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Opinion

Opinion

City needs retiree incentives

November 2, 2011

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I think the appointment of a commission to find ways to make Lawrence and Douglas County more appealing to retirees is a very good idea. Lawrence and the surrounding communities enjoy a number of significant advantages in such an effort: Kansas University can provide a multitude of activities for seniors, including the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute run by KU Continuing Education; we are blessed with excellent cultural institutions and programs; the cost of living is moderate; and we have a terrific medical center in Lawrence Memorial Hospital, among other things. But if Lawrence and Douglas County are going to become a major retirement living center, then we also need to think about the special problems retirees face today and will be facing in the decades to come.

Recently, I have been reading a good bit of material about retirement financing and retirement housing in particular. It is clear from my readings that the baby boom generation is facing some significant problems in retirement. First, we (since I am a baby boomer) have become accustomed to living well, better than our parents’ generation. There is no reason to think that the majority of baby boomers will willingly scale back their expectations in retirement. Second, our generation didn’t save enough to finance retirement on the scale many want. Third, even those who saved have seen their savings decimated by the recession.

Fourth, low interest rates—and the prospect of such rates continuing for years into the future—means that the income produced by retirement savings is far lower than many expected. Fifth, both private and public pensions and Social Security no longer seem secure. Finally, medical expenses and insurance costs continue to rise and can easily wipe out even substantial retirement savings. All of this means one thing: Many retirees either find themselves with less money than they had planned or are more fearful that their retirement savings will not be enough to provide a secure and comfortable retirement.

From the perspective of places like Lawrence and Douglas County, the financial problems and worries so many baby boomer retirees face today require not only that communities attempt to provide cultural, sports, and entertainment facilities, but that they also think seriously about how they can create financial incentives to attract retirees. Nobody who follows the activities of the Lawrence City Commission and the Douglas County Commission can doubt that they know how to hand out financial incentives.  Ask any local developer.

I would suggest that the newly appointed commission on retirees think about suggesting programs that would provide financial incentives to retirees and to those developers who are willing to build homes for retirees and pass on savings to the owners or renters. Perhaps, we might provide new retirees who move to Lawrence an initial grace period in which the retirees pay lower real estate taxes, something like the abatements from taxes we now provide to commercial development projects. Or, perhaps, the city and county could work with local banks to provide mortgage guarantees to retirees moving into the community, guarantees that could result in lower interest rates.

Lawrence and Douglas County leaders need to be creative if we are to make our community a leading retirement destination. I believe that one important aspect of what will be needed will be creative strategies to provide financial incentives to retirees just as we have traditionally provided for commercial development.

— Mike Hoeflich, a distinguished professor in the Kansas University School of Law, writes a regular column for the Journal-World.

Comments

pace 2 years, 5 months ago

I think incentives are our continued support of a good hospital, visiting nurses, a good library, good good public transportation. If our stores, theaters and restaurants said welcome to old people , not just hey students, we love you. One of the bigger factors for me would not be tax cuts but there should be zoning advantages to apartment complexes or housing that are orthopedic accessible. Homes and apartments that extend their livability by smart design, to older populations. Maybe Apartment houses with communal kitchens, with safe bathrooms, with easy access cabinets in their kitchen, covered parking. Even a reasonable boarding house zoning, not forcing everyone into nursing homes. If it was easy to find a place to live where one could continue to live if one partner was in a wheel chair or a walker, that didn't cost $3,000 a month, we would look like a bright light. I also think our good stock of nursing and rehabilitation homes already work to our advantage. So, my number 1 suggestion is make a zoning advantage for orthopedic housing.

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 5 months ago

If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive that would be wonderful. But with increased numbers of residential you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential housing does not pay for the services they require from a municipality.

Can we say new residential = tax increase?

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 5 months ago

If new retirees would be granted "incentives" to come why shouldn't existing retirees be granted "incentives" to stay in Lawrence?

What Mike Hoeflich is suggesting is giving a leg up to new folks which is the same as giving a leg up to new retailers over existing retailers etc etc etc.

How would these " golden age incentives" necessarily pay back the community? Taxpayers need hard evidence for they will be expected to back up the incentives.

What Mike Hoeflich suggests seems logical however incentives are too often based on assumptions.

