Archive for Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lawrence Mayor Aron Cromwell says property tax mill levy increase will be difficult to avoid

June 21, 2011


There’s at least one City Hall leader betting on a property tax increase for 2012.

Lawrence Mayor Aron Cromwell said Monday that he hasn’t yet seen a proposal that would allow the city to responsibly avoid an increase in its property tax mill levy. Based on preliminary numbers, 2012 city revenues are expected to be about $1.2 million short of expected city expenses.

“We’re faced with a budget that will demand either a substantial cut in city services or a mill levy increase,” Cromwell said. “I’m not comfortable cutting the services we would have to cut.”

City commissioners will dive into the city’s 2012 budget process this afternoon at a 4 p.m. study session at City Hall. The study session will include a presentation from the City Manager’s office that details 11 scenarios under which the city’s mill levy would need to increase for 2012. The scenarios contemplate a mill levy increase ranging from 1.7 mills to 4.6 mills. For reference sake, a 1-mill increase would add $23 in taxes to a $200,000 home.

Here’s a look at some of the issues driving a potential tax increase:

• An expanded Lawrence Public Library: Voters approved that project, so the mill levy increase will happen. Actually, voters blessed a 2.0-mill increase, but City Hall leaders are proposing 1.7 mills for 2012 and then the full 2.0 mills for 2013. That’s a recognition that the library won’t open until 2013, and thus the full amount won’t be needed until then.

• Increased compensation for city employees: Ten of the 11 scenarios included about $380,000 — or 0.4 mill — for increased compensation for city employees.

• Employee health care: The city estimates it needs about $700,000 — or 0.8 mill — to maintain its existing health care plan for employees. Currently city employees don’t pay a premium for their health insurance, although they do pay if they add their spouse or families to the plan. But commissioners are considering changing plans. The new plan would have higher premiums and deductibles for employees.

• Police detective: The city currently has a detective position that is funded largely through grant money. That grant is set to expire, but the city would like to keep the detective position. That would require $100,000 or about 0.1 mill.

• More police officers: New police Chief Tarik Khatib has told city commissioners that he believes the department needs more officers. One plan would call for one detective and four new police officers at a cost of $400,000, or 0.5 mill. Another option would add one detective, three sergeants and five officers at a price of $800,000, or 1 mill. A third option would add one detective, three sergeants and 10 officers at a price of $1.2 million, or 1.5 mills.

• Radios: The city is under a federal mandate to get all of its radios for police, fire, public works and the utilities department operating under a new band of frequencies. Radio replacement has been on the city’s to-do list for a number of years, but now the deadline is set to become an issue in 2012. To replace all the radios would be $2.08 million, or 2.5 mills.

The city does have one option for avoiding a property tax increase. The city has its version of a savings account — called a general fund balance — that has a little more than $12 million in it. Cromwell said he was open to using some of that money to pay for one-time expenses — such as the radios — but not for ongoing expenses.

Spending cuts

And, of course, there are spending cuts. Corliss also will provide a list of areas where expenditures could be cut, although he’s not recommending them. Among the items that Corliss lists are:

• Cut social service agency funding by 50 percent. That would save the city about $280,000. The cut in funding would hit well-known social service programs, such as the Boys and Girls Club, the Ballard Center, the Lawrence Community Shelter, the Lawrence Arts Center and others.

• Reduce the city’s street paving program. The city in 2011 is expected to spend about $2 million on milling and overlaying city streets. Corliss said the city could choose to do less of that in 2012 but noted that improving streets was a top priority of residents in the recent Citizens Survey.

• Put a freeze on vehicle purchases. As currently crafted, the 2012 budget includes about $200,000 to purchase eight police cars. The commission could choose to push those purchases off for a year.

• Delay filling vacant police positions. The department currently has five vacant police officer positions. It has plans to start hiring those positions later this year. Corliss said the city could push that off and save about $290,000 this year, which could then be used to help offset the gap in 2012.

• Closure and reduced hours. Back in 2009, Corliss proposed several cuts that could be made if the city ended up losing about $1 million in state funding. The reduction in state funding didn’t materialize, but anger over the proposed cutbacks at City Hall did. Those proposed cuts included closure of the Prairie Park Nature Center, reduced hours for the city’s swimming pools and other recreation facilities, and defunding of the city’s crossing guard program. In a recent memo, Corliss said commissioners could consider those list of cuts again, but acknowledged that they were “highly unpopular” among the public.

Cromwell said he doesn’t think any of the possible cuts will get much traction with commissioners.

“I don’t think anybody believes there is anything on that list that makes any sense to cut,” the mayor said.


