Archive for Sunday, July 3, 2011

Tax assumptions

Do Lawrence taxpayers agree that city officials have a “moral obligation” to target sales tax funds almost exclusively to recreation projects?

July 3, 2011


A new recreation center would be a nice addition to northwest Lawrence, and KU basketball coach Bill Self’s promise of a $1 million donation and assistance in raising another $2 million in private funds certainly sweetens the deal.

However, Lawrence city commissioners shouldn’t base their decision about the center on any perceived “moral” obligation to use all or most of the money from its share of a countywide sales tax on recreation projects.

When the sales tax was approved in 1994, voters were told that it would be used for recreation projects, the Community Health Building, construction of a new county jail and to provide property tax relief. However, the actual wording of the ballot question put no restrictions on how the money could be used.

Nonetheless, the city has continued to direct that money to recreation projects. Now that it has paid off the Indoor Aquatic Center and is close to paying off Eagle Bend Golf Course, it sees an opportunity to make another major recreation investment. A new recreation center, perhaps on property north of Walmart, would fill a geographical gap in the city’s recreational facilities and provide additional gymnasium space for the entire community.

But is a recreation center with an estimated price tag of $15 million the best use of the city’s sales tax revenue?

City commissioners need to ask that question and not just assume that sales tax money that is being freed up by other projects being paid off must be redirected to new recreation facilities.

“We have the legal authority to use it however we want,” Mayor Aron Cromwell said last week. “But the moral authority I don’t think is there to use it for anything other than recreation.”

That’s a big assumption. How about the “moral authority” to provide property tax relief, which also was among the tax’s original selling points? It seems well within that authority for the city to use sales tax revenue to pay for additional police officers or other expenses that would otherwise trigger an increase in the city’s mill levy.

City commissioners and other supporters of expanding the Lawrence Public Library refused to consider using sales tax money instead of a property tax increase to fund that project although such a move would have provided property tax relief on a building that arguably qualifies as a recreation facility.

Again, a northwest recreation center may be a good project for the city and the support from Self certainly is appreciated, but before the city agrees to make that investment, it owes it to taxpayers to revisit its assumptions about how revenue from the 1994 sales tax must be distributed.


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? Which would 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!

Flap Doodle 6 years, 11 months ago

You know what? I'd swear that I saw this exact same drivel copy/pasted onto another thread on this award-winning website today. BTW, are you getting paid to plug proform, merrill?

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.

Let's spend $7 million on a new west Lawrence rec center and $7 million on rehabilitating sidewalks and making them wider in older Lawrence neighborhoods that would serve thousands upon thousands of taxpayers who have contributed plenty to the special 1994 tax dollar fund.

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago

A strange notion.

Voters were told that a new sales tax would be used for certain things, but because it wasn't specified in writing, they have no obligation to use it for those?

cato_the_elder 6 years, 11 months ago

The 1% countywide sales tax was ginned up in 1994 by USD 497 and the Lawrence City Commission to build a state-of-the-art swimming pool at the proposed new high school, also voted on in 1994, so that the Lawrence Board of Education wouldn't have to include the substantial cost of a new swimming pool when twisting voters' arms into voting for another high school in what was projected at the time to become the most affluent part of Lawrence. (A countywide sales tax was proposed because at the time the City was maxed out on its sales taxing authority.) As a result, county residents living outside of USD 497 unwittingly voted for a countywide sales tax that was conceived solely in order to get the second high school vote in Lawrence, a fact of which most county voters were completely unaware. Despite efforts to educate the County Commissioners as to what was really going on, they were asleep at the switch.

The reason that no restrictions were put on the ballot wording was precisely so that it could be used to pay for a swimming pool at the new high school without school bond voters or other county residents who were voting on the sales tax ever realizing it. As the editorial points out, it's called the Lawrence Aquatic Center, and was paid for through the use of the 1994 countywide sales tax that's the subject of the editorial.

The pool is there, just as planned, and enormous development has occurred as the result of the high school vote. Most of those who voted for the sales tax are to this day unaware of how they were used by certain of the key proponents of the second high school bond issue. Those who by now have made a great deal of money from the second high school project, both directly and indirectly, should thank all of those who in 1994 voted for the countywide sales tax so that USD 497 could fake austerity and represent to the voters that a new swimming pool at the proposed second high school was way down the road.

