Archive for Monday, July 26, 2010

County commissioners to look at cutting proposed spending for economic development, open space

Commissioners still envisions some rate hike

July 26, 2010, 9:17 a.m. Updated July 26, 2010, 4:08 p.m.


Douglas County commissioners are whittling away at a proposed property tax increase, and they’re set to decide Tuesday morning just how much deeper they’re willing to cut.

After four hours of often-meticulous discussions on Monday, commissioners agreed to changes that would reduce their potential increase to 3.598 mills, down from 5.153 mills when they began. One mill equals $1 in property tax for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed valuation.

To help finance the county budget, the owner of a $150,000 home would pay another $62.07 in property taxes next year, as the proposed rate stands now. Before the cuts, the increase would have been $88.89.

But commissioners aren’t done cutting their planned expenditures. Tuesday morning, they intend to discuss cutting into one of the biggest additions to the proposed budget: $500,000 for economic development and $500,000 for preserving open space and fostering heritage-related efforts.

All three commissioners have staked out different positions: Nancy Thellman would cut each by $100,000, while Mike Gaughan would drop each by $150,000; Jim Flory would cut economic development by $400,000, and eliminate the open space/heritage spending plan entirely.

“We have significantly differing philosophies,” Flory said.

Tuesday’s meeting begins at 8 a.m. at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Mass.

To set up Tuesday’s discussions, commissioners made a number of cuts Monday to the $69 million budget plan that had been recommended by Craig Weinaug, county administrator. Among them:

• Cut plans to hire another emergency dispatcher and a new database administrator.

• Cut $397,000 from plans that would have restored previously cut financing for major road and bridge projects.

• Decrease overall spending at the county jail by $180,000, through a variety of budget moves.

• Postpone plans for a new generator and replacing the roof at the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, saving an estimated $403,333 next year.

• Eliminate an “experience” bonus for county employees, which would have amounted to a 1 percent raise for county employees who had not yet reached the top of their pay scales. Commissioners did agree to retain a 1 percent cost-of-living increase for all county employees; still be determined is whether employees will be able to share in “merit” bonuses.


BigPrune 7 years, 10 months ago

What about the taxpayer subsidized greenspace - take the land off the taxrolls forever? does that get the cut as well, or will the earth nazis get our land for their meditation and double rainbows?

mfagan 7 years, 10 months ago

Hello, BigPrune and others... Commissioners haven't yet tackled the issues regarding greenspace, economic development, etc. -- or, at least, not to make a decision. It's still relatively early in their discussions, though. So far -- and it's two hours in -- commissioners have trimmed 0.5 mill, total, from the proposed 5.23-mill increase in property taxes. They're now talking about areas where they do not have consensus. - Mark Fagan Reporter (attending the budget meeting)

Julie Jacob 7 years, 10 months ago


Are you running a twitter feed for the meeting or just look for an article later?

mfagan 7 years, 10 months ago

Not doing a Twitter feed... I'm updating this story as I can, and as appropriate. Commissioners just settled on a 1 percent cost-of-living wage increase for employees, plus providing 1 percent for merit increases.... No "experience" raises of 1 percent for 2011. Commissioners just rejected Commissioner Mike Gaughan's proposal to freeze wages for the county's department heads. - Mark Fagan

mfagan 7 years, 10 months ago

Just received word that commissioners did NOT settle on a 1 percent merit increase... that issue is to be discussed Tuesday morning, after commissioners have gone through other issues. - Mark Fagan Reporter

nekansan 7 years, 10 months ago

LJW, how about some details of how the sausage is being made? What is being cut, what is still on the table?

mfagan 7 years, 10 months ago

Cuts so far: $105,239 from beginning fund balance... $397,000 from capital improvement projects... $4,309 from emergency communications center... $63,318 from IT... $5,00 from noxious weeds... $30,000 from "miscellaneous expenditures"... $4,000 from "countywide" ... $4,000 from appraiser... $13,000 fleet operations... $12.500 from parks... $180,000 from sheriff (jail)... $6,000 from treasurer... $400,000 from road and bridge fund... and $10,000 from youth services...

mfagan 7 years, 10 months ago

Changes from above post... Emergency communications center: $41,309 is actual number... dropped a digit there... and $12,500 from parks (it's a comma, not a decimal point)... sorry... - Mark Fagan

Take_a_letter_Maria 7 years, 10 months ago

The 1+1 for wages should be cut Gaughan should have held firm. Some of us haven't seen a raise, cola or otherwise, in two years or more and others are scraping by on unemployment. The county and it's workers (as well as the city and school district) should all look at tightening the belt a little bit more.

mfagan 7 years, 10 months ago

I updated the story, above, regarding the merit increase. Commissioners, I am told, have NOT settled on a merit increase yet. That discussion is to come Tuesday morning, after they have discussed other issues... - Mark Fagan, Reporter

steveguy 7 years, 10 months ago

Why does anyone need a raise at this time. Get real.