It is my assumption that this fix on retirees is nothing more than a scam to build more and more residential for little to no reason. The housing market in general is not improving and foreclosures still on the increase.It seems to me there should be plenty of housing waiting for the the golden agers if they come prepared to negotiate.

Any home in Lawrence on the market can be modified for golden agers after all most are not ready for geriatric wards. There are a number of golden agers that enjoy cycling and walking for recreation and transportation.

Low fixed income folks would not be a happy fit for Lawrence.

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 5 months ago

Lawrence is not and will not become a retirement community destination. This is wishful thinking of a very few in the community who need new playmates and are seeking a way to bring the money retirees may have into the community.

Until the New Generation Society (probably not unlike the Unitarian Society which fleeced the city of money) and the Chamber of Commerce understand that retirees want their own community. If that were not true, then Del Webb would have never been able to sell Sun City or those involved in the Robson Communites would still be holding the bag.

Lawrence missed the boat some 30 years ago with the Alvamar golf course and development around it. It could had condos much like Bella Sera but maybe not so tall, it could have had a fine dining restaurant open to the public as well, bowling alleys, rec centers for the members. The fix is in. The next generation of retirees will be ending up in public housing.

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Dave Trabert 2 years, 5 months ago

Instead of offering taxpayer money as an incentive, government should find ways to reduce their costs and lower property tax rates. That's an incentive retirees really appreciate.

According to Dept. of Revenue data posted at http://www.kansasopengov.org/PropertyTax/tabid/1264/Default.aspx total property tax collections in Douglas County (cities, county, schools, etc.) increased 128.5% between 1997 and 2010. Population in the county increased 21.7% and inflation rose 32.7%...so taxes rose about double the combined rates of inflation and population.

p>KansasOpenGov.org is operated by my employer, Kansas Policy Institute. All data on the site comes from official government sources.
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Alceste 2 years, 5 months ago

Moderate notes: "....I still think we could become more senior friendly if we capped property taxes for those above 65 with incomes below some level such as $25K-35K. That might make it easier for those already here to continue to live in their homes and it might attract more typical seniors."

!!!! "They" do NOT want "...more typical seniors....". They want the Park City, Utah condo owner type seniors. They want the Upper East Side NYC seniors who will have a quaint loft in Downtown Lawrence and feel "common" a week or two out of the year; they want Scottsdale, AZ seniors who will use our World Class Cardiology Center at LMH (despite the fact there is a branch of the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale).....focus.....focus......Sakes alive please do not call in an Arty!! As Pogo noted "We have met the enemy and he is us."

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George Lippencott 2 years, 5 months ago

I usually make a cheap shot on arguments for more seniors referencing local taxes. But over time it has entered my dense head that we are not really talking the average senior – we are talking high net worth seniors who can afford to live here. Great idea! But I am not sure we need to incentivize high net worth seniors.

Now as someone who chooses to speak for the less affluent seniors hereabouts, I still think we could become more senior friendly if we capped property taxes for those above 65 with incomes below some level such as $25K-35K. That might make it easier for those already here to continue to live in their homes and it might attract more typical seniors.

By the by. Moderately expensive is comparative. Are we comparing with New York City? I have no data but it seems to me travelling around Kansas that our little city is right up there in terms of cost of living.

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hoeflich 2 years, 5 months ago

Alceste: I fail to see how I'm attacking you or others in your position. All I have said is that if Lawrence and Douglas County think it is worthwhile to do something to attract retirees, the they should consider using financial incentives. As for my income or the value of my home, I'm not looking for any financial assistance. I already live in Douglas County and wouldn't qualify. I do think putting my address in the newspaper is a very unpleasant thing to do. I don't hide behind anonymity. Now, thanks to you, if some nut case decides wants to come to my home and harm me or my family, you've made it a lot easier for them. Nice going. I'm sure you're very pleased with yourself.

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FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 5 months ago

Don't forget among the baby boomers are millions of liberals that want other peoples money to live off of. They are the originators of spreading the wealth of others. Now they are 'retiree's' still suckling off the taxpayers teet.

Larryvillage should direct their efforts to that class of humanoids to lure here. Maybe street artisans playing the pan flute or banjo would help.

