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Archive for Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lawrence City Commision agrees to cap tax increase at 1.88 mills

July 13, 2011

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Fire engines and parks and recreation services will take a bigger hit than expected in Lawrence’s 2012 budget, as a last-minute deal lessened a proposed property tax increase on city residents.

City commissioners on Tuesday unanimously took off the table a proposed 2.8 mill increase in the city’s property tax rate for 2012 and instead said they would not raise the mill levy more than 1.88 mills.

But the smaller tax increase will come at a price to at least a pair of city departments.

The cutback means the city will not fund a $750,000 purchase of a new hazardous materials vehicle for the fire department, and it will cut $200,000 from the city’s parks and recreation budget, which has created questions about whether the city seriously will pursue a new west Lawrence recreation center in the foreseeable future.

Remaining in the budget, though, will be about $535,000 to fund an increase in compensation for city employees, and $400,000 to fund four new police officer positions and one existing detective position that currently is funded with an expiring grant.

“One of the things that is important here is we have made a commitment to our employees,” City Commissioner Mike Amyx said. “The people who truly work for this community, we can’t thank them enough. We’re making an investment in them and that investment pays off in the amount of work they do and the service they provide to this community.”

Instead, commissioners approved a list of spending cuts that was put forward by the city manager’s office only about three hours before the commission’s Tuesday evening meeting.

Rec center’s future

The cuts may catch some recreation supporters by surprise. Commissioners agreed to cut $200,000 from the city’s parks and recreation budget. City Manager David Corliss said that will require the city to more heavily rely on sales tax reserve funds to pay for maintenance projects in the parks and recreation department. He also said it would make it more difficult for him to recommend expanding parks and recreation facilities in the future.

That could be significant because the city has confirmed it has had discussions with coach Bill Self’s foundation about a public-private partnership to build a new west Lawrence recreation center. Commissioners have not yet taken any formal action on that project, but Corliss previously had proposed that architectural plans be developed in 2012. Whether that still would be the case was unclear Tuesday evening.

“I think it is going to be very difficult to take on new projects,” Corliss said.

Corliss said that philosophy carried over to the city possibly buying and restoring the Santa Fe Depot at Seventh and New Jersey streets. The leaders of a citizens group seeking the building’s preservation urged the city to not close the door on the project.

Mayor optimistic

Mayor Aron Cromwell said the city’s actions on Tuesday hadn’t killed the possibilities for the depot. He said the City Commission still will have the ability to look at the depot and other projects, even if the city manager thinks they’ll be more difficult to fund.

Overall, Cromwell said he’s pleased with how the budget is shaping up. The majority of the 1.88 mill levy increase goes to fund a voter-approved expansion of the Lawrence Public Library. The $18 million project accounts for 1.7 mills of the increase. The remainder of the mill levy increase funds police officers and increased wages for city employees.

“I can tell you everyone up here is intimately concerned with coming up with a tax number that provides services at the level we have come to expect, but also keeps our tax bills at a reasonable level,” Cromwell said.

The original proposal to raise the mill levy by 2.8 mills would have increased the property taxes on a $200,000 home by $64.40 per year. The new proposal of a 1.88 mill levy increase would raise property taxes on the same home by $43.24 per year.

Commissioners did not give final approval to the budget on Tuesday. Instead, they committed to the maximum mill levy for 2012. The commission still could cut the budget before giving final approval in mid-August. Commissioners will hold a formal public hearing on the budget at their Aug. 2 commission meeting.

Comments

Richard Heckler 3 years, 5 months ago

The west side does not need a $15 million rec center. That is the bottom line. This community cannot afford to spend more money on PLAY. USD 497 blew $20 million or more on this Chamber inspired project by way of the back door and without consent of the taxpayers.

Should the city build a recreation center in west Lawrence? http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2009/jul/should-city-build-recreation-center-west-lawrence/

Should the city spend $20 million or more on the PLAY project? http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/may/should_city_spend_20_million_or_more_play_project/

School priorities http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2009/oct/22/school-priorities/#c1027186

Flap Doodle 3 years, 5 months ago

How many times have you posted this same set of links, merrill? Do you think nothing has changed since 2007?

justforfun 3 years, 5 months ago

What we CAN'T afford is a $18 million Library.

