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Archive for Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lawrence city commissioners reiterate strong likelihood of tax increase at budget study session

June 22, 2011

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A property tax rate increase came a little closer to reality at Lawrence City Hall as commissioners did nothing to rebuff the idea at a Tuesday budget study session.

In fact, one more commissioner said strong consideration would have to be given to a rate hike, especially to address concerns he has about a shortage of police officers in the city.

“I think there is only so much time you can put off expenditures and reduce overhead, especially when you do have inflation to deal with,” said City Commissioner Mike Dever, who has lobbied against raising property taxes in the past. “At this point, it is hard to see how we’re going to find the revenue if we don’t raise taxes.”

Dever’s comments come one day after Mayor Aron Cromwell said he thought it would be difficult for the city to avoid a mill levy increase.

At Tuesday’s session, City Manager David Corliss essentially told commissioners that he plans to recommend a mill levy increase as part of his recommended budget, which will be released in early July.

“Raising the mill levy is never my first option,” Corliss told commissioners. “Cutting expenditures is what we look to do first, but I’m looking and not seeing anything significant that I can recommend.”

Commissioners didn’t give any indication of how large of a mill levy increase may be in store. A 1.7 mill increase is assumed to fund an expansion of the Lawrence Public Library, which previously was approved by voters. But Corliss has presented scenarios that have included a mill levy increase of more than four mills to fund additional police officers, employee wages and other city items.

Dever said he would be most likely to increase the mill levy in order to fund additional police officers. Those plans have called for anywhere from a 2.8 mill to a 3.6 mill increase to add from five to 14 additional police positions. Those mill levy totals also include the 1.7 mills for the library. A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in assessed valuation.

In other budget news, commissioners:

• Were presented a plan to use $1 million in infrastructure sales tax money to buy new radios for the city’s police, fire, public works and utilities departments. The new radios are required under federal regulations that require public agencies to switch to new frequencies by the end of 2012. The radios will cost about $2 million. The remaining million would come from a variety of city reserve funds. The infrastructure sales tax was approved by voters in 2008, with the idea that it would be used primarily for streets, but it also included a provision about improving public safety infrastructure, such as fire engines. The city has interpreted the ballot language to allow for the sales tax dollars to be used for the radios. Corliss said the unscheduled purchase won’t require other sales tax projects to be pushed back because the city had been conservative in estimating the revenue the sales tax would generate.

“We didn’t want to overpromise in the beginning,” Corliss said.

• Debated how much of a $7.6 million reserve fund the city should use to help fund the city’s health insurance program. Staff members told commissioners they were comfortable using $780,000 of the reserve fund for 2012 but had serious concerns about using more than that. The city runs its own health insurance program and relies on the reserve funds to cover unexpected expenses. The issue is being debated by commissioners because there is a proposal to raise the premium levels and deductibles on the city plan to make it more financially self-sustaining in future years.

Commissioners are expected to approve a 2012 budget in early August.

Comments

Chris Ogle 3 years, 1 month ago

Dear Leaders: Thank you, thank you , thank you. I enjoy paying more taxes..... even if I am going broke. It's good for property owners to learn how to live with less. Even the "chosen" leaders should try it. Living with less really is fun !!

Sincerely, Broke

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notanota 3 years, 1 month ago

I say we tax whining about high taxes.

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osacoast 3 years, 1 month ago

i tried to tell you to stay in the shallow!

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50YearResident 3 years, 1 month ago

This is getting out of hand.

Commissioners didn’t give any indication of how large of a mill levy increase may be in store. A 1.7 mill increase is assumed to fund an expansion of the Lawrence Public Library, which previously was approved by voters. But Corliss has presented scenarios that have included a mill levy increase of more than four mills to fund additional police officers, employee wages and other city items.

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hipper_than_hip 3 years, 1 month ago

Instead of death by a thousand cuts, it's death by a thousand taxes.

“Raising the mill levy is never my first option,” Corliss told commissioners. “Cutting expenditures is what we look to do first, but I’m looking and not seeing anything significant that I can recommend.”

If there's nothing that stands out, then cut everything by 5%. Or spend down more of the reserve fund. There's no reason to have a fat bank balance if your not going to spend it. I'm not saying spend it down to zero, but spend $2M to keep from raising the mil levy.

