Archive for Friday, July 1, 2011

Lawrence city manager’s 2012 budget calls for tax increase

City Manager David Corliss explains what residents may see if city commissioners approve a recommendation to add four new police officers to the city's force.

July 1, 2011, 5:22 p.m. Updated July 2, 2011, 1:26 a.m.


An expanded public library, an increase in wages at City Hall and a handful of new police officers all have the city’s property tax rate on the rise, under a budget recommended by City Manager David Corliss on Friday.

Corliss’ recommended 2012 budget calls for an increase of 2.8 mills in the city’s property tax rate. If approved, it would be the first significant mill levy increase from City Hall since 2007.

“There are no city services that I’m recommending be cut,” Corliss said Friday. “I think the citizens expect high-quality city services. I think the citizen survey shows they are appreciative of the services we provide. They want that to continue, but in order for that to continue, we need increased resources.”

Funding needs

Three areas account for the proposed mill levy increase. They are:

  • 1.7 mills to fund a voter-approved expansion of the Lawrence Public Library.
  • 0.6 mill — or $535,000 — to fund increased compensation for city employees. The details of how that money would be spread around aren’t yet known because the city is still in tough negotiations with police and fire unions that have contracts expiring at the end of the year.
  • 0.5 mill — or $400,000 — for additional police officers. The funding would allow the city to keep an existing detective position that is currently funded with an expiring federal grant. It also would allow the force to add four new patrol officers.

A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 of assessed valuation. A 2.8 mill increase would raise the annual property taxes on a $200,000 home by $64.40.

Lawrence Mayor Aron Cromwell said he agreed with the general premise of not making cuts to city services, but he said that requires a mill levy increase.

“We have just squeezed and squeezed over the last several years, and we just don’t have much room left to do that,” Cromwell said. “It comes down to what department would you like us to eliminate? I think most citizens expect the same services they have been receiving.”

Corliss said he expects the police department budget to get much more discussion from city commissioners beginning next Friday when they hold a study session on budget topics.

“I tried to strike a balance,” Corliss said. “The commission may want to do more than what I’ve recommended.”

Corliss’ budget also calls for a formal study in 2012 of police department needs. He said that study will examine whether a new law enforcement building should be constructed in the city that he predicts will lead to conversations about whether the city, the sheriff’s department and the Kansas University police department should begin sharing more resources or even merge.

“I’m not recommending anything on that front, but if we are going to build a large law enforcement facility, we need to have a discussion about how we are going to provide law enforcement services for the long term.”

Other projects

The recommended budget also has funding for several street projects and new economic development efforts, and even urges the community to begin planning for recognizing the 150th anniversary of Quantrill’s raid on the city. Here’s a look at several items:

  • $5.1 million for street maintenance efforts, which is down slightly from $5.5 million in the 2011 budget. In addition to maintenance work, the city will take out new debt for several larger projects. Projects that will be under way in 2012 include: a rebuilding of Iowa Street from near Harvard Road to the Irving Hill overpass; repaving of Sixth Street west of Iowa; city participation in a state project to rebuild the 23rd Street bridge west of Haskell Avenue; and a partial rebuilding of Wakarusa Drive north and south of Bob Billings Parkway.
  • $1 million to address maintenance needs on existing city facilities. They include: $450,000 for repairs to the Riverfront and New Hampshire Street parking garages; $180,000 to repair the roof at City Hall; $100,000 for concrete repair and slide repairs at the Outdoor Aquatic Center; $150,000 for repairs at Deerfield Park; and $125,000 in repairs to skateboard park at Centennial Park.
  • $1.75 million to purchase a new quint and a new hazardous materials vehicle for the Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical Department, with funding coming from an infrastructure sales tax approved by voters in 2008.
  • $500,000 in new funding to the Lawrence-Douglas County Bioscience Authority to help fund an expansion of its new incubator facility on Kansas University’s West Campus. The city would issue debt to provide the authority with an upfront payment as it does fundraising for the expansion. Corliss anticipates an additional $500,000 payment, funded with debt, would be made in 2013.
  • About $2.1 million would be spent from various reserve funds and city savings accounts to fund programs that Corliss said would otherwise have required a mill levy increase. The city will spend about $900,000 of savings and reserve funds to partially pay for $2 million worth of radio replacements for police, fire and public works. The radio replacements are mandated by new federal frequency rules. Also proposed is to spend $1.2 million from a reserve fund the city has as part of its insurance program. The spending will allow the city to lessen the impact on employees of a change to the structure of the city’s health insurance plan. The city has a little more than $12 million in its main general fund savings account, and has about $7 million in its main insurance savings account.
  • Corliss is urging commissioners to appoint a group of Lawrence residents who would come up with suggestions for how the city could recognize the 150th anniversary of Quantrill’s raid and the rebuilding of the city. The anniversary will be Aug. 21, 2013. Corliss said the group and ultimately the City Commission could determine whether a new work of art, historical markers, exhibits, an event or some other recognition would be appropriate. He said funding from the city’s Guest Tax fund could be used, although he attached no dollar amount to the idea.