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jesse499 2 years, 5 months ago

The one thing I'm vehemently against is people like you that blame seniors for taking what we have paid into for all our working life. When the reason there is not enough there is people like you went to Washington and took (stole) what we paid in and used it for other things and didn't pay it back.

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Alceste 2 years, 5 months ago

However, with all due respect Prof. Hoeflich and your fellow academican KU_cynic (sorry, no data on that name shrug)

Michael Hoeflich University of Kansas Distinguished Professor 2010 $218,499.25 Michael Hoeflich University of Kansas Distinguished Professor 2009 $209,599.25 Michael Hoeflich University of Kansas Distinguished Professor 2008 $210,641.41 Michael Hoeflich University of Kansas Distinguished Professor 2007 $209,281.01

http://kansasopengov.org/StateGovernment/SGPayGrid/tabid/1553/Default.aspx

And let's not leave out this material fact:

0763 N 1851 Diag Rd Lecompton $419,830 Michael Hoeflich http://www2.ljworld.com/propertyvalues/?q=Hoeflich

Again, the data base doesn't have anything on KU_cynic shrug

I'm living in a totally different world than you, money wise. In those simple four years alone you've pulled in almost one million dollars and that doesn't include the little party known as the Regents' Retirement Program or whatever the darn thing is called that beats KPERS into the ground.

Me and mine know how to live on under $2000 per month but we can't keep doing it and maintain our modest $120,000.00 bought and paid for house given these fools keep increasing our property taxes and sales taxes and blah, blah, blah. And KU_cynic...we're not wholly reliant upon social security; we do have a modest KPERS income and another pension WE EARNED from another state (though it's not time for it to begin); and we do have monies in a 457 that'll be available in due time.....but Social Security and Medicare are an integral aspect of the "plan".

If both you guys are pulling in that kind of money annually and have such castles of homes....why youse pickin' on us commoners? Everyone knows this "Lawrence for Retirees" is a joke and is aimed at the wealthy retiree.....not us $2g's a month folks! Phooey!

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Alceste 2 years, 5 months ago

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Congressperson Washington, DC

VIA FACSIMILE: 1-202-xxx-xxxxx

RE: MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY

Dear Congressperson:

As one of your constituents I urge you to oppose any budget deal that cuts Social Security and Medicare benefits to reduce the federal deficit. Instead of cutting the benefits I worked for, Congress should be cutting waste and closing tax loopholes and raising income taxes on the top 20% of our Nation. Over time, the United States has expected less and less of its elite, even as society has oriented itself in a way that is most likely to maximize their income. The top income-tax rate was 91 percent in 1960, 70 percent in 1980, 50 percent in 1986, and 39.6 percent in 2000, and is now 35 percent. Income from investments is taxed at a rate of 15 percent. The estate tax has been gutted.

I worked my entire life and paid into the system so I’d have a guaranteed source of income and health coverage when I retired. Congress needs to make responsible decisions to reduce our nation’s deficit, but they can do so without harming the health and economic security of seniors and future retirees.

Respectfully,

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Mark Jakubauskas 2 years, 5 months ago

Fail.

Let's see: 1) "There is no reason to think that the majority of baby boomers will willingly scale back their expectations in retirement." 2) "...our generation didn’t save enough to finance retirement on the scale many want." 3) "...even those who saved have seen their savings decimated by the recession."

Summarized: They didn't save money for retirement, they won't scale back their expectations, and any savings they did have are now decimated.

Therefore we should expend public dollars (because these people don't have money) to bring these people to Lawrence in the hope that they will spend money here ?

Retirees may bring money - in the form of stored or transferred wealth (i.e, savings, pensions, or Social Security), but they do not CREATE wealth, as an industry or business might.

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FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 5 months ago

If Hoeflich can influence climate change in Larryville by making it bearable in the winter and summer months, The old ones may want to stay awhile.