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SnakeFist 3 years, 1 month ago

"...cut everything by 5%." Great idea: Perhaps we could cut police costs by ignoring 5 out of every 100 calls; cut road maintenance costs by not repairing 5 out of every 100 roads; cut education costs by refusing to admit 5 out of every 100 children; etc.

However, I do agree with spending down the reserve fund before raising taxes.

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rolo2383 3 years, 1 month ago

How many empty shops are there downtown now? 30+? How about lowering city sales tax and doing everything we can to get businesses back in Lawrence. If businesses can open and not have to pay an arm and a leg just to open the doors and if the citizens of Lawrence don't have to pay the one of the highest sales tax in the state maybe they would spend more money which would INCREASE tax revenue to the city.

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Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 1 month ago

Tax increases in conservative Johnson County:

•Shawnee has raised taxes and fees to meet its budget needs.

•Prairie Village last year passed a small increase for road improvements and is considering another tax hike, mainly to add additional police.

•Mission imposed a “driveway tax,” otherwise known as the transportation utility fee. (That one did rile up opponents, due more to objections over the method of the tax hike rather than objections to the need for additional revenue.)

•Fairway imposed a property tax increase this past year with almost no public objection.

•Merriam raised its taxes to meet its budget needs.

•Spring Hill just imposed some significant increases in utility fees.

•Gardner raised its property taxes in both 2010 and 2011.

•Roeland Park raised its mill rate last year.

•Lake Quivira is likely to see an increase in taxes next year for a significant sewer project.

•Lenexa, so far, has not raised its taxes, however, there are serious discussions about increasing property taxes next year after the city experienced steep declines in revenue.

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50YearResident 3 years, 1 month ago

Has anyone ever told you, we live in Lawrence, not those other places? I assume you also live here.

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SnakeFist 3 years, 1 month ago

50YearResident, aka "old as dirt", Captain Kangaroo's point was that responsible people everywhere recognize the fact that public services have to be paid for one way or the other.

I suppose we could just do away with police and fire protection, road maintenance, public education, water treatment, etc. After all, that seems to be Brownback's strategy for the state.

I'm sure businesses will want to relocate to the new low-tax Kansas/Lawrence, assuming, of course, they don't value the increased quality of life provided by those costly public services.

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gkerr 3 years, 1 month ago

Bob Keeshan, Of course politicians want to raise taxes Because it is so much easier than making difficult choices on spending cuts. We have been a tax and spend nation for over 70 years and are in very early stages of dire financial crisis.

Household debt exceeds 18% of household net worth. Some states owe 100's of billions of dollars for spending that cannot be paid for by tax revenues, as example Illinois has debt of 200 billion and growing. Corporate debt is high and small businesses an engine of economic growth and development are shutting down at alarming rates.

The federal debt is a thing of horror. USA TODAY estimates debt going forward is 61 trillion dollars, that's for you liberal arts majors 61,000 billion dollars. Some respected bond experts calculate that this impending debt is really closer to 100,000 billion dollars unless drastic federal level spending cuts are made.

GOVERNMENT spending must be cut going forward. Raising taxes simply fuels the maw of incompetent politicians like City Manager David Corliss. Just say yes to spending cuts, and refuse to raise taxes which always encourages more spending.
Gkerr

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Charlie Dominguez 3 years, 1 month ago

Well, they wanted more voter participation....this is one way to get there.

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Westley 3 years, 1 month ago

The Dread Pirate Roberts could find some money without raising taxes.

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wmathews 3 years, 1 month ago

Do you mean the current Dread Pirate Roberts? Because the real Dread Pirate Roberts retired a long time ago and lives like a king in Patagonia.

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jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

I have a bit of a problem with them using the infrastructure taxes to fund purchases of radios.

That's not what most people understand the word "infrastructure" to mean.

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Godot 3 years, 1 month ago

But they have to re-direct infrastructure money away from infrastructure projects so that they can make sure we feel the pain of budget cuts. Get with the program!

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Godot 3 years, 1 month ago

While our city manager is busy not cutting salaries and benefits and staff and not revisiting the need for a new destination library so that our taxes must be increased, he should be planning for the next shoe to drop: pension funding.