Bob_Keeshan 6 years, 12 months ago

I predict comments about how liberal Lawrence is and how the sky is falling will be difficult to avoid.

notanota 6 years, 12 months ago

The extra $26 per year will break us all, you know. Even though we voted on it.

notanota 6 years, 12 months ago

We voted on a 2 mill increase for the library. It's the other 2 mill that hasn't been specifically voted on.

conservative 6 years, 12 months ago

Oh there are places to cut but he is correct they wouldn't be popular and any cuts will make some group unhappy. I'm not quite sure how in this age of skyrocketing healthcare costs that city employees still pay nothing toward their own coverage. I am aware of no other emplyer in the area with anywhere near this number of covered people that pays the full amount. Do other cities offer this same major perk? It would definately be a major mistake to cut back on street repairs, there are still many major streets in need of rebulding plus plenty of sidestreets needing the same if not worse attention. I do think there is room to scrutinize the outside groups we fund. The homeless shelter continues to give platitudes about upcoming changes and yet by all appearances continue to operate in the same manner they always have. I haven't seen an article recently, have they made any progress on finding a new location, or are they going to ask for yet another extension of their downtown presence?

notanota 6 years, 12 months ago

You don't know of other places that cover insurance for at least the individual? It's not uncommon, especially for large companies. I don't know the norm for public employees, but I wouldn't take a private sector job in my field that didn't offer it.

MyName 6 years, 12 months ago

What your suggesting by way of having employees pay their own premium is a pay cut in every usual sense of the term. So why exactly do you think this is a good idea? The outside groups aren't a major budget item, the homeless shelter isn't able to move because the people who live or do business near their suggested locations don't want them there and protested.

The problem is we don't have the economy that we expected and healthcare costs are still rising.

BigPrune 6 years, 12 months ago

Dear Leaders, Please raise our taxes. We are an island of blue surrounded by a sea of red, so we are smarter and more sophisticated than the rest of the state, so we need our taxes raised, especially for the haves who own property. Please spend our way out of our economic mess, we embrace it. Look at the library vote, a vote promoted by our City government in our monthly water bill we have been overcharged for years in adjustments on that passed with an unspeakable majority, the M-T Bus that nobody rides that the voters passed a tax increase on with an astounding majority - (where is Kris Kobach?). A mill levy increase only effects the haves, so by all means, increase it the maximum amount. Do NOT lay off anyone in our local government, a government that tripled in size during the 1990's and has never reduced in size not even 1% ever since. Please raise our taxes more, we deserve it, we like it, and any opportunity in the future dictates we have them increased again. So keep pushing us every year. Even if it's painful, we love it!

Bob_Keeshan 6 years, 12 months ago

Whatever you do, don't look at the budget proposals in Sea of Red Overland Park, KS.

BigPrune 6 years, 12 months ago

...and I'd say it's safe to say, Overland Park (Johnson County Hell who we'd NEVER want to emulate -with our Lawrence noses turned up) has what do you think, $50,000 more in income per household on average than Lawrence?

Bob_Keeshan 6 years, 12 months ago

And larger tax increases being proposed. Sea of Red.

nativeson 6 years, 12 months ago

The City faces a lot of challenges for 2012. It is time to make priority decisions. The commission has discussed health insurance for a number of years, it is time to have a plan that more closely reflects the market. Funding the longevity pay should definitiely be eliminated for 2012, and some level of service should be reduced if it keeps the mill levy steady.

The fact is that flattening property taxes and sales taxes will remain the norm for indefinitely. The budget needs to be shaped to reflect this new reality.

Chris Ogle 6 years, 12 months ago

Dear Leaders: Prune is right. Please raise our taxes even more. We really do enjoy this. Sincerely broke,

jumpin_catfish 6 years, 12 months ago

Are we really, really screwed yet or is that still coming later?

tomatogrower 6 years, 12 months ago

GOP trickle down theory - Step 1 Federal and State government take over funding for many services.
Step 2 Federal government starts an unfunded war, and makes tax cuts.
Step 3 Federal and State government closes hospitals for developmentaly disabled adults, citing home services are cheaper.
Step 4 Federal and State government make unfunded mandates to public schools. Step 5 Federal and State governments cut taxes even more. Step 6 Federal and State governments cut sending money to local communities, so they can figure out how to pay for out of state employee's high wages and pay for a war. Step 7 Responsibility trickles down. Local governments are forced to raise taxes to make up for loss of Federal and State funding to maintain a good community, thus ensuring the same pirates in the Federal and State governments are reelected and that the Local government gets all the blame for raising taxes.

And you thought money was going to trickle down. No, just the brown and yellow stuff.

MyName 6 years, 12 months ago

Yes, it's called "rising healthcare costs" and it's been that way for 10-15 years. The only way around it is this thing called "socialized medicine" where we don't let private companies decide how much they should charge in order to make a profit. Though this method has other tradeoffs it seems to work out better in the vast majority of western countries that use it.