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hoeflich 2 years, 5 months ago

I will ignore the juvenile insulting remarks KUCynic feels compelled to make and reply dispassionately:

The point of my column is simply that if Lawrence and Douglas County want retirees to settle here--and I assume that they do from the recent formation of the commission to attract retirees--then Lawrence and Douglas County will need to provide financial incentives to attract them. I also assume that the desire to have retirees move here is that they spend money and that money helps the local economy. Presumably, if incentives cost less than the benefits they bring in, then the county and city will grant them to produce a net economic gain. If the county and city act rationally, they will treat incentives to attract retirees no differently from incentives to attract commercial developers since the point of both is to bolster the local economy. If retirees' contributions to the local economy would be less than the incentives given to them, the incentives make no sense and shouldn't be given in the first place and there is no reason to try to attract the retirees. Incentives are not immoral; they're just good economic development tools if used properly.

Time to take an economics course KuCynic.

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januarygirl 2 years, 5 months ago

WOW!! THAT WAS A MOUTHFUL, INTELLIGENT, BUT SO ASSUMING!! , I DO APPRECIATE YOUR WORD SKILLS, HOWEVER , I RESENT ALOT OF WHAT YOU SAY HERE. THE MAJORITY OF SENIORS DO NOT ENJOY THE HIGH LIFE, MOST OF US HAVE WORKED HARD AND PAID OUR SHARE AND STILL ARE. I KNOW THAT THE SYSTEM IS NOT FAIR TO ALL AND WE CAN ALL WORK TOGETHER FOR THE GOOD OF ALL PEOPLE OF ALL AGES. LIFE HAS NOT BEEN FINANCIALLY EASY FOR MOST OF US. YOU HAVE MADE SOME PRETTY HARSE EMPTY STATEMENTS FOR A SAGMENT OF THE POPULATION THAT CONTINUES TO CONTRIBUTE, WE ARE NOT ON A FREE RIDE. MEDACARE IS NOT FREE, ALOT OF SENIORS ARE SUPPORTING AND RAISING THEIR GRANDCHILDREN , ALSO HELPING THEIR ADULT CHILDREN, HAVE LOST ALOT OF RETIREMENT MONEY ALONG WITH THE YOUNG ADULTS WHO HAVE LOST RETIREMENT MONEY FROM THEIR 401K'S , PEOPLE OF ALL AGE GROUPS ARE STRUGGLING.

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KU_cynic 2 years, 5 months ago

The baby boomers have been the locust generation -- awarding themselves unsustainable government retirement benefits through the social security and medicare systems, enjoying a self-absorptive consumption-fueled lifestyle, and failing to put aside adequate financial resources to sustain their lifestyles in their retirement years.

And now typical baby boomer Hoeflich wants even more in the form of government housing subsidies for the elderly, taxpayer-funded incentives to attract retirees to communities like Lawrence, and taxpayer-guarantees on mortgages and interest rates for the elderly. Really?

Here's a message from the Gen-Xers and millennials to the baby boomers: your time at the government trough is over. Take a step back, adjust your lifestyle downward to the new reality, and keep your hands out of our pockets.

And a final aside, justifying incentives and subsidies that benefit the elderly at the expense of the rest of us because of precedence for other inevitably corrupting and distortionary government interventions in the local economy via sweetheart deals for developers just shows how far down this immoral road we've come. Hoeflich's view is typical baby boomer: "Someone got theirs, so we should get ours -- only more -- too!" Instead, how about we as a society resolve to end the "beggar Peter to pay off Paul" public policies that are eroding the moral fabric of our society.

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januarygirl 2 years, 5 months ago

I KNOW OF ONE STATE THAT STOPS THE INCREASE OF PROPERTY TAXES AT AGE 65, SO TAX INCENTIVES WOULD BE A KEY BENEFIT. I AM A SENIOR IN LAWRENCE AND SEMI RETIRED, THIS WOULD BE A BIG HELP. I WANT TO DO MY FAIR SHARE TO HELP THE SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITY, BUT ALOT OF SENIORS ARE ALONE AND ITS HARD FOR ONE PERSON IN SO MANY WAYS, NOT JUST FINANCIALLY. I THINK WHEN THIS HAPPENS , MAYBE PROPERTY TAX CAN BE CUT FOR A SENIOR LIVING ALONE WITH ONE INCOME, SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT.

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Oldsoul 2 years, 5 months ago

You're so right, Gandalf! Just say no to unwanted abuse!

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Gandalf 2 years, 5 months ago

Heck the city has plenty of retirement incentives...to move.

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