How many mills does it take to raise an additional $1398 per household every year for the next 30 years?

"U.S. state and local governments will need to raise taxes by $1,398 per household every year for the next 30 years if they are to fully fund their pension systems, a study released on Wednesday said. "

http://www.cnbc.com/id/43498037

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 1 month ago

It's time for taxpayers to crack down on tax and user fee increases by demanding the right to vote on these reckless endeavors.

Why do commissioners think we property owners have money laying around to support their pet projects aka pork barrel projects for uncontrolled development and tax dollar hand outs?

Where is the money? Show me please.

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 1 month ago

"That's not what most people understand the word "infrastructure" to mean."

That's why I did not vote for that sales tax. This is the Lawrence,Kansas that so often does not clarify exactly what infrastructure will be serviced.

Next time voters have an opportunity to vote on such a matter WE need to know exactly how that money will be spent. Written in stone. Any deviation would need voter approval which can be written into the ballot proposal.

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 1 month ago

The HUGE problem:

The July 14 editorial asks, “What’s downtown going to look like five, 10 or 15 years from now?” The answer can be known, and the picture is not pretty.

more on the matter http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2009/jul/24/retail-space/?letters_to_editor

Basic findings:

  1. Lawrence is overbuilt in housing: Homes were built faster than popualtion growth supporting these homes. Excessive subdivisions caused an outmigration from older neighborhoods causing a severe loss of value, a loss of dwelling units, and a variety of other problems such as school closings.

  2. Lawerence is overbuilt in retail: Stores were built faster than retail spending growth supporting these stores. This excessive growth has hurt the public and private investment in downtown redevelopment (e.g.: the empty $8 million parking garage, the empty Hobbs-Taylor space, etc.) and has caused deterioration and blight in existing shopping centers (e.g.: Tanger Mall, Food-for-Less, etc.)

  3. Douglas County is overbuilt in manufacturing and warehousing; employment in these sectors is declining, not growing. Yet, the Chamber calls for more and more space in the false belief that more supply creates more demand.

  4. Office space in Douglas County is relatively well balanced, but the market for office space is severely crippled by the excessive supply of unused retail space which is competing for office tenants.

Basic strategy:

Lawrence should adopt a policy of "cooling off" the pace of development. Note: This is not a moratoriam; it is a consicous effort to redirect growth to existing neighborhoods and districts where it can be beneficial.

Housing: The city should stop approving new subdivisions until the existing supply of surplus homes is eliminated. It should direct housing investment back into older neighborhoods so as to preserve and protect the existing public and private investment there.

Commercial space: The city should stop approving plans for new commercial space until the existing surplus is eliminated. It should direct investment into the preseration of the downtown and other existing commercial districts so as to preserve and protect the existing publid and private investment there.

Kirk McClure – Lawrence,Kansas

Education Ph. D., City Planning, University of California, Berkeley, Department of City and Regional Planning, 1985. Concentrations in Housing Economics and Public Finance.

Master in City Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, 1978. Specialization in Housing Policy Analysis.

Bachelor of Arts, University of Kansas, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 1974. Special Major in Urban Studies.

Bachelor of Architecture, Graduated With Distinction University of Kansas, School of Architecture and Urban Design, 1973.

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 1 month ago

( one day city hall needs to realize that this community cannot pork barrel spend its' way out of economic displacement )

Instead of cutting salaries, employees and asking employees to pay more for medical insurance I would prefer an end be put to the local development community that is draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes by way of pork barrel spending. Otherwise know as the Free Lunch Program.

Time to do away with all Free Lunch's! Lawrence Taxpaying Voters should weed out the city hall “Free Lunch” program!

"Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill)"

Here’s what happens. (THIS IS ALL ABOUT LOCAL DEVELOPMENT) http://www.democracynow.org/2008/1/18/free_lunch_how_the_wealthiest_americans

http://www.uua.org/events/generalassembly/2008/commonthreads/115777.shtml

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Godot 3 years, 1 month ago

As Merrill is clearly the champion of cut and paste research on this forum, I challenge Merrill to document the mean wage income of government paid/sponsored workers in Lawrence vs the non-government workers (i.e. private entrepreneurs and their employees.)