“The massacre of Lawrence citizens and community destruction at the hands of Quantrill’s raiders — and the subsequent rebuilding of our community — is a major event in Lawrence’s history,” Corliss wrote in budget letter to commissioners. “It dramatically stands for so many important values, including courage, determination, respect for the worth of individuals in the opposition to the horror of slavery, and sacrifice for principle.”

Commissioners will meet in a study session at 3 p.m. Friday to discuss Corliss’ recommended budget. Commissioners will need to finalize a budget by mid-August.


BigfootHunter 6 years, 11 months ago

Can I get a big raise from my employer since I have more expenses??? Yeah Right.

Why even consider cuts in a city that loves taxes? Just add on another 10-20Mils and we can build that "Land of OZ" theme park we need to go with our new Library!!!

nut_case 6 years, 11 months ago

Yeah - just like mosquitoes only suck a few drops of blood. You've got quarts of the stuff in your body, so what does a few tablespoons matter?!?! Except the mosquitoes just use the blood to multiply, hatch more, suck more, hatch more.... Pretty soon, we're all anemic or dead from malaria.

50YearResident 6 years, 11 months ago

K, Then you won't mind paying mine also, because it will only be $128. Only 2 meals out, everyone can afford that. I have to spend my $128 on water/ trash, electricity and gas increases. But I am ok with that, it's only 2 meals out, everyone can afford that.

notanota 6 years, 11 months ago

Per year. If you only spend $10 per meal when eating out, skip six and a half restaurant outings. If you buy $64 meals, skip one.

notanota 6 years, 11 months ago

Try it again with a bit more of a "the sky is falling" whine. Clearly that $64 per year on a 200K home is going to put you on the street and force you to fire 234324234 local employees.

George_Braziller 6 years, 11 months ago

Go out to eat? I'd love to. Wait until you don't have a job. That $64.00 will buy me groceries for two weeks.

over_par 6 years, 11 months ago

I'll chip in for new police officers. I'd even chip in for the addittional cops they are asking for on top of the four. Just don't raise my taxes on the rouse of city services and then build a $15 million dollar rec center.Also, give me the taxes (although reduced) and sales tax revenue from an Olive Garden over the minimal taxes collected on the vacant lot any day. This town is as crazy as Brownback, just on the opposite end of the spectrum.

George Lippencott 6 years, 11 months ago

Look, it could be worse. It is only an 8/10 percent increase (we voted for the 1.7% increase for the library and the parking garage) That comes out to about $50 for the average homeowner. In fact for those still getting merit pay increases or salary bumps (teachers) it will be lost in their income increases.

I would watch the county as I suspect they will hit us hard to pay for social service cuts made by the state. After a 20% increase last year there may be some room for us to complain if they do that. I bet they don’t care and will whack us good!!!

Alceste 6 years, 11 months ago

Pardon me, but why are city workers getting pay raises when the bulk of state workers get nothing? What is the difference between working for the city of Lawrence and working for the state of Kansas? Is working for the city of Lawrence that more complex and involved?'s just that the city of Lawrence likes to make certain the little guy is continuing to be taxed out of the town while Corliss and his buddies are pulling in more than $10k per month.

And George....aka you have any clue whatsoever what a $60 per annum increase to a retired person on a fixed income of under $25k per annum feels like? The posts I've read that have been written by "Moderate" indicate you live in a fancy house and get a lot of money, albeit fixed. Want to trade places?

Oh....and those police and firemen? If they don't like their current pay, let them move to another community. Crime in Lawrence, Kansas? Give me a break.....let them guys move to Detroit or Atlanta and find out what being a po po is all about. Firemen? Same ain't like there's a zillion arson prone right wingers in Lawrence........ "Millions for defense, sir, but not one cent for tribute!"

newmedia 6 years, 11 months ago

Ah, the joys of living in liberal land. Tax and spend and feel good doing it!

independent_rebel 6 years, 11 months ago

From what I've heard from a neighbor who has worked for the city for almost a decade is that the employees haven't received any raisies for a number of years now. Only the police and fire department employees have. She said the regular employees received a small "cost of living" increase a couple of times but that was eaten up by the increase in their out-of-pocket health insurance and prescription payments. They pay out the nose for doctor visits, and supposedly they have to pay an extra $30 bucks per prescription if they don't use a generic, even if there is no generic equivilent. According to this person, the non-police, non-fire department employees have taken it up the rear so the whiny police and fire department unions get theirs raises year after year after year. I'm not sure if any one anywhere deserves raises, but surely not the police and fire department unions. These goons are holding the rest of Lawrence hostage every year.