Godot 3 years, 5 months ago

The library expansion was not approved by a "majority" of the citizens, it was approved by a majority of the very few people who turned out to vote, and in this case, you can be sure that the pro-library interests turned out en masse.

It is time to organize a repeal of this waste of money before it goes any further.

DillonBarnes 3 years, 5 months ago

Exactly! That vote doesn't count, it definitely doesn't factor in the lazy people who didn't care enough to get out and vote that day.

What a terrible argument.

jafs 3 years, 5 months ago

The vote counts, just as all elections count, even if there's a small turnout.

It is terrible that so many people in this country don't participate in elections, and I agree that means they mean less about the "will of the people" than they should.

But people who choose not to vote choose not to have any effect on elections.

notanota 3 years, 5 months ago

The people who didn't show up to vote deserve to live with the consequences of their inaction.

justforfun 3 years, 5 months ago

Well I turned out to vote! Guess what, I coulden't vote against it because I live 1.5 mile west of town, but I get to help fund it because I own property in town. I don't quite understand how some property owners help fund these things but can't vote for or against. Non property owners can vote at will for increases and has a very small impact on them.

jafs 3 years, 5 months ago

That's interesting.

I would imagine it's because it was a question for city residents, not for any who own property in town.

Would your town act differently?

And, it is a myth that non property owners don't pay property taxes - renters pay it as part of their rent. Also, it was pointed out that we all pay it as part of the costs of goods and services.

notanota 3 years, 5 months ago

If you own property in town but do not live in it, my guess is that you have an alternative means of recouping that tax increase.

Fred Mertz 3 years, 5 months ago

And, inaction is, in a sense, a vote. It simply states "I don't care one way or the other so you all decide for me. P,S., I still reserve the right to complain on forums with the same fervor as if I had voted."

LogicMan 3 years, 5 months ago

Library? Not truly a library for decades. Entertainment center, child daycare, and daylight halfway-house for a long time. It's insulting to imply that its purpose is mainly for a repository and disseminator of knowledge. Rename and call it what it is, an Urban Community Center.

irvan moore 3 years, 5 months ago

the majority of citizens didn't say yes to a library expansion/parking garage, the small percentage of citizens who voted said we could afford it. i also think we should supporting the chamber but don't see this commission cutting them off.

notanota 3 years, 5 months ago

If you can't be arsed to vote, you have no room to complain about the results.

nativeson 3 years, 5 months ago

The fact is that a minority of the voters passed the library bond issue in an election by 10 points. It will happen.

The commission is not focusing on really looking at reductions, but moving money from source to source to reduce the mill levy increase. The fact still remains that they are increasing compensation and benefits with a tax increase. Funding for police and fire employees in their pension fund is going up over $2000 per participant next year. Should they get any other increase in compensation? These are the real questions not being discussed.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 3 years, 5 months ago

Screw the raises for city employees. I will bet they could rotate them out and get better ones for less money. I am sure there are a lot of people that would love to just have a job.

droppinplates 3 years, 5 months ago

The argument that you just get rid of them for someone who would be happy to have a job is rediculous. There are highly trained and experienced individuals in various city departments that you don't just replace with anyone.

jafs 3 years, 5 months ago

Voter turnouts are too low, in both local and national elections.

About 1/2 of KS voters didn't participate in the recent governor's race.

About 1/2 of the American public doesn't participate in national elections.

For our system to work the way it's supposed to work, and for the outcomes of elections to mean they are the "will of the majority", more people need to vote.

If you don't like low turnouts, the thing to do would be to encourage people to vote.

But, the outcomes of low-turnout votes count - you can't turn around and cancel them.

Kelly Anderson 3 years, 5 months ago

ljworld spelled commission wrong in the headline.

50YearResident 3 years, 5 months ago

How to get a 1.88 mill increase approved. Make the public think you are going to demand 2.88 mills when you only need 1.88. Then back off the demand of increase to 1.88 mills and the public will think they won the battle. WooHoo, it works every time...........

Food_for_Thought 3 years, 5 months ago

You forget. They're only getting a .18 mil increase approved. The other 1.7 mils were already spoken for, previously approved by voters with the $18 million library.

bendover61 3 years, 5 months ago

It's a $9 million dollar library and a $9 million dollar parking lot.

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