ToriFreak13 6 years, 12 months ago

The more homeowners you chase out of town, the less you will get in revenues. In 5 years this will be a ghost town. There will be no Jayhawk dynasty to draw people in. There will be no desire for new students to come here when it's cheaper everywhere else. There already is absolutely no incentive for a new family to move here. What is here?? Nothing! Higher taxes and cost of living for one of the most boring towns in America.

pizzapete 6 years, 12 months ago

I don't think it will be a ghost town, but it sure won't encourage people to move here. And giving tax breaks to developers sure doesn't help the situation either. What we really need in Lawrence are more employment opportunities to bring people here and to increase the overall tax base the city is drawing from.

notanota 6 years, 12 months ago

Actually, I'll move out if they cut services, not if they raise taxes.I can afford a 4 mill increase.

monkeyhawk 6 years, 12 months ago

"The more homeowners you chase out of town, the less you will get in revenues."

Au contraire, the city has a captive audience. How many people do you suppose would love to move away if they could sell their homes? Lawrence is a dead market and don't think that the city is not aware of that. They can do anything they want, and those who are not mooches are powerless to stop it.

notanota 6 years, 12 months ago

I could sell my house easily enough. My neighbors haven't had any problems. I commute, so there would be advantages to moving in terms of time and transportation costs. The only thing keeping me here is that I'd still rather live in Lawrence.

monkeyhawk 6 years, 12 months ago

"I commute,"

merrill says you should move closer to your work.

notanota 6 years, 12 months ago

Good thing I don't listen to merrill.

ToriFreak13 6 years, 12 months ago

Who needs to sell their house when you can rent it? I can make a living renting my house out for 9 months out of the year. The businesses in this town...including the City of Lawrence obviously can't survive on 9 months of income. When everyone is forced to make the decision to move to a more productive city...or cheaper city, Lawrence will end up with 75 - 80% rentals. When that happens, there will be 3 months of tumbleweeds in this town.

irvan moore 6 years, 12 months ago

take the parking garage out of the library expansion, it's not for the library and we all know it will end up costing more than they planned anyway.

optimist 6 years, 12 months ago

In this economy when people are losing their jobs we are talking about pay increases for city employees. That is savings number one. Hire some of the police officers requested and then placing strict limits on overtime for the entire force. I expect we will see significant savings here. Buying new vehicles this year seems illogical. I realize there is a cost to maintain the existing vehicles but it can't compare to the cost of replacement. Put it off for another year. I would like to see the other line items that can be cut. These bureaucrats always propose cuts to the areas most likely to gain the publics objections and then put forward this false either or argument. I'm betting there are other areas where the majority of us might agree on making cuts. I would like to see the LJW make the entire budget available online.

skinny 6 years, 12 months ago

Mayor Aron Cromwell, You might want to look at the high number of house foreclosures in the City of Lawrence the last two years and reconsider your comment! I have to make do with what I have, how about the City of Lawrence start doing the same! It is time to start making budget cuts and I mean big cuts and do it now! A lot of us haven't had a pay raise now going on four years!

CLARKKENT 6 years, 12 months ago


dpowers 6 years, 12 months ago

If you think you can do better than the commisioners that we have, then why don't you put your money where your mouth is and run for the commission?

Gedanken 6 years, 12 months ago

I apparently need to join the Lawrence Police Department. They get raises each year and they are constantly expanding. The benefits seem pretty good as well.

somedude20 6 years, 12 months ago

Yo Crommie, replace all of the city workers with robots. They do not call in sick, need no healthcare and can be paid in lube. Plus robots won't get on the LJW fourm and gripe about you either.

They eat old people's medication as fuel

justtired 6 years, 12 months ago

Why not take the vehicles that the city officials use for "business only" back and let them drive to work like everybody else. One city official turned down the vehicle, but still takes a mileage "bonus" to pay for gas. Try living in reality for a change.

Danimal 6 years, 12 months ago

Lawrence is one of the wealthiest towns in Kansas, if you can't afford an additional $23 in property taxes you shouldn't own a home. People have got to realize that if we want to have public services we're going to have to pay for them. That being said, the City of Lawrence has wasted or underutilized many millions of dollars over the years.

gatekeeper 6 years, 12 months ago

The city wastes a lot of money and they don't provide the same service to all areas of town. In North Lawrence, we're still waiting for them to repave the streets that were torn up when they redid the intersection by Johnny's. They paved everything except the streets that were used as detours and they're torn to heck. I've called a few times, left some messages, but these employees who get free health insurance and a raise won't return calls while residents continue to drive on streets that tear our cars up.