notanota 6 years, 11 months ago

I know, sheesh. It's not like police and firefighters risk their lives in order to perform their job duties or anything.

independent_rebel 6 years, 11 months ago

Well, so does the man/woman who works in heavy traffic in extreme weather conditions to fix our streets, pick up our garbarge,read our water meters, etc. From what I gather they have no voice at city hall. I bet more street maintence workers/garbage men get hurt than fire fighters do every year. Is there a way to find this out?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

How many times in the past 25 years have been hit by a variety of tax increases saying it is only this much on a $200,000 home etc etc?

Don't forget the water and sewer rate increases on the table and in the past. These are tax increases.

What reserve funds is the city talking about for the LPD and Fire Dept radios? Let's be explicit please. How much is in this "reserve fund"? In the study session they were talking of using the sales tax money voters approved that they were thinking was to to be used for sidewalks,street repairs and perhaps more hike and bike trails. (((( I did not vote for this because the word "infrastructure" was not clear enough to me plus there was no itemized list which left this "infrastructure" tax dollar money open to just about anything))))(((DUPED AGAIN)))!!!

The LPD is also asking for machine guns and armored vehicles. What for?

USD 497 is waiting in the winds and probably the county. Yep the USD 497 $20 million dollar PLAY project is a tax increase.

PLUS the $15 million park dept westside Rec Center = another portion of PLAY = $35 million thus far being spent on PLAY.

May 2007 Should the city spend $20 million or more on the PLAY project? 76% said no.

Of course that question has not been put to the public since. USD 497 did say that the sports project was in fact a part of the PLAY project. Back door politics takes away expendable cash.....

So it appears that the OVER DEVELOPMENT that has taken place in the past 25 years is NOT paying back the taxpayers. Lawrence has become a tax dollar money hole.

Food_for_Thought 6 years, 11 months ago

If you kept up with past articles, it was mentioned on LJW that the reserve fund is in the ballpark of $12M.

Call me crazy, but I think those "(sub)machine guns and armored vehicles" LPD has requested falls under the same reason police or fire/medical have half the equipment they do - to be prepared for the unimaginable. What happens when a serious critical incident occurs, and our police or fire/medical are caught unprepared? Police carry firearms everyday, but don't use them; perhaps our police department should be like UK and disarm our police officers...sounds like a good idea...until you find yourself needing the police in an incident that involves weapons. Why do police and fire/medical have AEDs? How many heart attacks occur in Lawrence each year that demands such equipment? The cost to purchase and maintain all of those AEDs is astronomical and consider now how often they are used. Is it worth it to have our police and fire/medical equipped with such devices...just in case the "worst" happens?

Hell, what does we have police and fire/medical for anyways? JUST IN CASE THE UNIMAGINABLE HAPPENS. No one plans for their house to catch fire. No one plans to suffer a stroke or find themselves in a serious car accident. And equally so, no one plans to find themselves victim/target to a SERIOUS criminal or terrorist incident. Guess what? The "bad guys" can get automatic weapons and armored vehicles themselves. Are you that much of a monster to cast our police officers to the wolves ill-equipped to handle the worst of possible situations? Standard police cruisers are not armored - even average-caliber handgun bullets cut through doors and other body panels like paper. Even the highest-grade civilian body armor cannot withstand high velocity rifle rounds. You have to be kidding me that you think it's reasonable to expect police to effectively, using their handguns and shotguns, combat an assailant equipped with an automatic rifle?

Does anyone think that the City can afford such expenses right now in our economic crunch? No, no one is saying we should all dig deep in our pockets now to find LPD funding for such expenses ASAP; however, it is something that our police department will need ONE DAY. I'd much rather see our police department (much like our fire department) have the equipment that it NEEDS to handle ANY situation and NEVER use it at all, versus seeing our police department lacking in preparedness and run into that "one scenario" where one or even several police officers die and a large, tragic lesson of "if we only had..." learned because of it. I'm sure you'd like Lawrence to continue to be the "city of the arts", and not "that one city where innocent lives were lost because their police department was unprepared". Don't think it's happened before? Try googling "North Hollywood Shootout". It's just one of a number of infamous incidents where a city's police department wasn't prepared enough to handle "the unimaginable".

SinoHawk 6 years, 11 months ago

This is just part of the proverbial "death by a thousand cuts." To maintain a certain level of services, tax rates should never need to increase. The problem is that the government raises tax rates and fees to cover lean years, but then keep (or raises) the same rates during the good years. As a result, taxes and fees continue eating a higher and higher percentage of incomes.