Steve Jacob 7 years, 10 months ago

Well, no raise + higher insurance = pay cut. I could also mention inflation.

kernal 7 years, 10 months ago

I reckon most people who work in the private sector are not getting merit raises or cost of living raises and also have increased health insurance premiums.

LogicMan 7 years, 10 months ago

DCCs: Keep those pencils sharp, and keep finding savings! Times are tough, and will show who are the responsible leaders, or not.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 10 months ago

"Jim Flory would cut economic development by $400,000, and eliminate the open space/heritage spending plan entirely."

I like this thinking. Better yet kill the economic development funding period .... the bottom line. It will NOT translate into economic growth. It will translate into higher fees and other taxes.

Lawrence,Kansas is no secret. People know Lawrence is here. Business people also know there are not enough retail dollars to support what we have now. Lawrence has become a money hole.

Yes Lawrence has become a money hole. The Chamber of Commerce/Real Estate group do not want to understand yet they are among those that created this money hole. Tuesday night John McGrew will be asking for more of our tax dollars at the City Commission meeting... beware. No matter how warm,caring and fuzzy this presentation may come off it is nothing more than local big government corporate welfare and high tax dollar sprawl.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 10 months ago

Sprawl Costs Us All


Suburban sprawl has been rightly blamed for many things: destroying green space, increasing air and water pollution, fracturing our neighborhoods and forcing us to drive gridlocked roads for every chore.

But there is one consequence that usually goes unmentioned - sprawl is draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes. ( has anyone noticed lately right here in Larryville)

Sprawl is the result of over five decades of subsidies paid for by the American taxpayer. These range from the obvious to the obscure and include big projects-like the billions we spend on new roads as well as smaller ones-like the tax-breaks that encourage businesses to move to the edge of town. We've subsidized sprawl at such a basic level for so long, that many people believe the status quo is actually fair and neutral. This is false-what we think of as a level playing field is tilted steeply in favor of sprawling development.

How we subsidize sprawl:

* building new and wider roads
* building schools on the fringe
* extending sewer and water lines to sprawling development
* extending emergency services to the fringe
* direct pay-outs to developers

======================================= * Parks and Rec centers * all of the above is about selling more homes and more homes that which is this country has an overload. ======================================= How do we subsidize sprawl? Through an array of state, local and federal programs-and through incentives built into the develop-ment process itself. The biggest federal contribution to sprawl is the billions of dollars spent on building new roads. Over the past 50 years, we have built almost 4 million miles of highways.

This massive network of roads has done more than speed us from point A to point B - it has reshaped the landscape by opening up rural areas to suburban development and it has reshaped our society by making the car king. Travel by car has become not just another option-in too many places, it has become the only option.

Other federal programs are also encouraging sprawl. For years we have subsidized construction in flood plains while making it far too easy to destroy critical wetlands. This encourages the destruction of open spaces and adds to the pressure to sprawl.

The growth of suburban sprawl, though aided by federal spending, is also the product of decisions at the state and local levels. The corporate enticement game-played by everyone from governor to county supervisor-encourages commercial development far from cities and towns.

Over the past few decades, corporations have become increasingly skilled at playing one community against another in an effort to wrest greater perks from state and local governments. Big-box retailers and isolated business parks are unwittingly subsidized by our own tax dollars.

LogicMan 7 years, 10 months ago

With the likely change-over in November to a tight fisted hard-right the DCCs and other budgetmakers need to be realists:

Are our budgets sustainable? What if revenues decline 20% in the next 2 years?

With this unfortunate but very possible near future, no raises, no new programs, hiring halt, and a holdback on any capital expenditures until the end of the fiscal year are the responsible things to do now.

kansasmutt 7 years, 10 months ago

" eliminate the open space/heritage spending plan entirely " This is the best idea yet.

Moderateguy 7 years, 10 months ago

So we've eliminated major road and bridge projects, but are still holding on to the eco-devo and heritage funds... What??? Have you folks lost your minds? You need to live within your budget to start with, but roads and bridges are what we pay taxes for!!! The chocolate sprinkles like the eco-devo and heritage funds should have been first on the list, not last.

Thank you Mr. Flory for at least showing some sense.

Raising property taxes at this point is absolute lunacy. I wish I could just decide to give myself a raise, but real life doesn't work that way. WAKE UP!

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