Godot 6 years, 11 months ago

We were told that sales tax increase would be temporary, too. In Lawrence, Kansas, there is no such thing as a temporary tax increase, and there is no such thing as property tax relief. There is only continually expanding government and rising government wages and perks, as property values drop, businesses close, and tax paying citizens sell their homes to flee to a less regulated, less taxed, and more business friendly environment.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

Split the spending 50-50.

After all east side residents have been paying into sales tax cookie jars way longer than most all west side development.

In addition east side residents have been contributing to the newer 1994 sales tax fund for 17 years.


Sunny Parker 6 years, 11 months ago

But an 18million + dollar library is fine right?

ResQd 6 years, 11 months ago

Who cares about where it's put! For goodness sakes people, they're wanting to spend that money on a recreation facility! In these tough times, do we really need something like this! KUDOS to Bill Self for donating some of the funds, but it doesn't let the rest of us off the hook. If it's so important to him, let him cough up the rest of the funds. I'm being taxed to death in this city and I have squeezed out about all I can handle in taxes. If there is money left over from 1994, for goodness sake, give it back in the form of property tax relief, or an upcoming and inevitable and needier tax increase.

John Hamm 6 years, 11 months ago

How about to heck with the rec center and drop the sales tax? Oh, sorry. That would mean they'd have less money to waste......

Carol Bowen 6 years, 11 months ago

Lawrence's Parks and Rec is so fine that no YMCA or YWCA would consider coming to Lawrence. I think we should encourage a Y and use tax money to maintain existing Parks and Rec. For example, I have heard that we cannot in good conscience charge for the weight room on 11 th Street, because the equipment is old. The parks in our neighborhood are poorly maintained. It's time to serve the population that does not play basketball.

cummingshawk 6 years, 11 months ago

The so-called 'moral authority' being bandied about so conveniently to justify using the funds only for a new rec center tends to overlook another stated purpose- namely PROPERTY TAX RELIEF. Instead of increasing the current property tax, why not use the funds to help current businesses and homeowners? If the economy ever recovers would be a better time to build a west side rec center.

bornon7 6 years, 11 months ago

Really, why bother to post a comment? We all read this, but do those that make the decisions in this town? They don't care! They have enough money, status and hot air to think of us as idiots they control. When do WE take control?!

kernal 6 years, 11 months ago

Message to the City Commissioners:

We are getting fed up with the luxury tax increases. The rec center is not an item of necessity, therefore this is not the time for it. If the City and County continue in this bent, you will lose some of your population. I will be one, if I can get someone to buy my house in this tax laden county and slow economy. I will also take my shopping, even grocery shopping, to Johnson County and my other shopping to Topeka. I've already taken my medical care out of town and I'm not alone in that decision.

Moral obligation indeed.

nativeson 6 years, 11 months ago

The problem with the 1994 sales tax is that it has no sunset clause. The voters should have a right to review what has been done with this tax over the last 17 yeras and decide if they want it to continue after bonds have been retired.

Carol Bowen 6 years, 11 months ago

We should also have the right to adjust our priorities. The economy is far different than it was in 1994. We really cannot continue taxes for luxury now.

George Lippencott 6 years, 11 months ago

How about we use it to "reduce property taxes". After all that was one of the projected uses and those taxes have sure increased since that revenue stream was initiated!! Just why have our lawgivers not even considered that use???

Good old Lawrence! We need more and more and more money for more and more and more services for fewer and fewer recipients. High taxes, high cost of living with amenities that appeal to only a fraction of the populace may just be the reason why business has to be bribed to come here, why our population is declining, why shopping is moving to other venues, why social service costs are increasing and other symptoms of decline. Keep it up. We too can look like Detroit or the District of Columbia. Maybe Washington will bail us out!!

Carol Bowen 6 years, 11 months ago

Time to contact our city commissioners.

Mayor Aron E. Cromwell
/> (785) 749-6020

Vice Mayor Bob Schumm
Home (785) 842-6729 Work (785) 842-7337

Commissioner Michael Dever
(785) 550-4909

Commissioner Hugh Carter
(785) 764-3362

Commissioner Mike Amyx Home (785) 843-3089 Work (785) 842-9425

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