2001 Mills: 24.77 City, 27.86 County, 55.34 Schools, 1.5 State (109.45 Total) 2009 Mills: 26.693 City, 32.803 County, 57.894 Schools, 1.5 State (118.89 Total) (Increase of 8.6%)

2001/9 Tax Assessment Rates (no change): 25% Industrial/Commercial, 25% M&E, 11.5% Residential Property

2001 Sales Tax: 6.9%? (or 7.3%--I forget) 2009 Sales Tax: 8.85%

George Lippencott 6 years, 11 months ago

Have to factor in the rise in residential property values. That took a bigger slice of an individuals income than mil rate increases. Now it looks like much of those increases were not real!

Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

The article mentioned "several" reserve funds. Does the city have more than one reserve fund and how much are these funds worth?

The city will spend about $900,000 of savings and reserve funds to partially pay for $2 million worth of radio replacements for police, fire and public works. The radio replacements are mandated by new federal frequency rules. ((((Where does the rest of funding come from?)))

Also proposed is to spend $1.2 million from a reserve fund the city has as part of its insurance program. The spending will allow the city to lessen the impact on employees of a change to the structure of the city’s health insurance plan.

The city has a little more than $12 million in its main general fund savings account, and has about $7 million in its main insurance savings account.

Are there other reserve funds?

Why does Lawrence need machine guns and armored vehicles? No doubt the LPD has assault weapons in their arsenal as we speak.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

Why does west Lawrence need a $15 million Rec Center with indoor soccer facilities? Soccer is an outdoor sport so why move soccer into a climate controlled building?

South and West Lawrence has way more new wider sidewalks than any other part of town.

South and West Lawrence has way more new hike and bike paths than any other side of town.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

Why spend $15 million in west Lawrence? Why not $7 million in west Lawrence and $7 million in the older Lawrence neighborhoods repairing and expanding/widening sidewalks that need attention and might add value to older neighborhoods? And provide exercise opportunities to thousands of families in other parts of Lawrence that new west Lawrence has as we speak.

That's right new or rehabilitated wide walks and hike/bike trails are the better bang for the tax buck because they provide way more opportunities for thousands all over Lawrence Kansas.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

How about a $6-$7 million rec centers like most other parts of town have?

Are significant numbers of parents concerned about exercise opportunities for their children?

How about we teach our children the value of existing resources such as outdoor walks and bike paths as tools for exercise year round? How about using the indoor aquatic center for exercise as a another source of exercise.

How about we teach our children the negative aspects of high impact sports activities that ruin knees,hip joints and deliver brain concussions?

How about we teach children the value of healthy diets plus pull them away from TV and video games?

Are the children not receiving exercise opportunities through USD 497 gym classes plus walking and biking on the home front outdoors?

Why spend $15 million in west Lawrence? Why not $7 million in west Lawrence and $7 million in the older Lawrence neighborhoods repairing and expanding/widening sidewalks that need attention and might add value to older neighborhoods? And provide exercise opportunities to thousands of families in other parts of Lawrence that new west Lawrence has as we speak.

Perhaps parents should inquire about setting up home gyms as a means for their children to exercise year round. Elliptical trainers,bench sets,tread mills etc etc etc?|6614|home%20exercise%20equipment||S|b|693963913&gclid=CIOu_-aA5akCFQvKKgodhRptXw

How about children have parties at home complete with favorite music,exercise equipment and vegetable/fruit/cheese platters with plenty of water?

Visit a good Chiropractor.

Get OUTDOORS and enjoy yourselves!

monkeywrench1969 6 years, 11 months ago


Many of the points you have discussed are valid, but do you constantly want to bag on the police and fire who run their services 24/7. Maybe they have a better idea of what is needed to move toward the future than someone with no idea what goes on in Lawrence once the restaurants closes and the bars move into full swing. I also know you you have had discussions with one of my neighbors (An officer involved with the negotiations with the city) who has explained to you (or whoever the Merrill is on the radio) the city often misrepresent the information in the paper to put their increases out there as them taking care of the city employees rather than the city as a whole. He has explained the topped out city employees have not gotten a raise in several years and it is only those who have not topped out who they are trying to get tot he average of the other cities in our areas so we don't lose them to those cities.

Also quit trying to sensationalize the machine gun thing. They are asking for rifles so they can get rid of the shotguns that are less accurate and can spray everywhere. I have ridden alone on a Friday and Saturday night. The bad guns do have rifles. Lets let the cops catch up. They aren't as bad as Chuck Norris or Dirty Harry. I will quote you...Please.

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