BigPrune 6 years, 12 months ago

It must be a requirement that City employees make the taxpayer leave their name and number no matter what the department - after all, they are SO busy with all the growth that's happening. It's a control thing.

hipper_than_hip 6 years, 12 months ago

Who's in charge here? The mayor or the citizens? The mayor says he'd rather raise taxes than cut services. As a property owner, I disagree. I've had enough of my property tax going up and up and up.

Our taxes are high enough without more another mil levy increase.

BigPrune 6 years, 12 months ago

The City Manager is the REAL boss. Corliss is a progressive lawyer and I've always wondered if he went to law school with former commissioner Boog, who then replaced Wilgen with Corliss? But I'm just a spear chucker, so I'm sure this will fall on deaf ears.

notanota 6 years, 12 months ago

There's also a few buns on the street. Nobody should have a job!

Gedanken 6 years, 12 months ago

In couple of weeks it will be 4 years of no pay increases ....

50YearResident 6 years, 12 months ago

Has anyone ever heard the old saying........?

"We are being nickeled and dimed to death"

It looks like it's happening with all the tax increases, fee increases and utilities increases.

stuart 6 years, 12 months ago

Why would we even consider giving a tax break to MD development and Olive Garden when we have to go the citizens of Lawrence for more money? It does not make sense, give to the developers take from the people..... Where does it stop???? Call or write your Commisioners, take action!!! This is the craziest thing I have heard of in a long long time.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 12 months ago

because this burg needs sales tax revenues mi amigo. I'd love to see an Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Lowes, and a Dick's Sporting Goods right on South Iowa.

This is a time of business tax breaks, not increases. The much frowned on JO-CO is cutting a fat calf in robbing Missouri of business during this economic downturn. Not big names, but viable in the black good solid firms.

If we had these type of businesses there would be no article about raising taxes.

gatekeeper 6 years, 12 months ago

How can we spend money at these businesses when the city is taking every bit of spare change we have?

Scott Morgan 6 years, 12 months ago

gate, can see your point. It will get even worse.

At this time, and past few years I leave town when doing any serious shopping.

Purchased almost all family gifts at Dicks Sporting Goods in Topeka in the past 6 months. On a health kick.

Would love to do it here.

And.....Lawrence is/was a neat town to visit. We should be having people coming here to shop and dine. This is how a healthy local economy works.

neilhull 6 years, 12 months ago

I made my vote with my dollars. I moved out of town.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 12 months ago

Why not use the reserve funds in which millions are available? This is the time for such withdrawals.

Hey Chad how about a financial report on the number of reserve funds,how much each is worth and what is being done with them?

Chad how many tax increases have taken place without voter approval in the last 3 years?

How many utility rate increases?

Why not place a long term moratorium on all NEW infrastructure projects that actually expand our city tax bill forever. Fix older infrastructure instead... considering there is plenty that needs serious maintenance.

Forget the $100 million new sewage treatment which BTW should be on the ballot for taxpayer approval.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 12 months ago

Let’s widen many walks throughout neighborhoods to accept cyclists,joggers and walkers. This is way less than street repairs. Gasoline prices dictate sidewalk rehab. = jobs

Make use of existing right of way which expands the city inner urban transportation system. Way less expensive to the taxpayers than new gym buildings and streets.

Tons of people in Lawrence,Kansas do not use expensive indoor park buildings. All parts of the city reveal taxpayers are walking,jogging and bicycling outside regardless of the weather. Everyday people make use of sidewalks and streets getting exercise and going to work or play.

Extravagant new exercise buildings likely will never payback the taxpayers.

Creating more safer places to walk and bicycle throughout neighborhoods could have a profound impact on health in Lawrence,Kansas. More than one-quarter of all trips are still one mile or less; At least 123 million car trips made each day in the United States were short enough to have been made on foot.

The CDC estimates that if all physically inactive Americans became active, we would save $77 billion in annual medical costs. In addition, walking and bicycling produce no toxic emissions.

Now were talking smart projects that cost taxpayers less money.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 12 months ago

smokers and drinkers pay extra taxes, sometimes so much they actually do pay for the extra health care if needed. Talk about getting screwed, moderate drinking is now thought to be healthy in some cases.

Maybe for another thread, but you brought it up.

When some 75 year old bozo goes through knee replacements, blows his body parts up, then does a head smack or two per year, who pays for this extra health care?

My better half works with a old guy who thinks he's Bruce Jenner. She claims the guy is at the MD or physical therapy weekly.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 12 months ago

Good grief Merrill, People flocking to Lawrence to walk and jog on our sidewalks. After a quick walk, we can drive to the Clinton Lake dam and look at the water.


irvan moore 6 years, 12 months ago

do the city officials have to disclose their financial records? i'm thinkin they must have a whole lot more money than i do to pay for all these tax increases

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