Please. Show me the money.

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 1 month ago

Let's not forget.....

Every body of our local government system is talking tax increases.

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Sigmund 3 years, 1 month ago

Every million dollars taken in taxes is a million dollars LESS available to spend in local shops, to pay the mortgage, to save for retirement, less to spend on tuition and books, for lawn care, and even lower sales taxes. It has always been thus and it will always be so. Restated, every addition mil of taxes taken for the government economy is a mil LESS for the private economy.

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Sigmund 3 years, 1 month ago

merrill (anonymous) says… "Excessive subdivisions caused an outmigration from older neighborhoods causing a severe loss of value, a loss of dwelling units, and a variety of other problems such as school closings."

When I was looking at prices of homes a few years ago you could not find a "older fixer upper" for under $100K. Far from losing value, the reason for new development is the prices for older homes were too high as many had been turned rentals whose price was based upon cash flow."

merrill (anonymous) says… "Stores were built faster than retail spending growth supporting these stores. This excessive growth has hurt the public and private investment in downtown redevelopment."

Why should downtown be protected? If Downtown landlords want to fill the spaces they can lower the rents and no need for protective policies discriminating against any other retail.

merrill (anonymous) says… "Yet, the Chamber calls for more and more space in the false belief that more supply creates more demand."

The Chamber is on crack. Always has been, always will be.

merrill (anonymous) says… "Commercial space: The city should stop approving plans for new commercial space until the existing surplus is eliminated. It should direct investment into the preseration of the downtown and other existing commercial districts so as to preserve and protect the existing publid and private investment there."

So can I assume your downtown investment is still under water?

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Sigmund 3 years, 1 month ago

“Raising the mill levy is never my first option,” Corliss told commissioners. “Cutting expenditures is what we look to do first, but I’m looking and not seeing anything significant that I can recommend.”

Name on thing, just one thing you have cut? How about starting with the new Bus Bard, or even, "gasp" the EmpTy?

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Sigmund 3 years, 1 month ago

"Dever said he would be most likely to increase the mill levy in order to fund additional police officers."

Why is it they always Police and Fire almost always the excuse for raising taxes? Put any tax increase on the ballot and dedicate it to police and fire. Let the voters decide.

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Carol Bowen 3 years, 1 month ago

-Approximately ten years ago, the city commission cut our property taxes without considering the long term impact.

-Now, the devaluation of real estate means that we are collecting less property tax.

-The state collects the revenue, then returns a discretionary amount to the city.

It's no surprise that the city needs to bring its property tax revenue back to a previous norm. We may not like the prospect of paying higher taxes, but Lawrence is really a great place to live. That doesn't happen for free.

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Sigmund 3 years, 1 month ago

hear_me (anonymous) says… "-Approximately ten years ago, the city commission cut our property taxes without considering the long term impact."

Wow, and the ten years of tax increases since hasn't mitigated that? That must have been one heck of a tax cut! I have lived here for 20 years and don't recall which tax cut you are referring. Care to share some details? Otherwise I am going to have to say the increase in spending by the Kommission has more to do with the proposed tax increase than a tax cut 10 years ago.

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Carol Bowen 3 years, 1 month ago

Sorry, I do not recall other than my own comments at the time. Here's a list from Tom Sloan's newsletter, 3/4/2010. I know this is state level, but the concept is the same.


Previous Tax Reductions: Following are a few examples of tax reductions that the Legislature has passed since 1995. The numbers reflect the value to taxpayers in 2010 (not the cumulative savings).

Vehicle Property Taxes - $125.9 million General Property Taxes - 497.9

Single Person Income Tax - 64.1 Increase Personal Income Exemption - 39.1 Earned Income Tax Credit - 66.2 Food Sales Tax Rebate - 43.7 Business Franchise Tax Phase Out - 26.5

Sales Tax Exemption New Construction - 27.9 Exemption Residential Remodeling - 21.9 Utilities Consumed During Production - 19.6

Health Clinic Exemption - .3 Historic Preservation Tax Credits - .6 Military Recruitment Bonus Exemption - .7

Total of all Tax Reductions/Credits - $1,164.4 million

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