, but I firmly believe our elected officials owe it to themselves and the public to review any and all alternatives given the current economic times.

jafs 7 years, 4 months ago

That argument would apply to all functions - why do you exempt some? If private is better, it would be better for everything.

And, the obvious plus to government rather than private is that government operates as a non-profit entity.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

Today they are only talking about increases. Which means some future tomorrow the rates will increase = done deal. This is the pattern of this city commission since its inception.

Pay As You Throw spells relief to those who manage their trash supply.

The bottom line = this city is over extended = no way to pay = water rate increases.

The smart way to go is stop:

  1. all plans for new water and sewer lines
  2. SAY to more new houses = more trash stops
  3. SAY NO to new retail
  4. Order up a Cost of Community Services Study to determine what city spending is NOT paying back
  5. Make no decisions on Chamber and developer requests without 3 opinions on our Market Capacity from OUTSIDERS.

Meanwhile: Overland Park climbed to No. 7 on Money magazine’s “Best Places to Live” list Monday.

The magazine released its 2010 edition of the list. The last two times it ranked cities between 50,000 and 300,000 people, Overland Park placed ninth in 2008 and sixth in 2006.

Other Kansas City area cities on this year’s list were Shawnee at 17, Lee’s Summit at 27 and Blue Springs at 49.

The magazine ranked the cities using data to analyze housing affordability, school quality, arts and leisure, safety, health care and diversity.

Read more:

On radio news Topeka also received mention. Lawrence with the most expensive to live title is going backwards. A client told me Monday that his research listed Lawrence as one of the most expensive cities to reside in the USA when considering taxes in addition to housing costs.

10 Best Cities for the Next Decade They're prosperous, innovative, and they'll generate plenty of jobs, too.

jafs 7 years, 4 months ago

It's an interesting, but flawed list - Topeka makes the top ten!

friendlyjhawk 7 years, 4 months ago

"Our potholes aren't that bad" get Cromwell out of there he doesn't have a clue.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

Private industry comes with over paid CEO's, over paid BOD's, golden parachutes aka a huge tax dollar sucker and under paid employees.

The medical insurance industry,military industrial complex, corp trash haulers, etc etc

"Thursday, June 25, 2009

Health insurers have forced consumers to pay billions of dollars in medical bills that the insurers themselves should have paid, according to a report released yesterday by the staff of the Senate Commerce Committee."

Lawrence problems are a result of over building across the board and the inability to accept responsibilty and make the right decisions to put this matter in check.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive, we would not be in a budget crunch I say. With increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential housing does not pay for the services they require from a municipality.

From a local League of Women study :

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.

I'd say our over built residential and housing markets are of greater concern and create big fiscal problems.

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