Archive for Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lawrence City Commission candidates spar over special taxing districts; Schumm defends city subsidy for fire sprinklers

March 30, 2011


2011 Lawrence City Commission election

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Three questions for Lawrence City Commission candidates

Hugh Carter answers three questions about his campaign for the Lawrence City Commission.

“Sneaky taxes” are quickly becoming the steamy issue in the race for the Lawrence City Commission.

The five City Commission candidates Wednesday clashed over the idea of how and when special taxing districts should be used as an incentive for new retail development in the city.

At a forum hosted by Downtown Lawrence Inc., candidate Bob Schumm again spoke out against the idea of special taxing districts — particularly Community Improvement Districts that allow retailers to take the proceeds from a special tax and use it for private improvements. Schumm has been highlighting the issue often and recently sent a mass mailing to voters suggesting the city was too lax on “sneaky taxes.”

“The people absolutely hate this idea,” Schumm said of the taxing districts. “They think it is just the most unfair tax ever.”

Schumm was joined by candidate Sven Alstrom who said the special taxing districts were unnecessary in a community of Lawrence’s size.

But a trio of candidates — Hugh Carter, Mike Dever and Mike Machell — said they were open to the idea of the special taxing districts, although they would want to use them judiciously.

Machell, however, went further and questioned whether opposition to the special taxing districts would add to urban sprawl in Lawrence. He said the special taxing districts could help make redevelopment projects more feasible. Without the districts, new development will be more likely to occur along the edges of the community, he said.

Machell also made sure to point out that Schumm — the owner of Buffalo Bob’s Smokehouse and Dynamite Saloon — previously had received a direct city subsidy to complete a private building improvement.

The city previously had a program that helped pay for the installation of fire-sprinkler systems in downtown buildings. The program was short-lived and only a few businesses ended up receiving any assistance. Schumm’s property was one of them.

“The money for that came out of the taxpayers’ pockets,” Machell said.

The comment came at the end of the candidate forum, and Schumm wasn’t given a specific opportunity to respond. But after the forum he said the sprinkler grant program served a good public purpose of trying to prevent a major downtown fire.

“There is a safety issue, and what we really wanted to avoid was a Fort Scott-style annihilation of a major portion of downtown. That would have been devastating for the community.”

The election is April 5. Voters will choose three commissioners for the five-member board.


BruceWayne 7 years ago

has the DA filed charges against Svenderella yet?

tribalzendancer 7 years ago

I think someone has a crush on Sven. <3 All of your comments seem to be about him. : ) To each his own, I just think it's kind of funny how you focus on him so much.

conservative 7 years ago

I am opposed to special taxing districts, but if they are approved i believe that the tax rate being charged needs to be posted on a 8 X 10 sign on every entrance. The downtown sprinkler subsidy was ridiculous. No other area of town is given taxpayer money to comply with safety regulations.

Bob Forer 7 years ago

Obviously, it wasn't a very attractive subsidy as evidenced by the fact that only six businesses took part in the program.

nativeson 7 years ago

Sorry, wrong on this one. There were 32 businesses that applied and qualified for the program. Only 6 took part because they gobbled up the $250,000 allocated for the program. This was a great idea that was seriously underfunded for the task of trying to protect against a large-scale fire. In the end, it provided a nice benefit for a half-dozen long-time property owners in downtown and left everyone else on the outside looking in.

nativeson 7 years ago

Your logic would conclude the Mr. Schumm is driven purely by interested of alcohol distributors and restaurant owners in town. I do not believe this, nor do I think contribution sources define the candidate.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 7 years ago

I HATE special taxing districts. I agree that they should post a sign so customers know they will be screwed if they shop there. I for sure won't shop in any of them, but we need to know. They should be mandated to post signs. If I lived in the city I would vote for Bob Schumm. Thank you, Lynn

Cindy Yulich 7 years ago

"The people absolutely hate this idea,” Schumm said of the taxing districts. “They think it is just the most unfair tax ever."

Candidates shouldn't presume because they speak with a few people who agree with them that they speak for the masses. "The people"....."They think...." He can say "Of the people who have contacted me" or "Those I have asked..." but he cannot speak for all . In addiition, labeling these "Sneaky taxes" is somewhat insulting to the average taxpayer's intelligence. It's like saying Dillons or HyVee have sneaky prices because they charge more than Aldi. I'm well aware when I shop at The Legends that I'm paying a bit more in sales tax when I pay the tab. The amount over the purchase price.....those are taxes! There are plenty of options for anyone not wanting to pay that tax.

Kontum1972 7 years ago

FYI....LoL Ft Scott...that place was annihilated way back in 1969......

nativeson 7 years ago

Walmart did not have a special taxing district. They paid for most of the improvements on 6th and Wakarusa that added the light at Congressional.

Clark Coan 7 years ago

Schumm says he's for a living wage but he exploits his own workers both financially and otherwise. Three former employees have said this. The guy can't be trusted.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years ago

At least he isn't campaigning to have the city subsidize the exploitation of employees, as those who want to repeal the living wage requirement for companies who get tax abatements would do (and it appears Dever, Machell and Carter would do just that.)

nativeson 7 years ago

8.85% is the rate for all locations without any special taxing districts. This recently increased due to the State of Kansas raising their collections 1%.

nativeson 7 years ago

To my knowledge only Carter has made any suggestion at reviewing the ordinance. I agree that it really is not any issue since the ordinance only addresses newly created jobs for companies with tax abatements.

BigPrune 7 years ago

didn't all of these clowns support the library boondoggle? Schumm just wants to protect his interests downtown. If any place needs a "special taxing district" it is the downtown. The City subsidizes the hell out of that place. Cost/benefit analysis is needed most downtown. So he got the insider treatment for being a former "mayor" and got some sprinklers for his buildings paid for by you and me.

Aren't all these guys dirty? I also question our local elections - because I am amazed at how tax increases are passed by the voters so easily. Our local population should be welcoming these taxing districts with open arms when considering how any tax increases have passed by a huge majority in elections, though I am not advocating these taxing districts in any way.

jafs 7 years ago

Turnout for local elections is notoriously low - I think it averages around 30%.

So results passed by "huge" majorities in those elections doesn't come anywhere near being even a small majority of possible voters.

Nowhere needs any special tax districts, and any/all subsidies and tax expenditures should be reviewed. If people don't like the way the city is spending our money, then they should let them know, and vote for folks who will do better.

Who are you voting for? It's a terribly poor field to choose from for me.

jafs 7 years ago

Actually, according to a story this morning, turnout in the 2009 city commission election was around 14%, so it's even worse.

ArkhamAsylum 7 years ago

A sneaky tax is having someone else pay your share and that person doesn’t know it. For example county records show Schumm owns a vacant commercial lot, Lot #51 (50’ x 117’) 800 block of Vermont Street in downtown Lawrence. For tax purposes that lot is valued at $20 (twenty dollars).

That’s right a $20 value with assessed value of $6 dollars and ad valorem tax in 2010 of .74 cents for a downtown lot. WOW!

A vacant lot (45’ x 117’) that’s adjacent to Schumm’s lot with the same zoning is valued at $182,160 dollars county records show. That owner paid $2701.58 dollars in taxes in 2010. When someone only pays .74 cents a year and others downtown pay over $2700 for identical property someone’s getting screwed. That loss has to be made up by the rest of the (screwed) taxpayers.

How many pay only .74 cents a year in taxes on your lot.

Think about it when you vote.


jafs 7 years ago

How did that happen?

I'd like a little more information.

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