Lawrence’s police force will grow a bit, and so will the city’s property tax rate, under a $174 million budget that is up for approval by city commissioners Tuesday.
Commissioners at their weekly meeting will consider approving the city’s 2013 operating budget, which includes a plan to add three new police officers and additional funding for police equipment.
“I am disappointed we haven’t been able to accomplish more on the police front right now, but that is the reality of the current economy,” said City Commissioner Hugh Carter.
Earlier in the budget session, leaders with the Lawrence Police Department presented more than $40 million worth of staff additions and facility improvements that they proposed be funded over a multi-year period.
Commissioners, though, have not yet pursued creating a multi-year funding plan for the department. Instead, commissioners focused on keeping the city’s property tax mill levy relatively stable.
The 2013 budget proposes a mill levy increase of 0.92 of a mill. A mill is $1 in property taxes for every $1,000 in assessed valuation. A home with a market value of $200,000 would pay an extra $21.16 per year in property taxes under the proposed budget.
The higher property tax rate is expected to generate about $769,000 in new tax revenue for the city. The budget proposes increases of:
• $300,000 for equipment expenditures for the police department
• $275,000 to hire and equip three additional police officers
• $55,000 for increased materials for pavement markings for city streets
• $75,000 for a city-operated economic development incentives fund
• $20,000 to provide supplemental pay to city employees who are serving on active military duty and are making less in their military job than they do in their city position
• $44,600 in new funding to the Lawrence Community Shelter and Hearthstone
The city’s proposed budget also includes $6 million in new debt to begin building roads and other infrastructure at the former Farmland Industries site in eastern Lawrence. The city plans to convert the property, which covers more than 400 acres, into a new business park.
Traditionally any new debt issuance above $5 million requires the city to increase its property tax mill levy. But City Manager David Corliss said the city is able to add the Farmland debt without increasing property taxes because it plans to create special assessments on the property, which will be paid by new businesses locating in the business park.
City funds, however, will be used to make the debt payments until those businesses materialize. Corliss said the city will use reserve funds to make the debt payments in the interim.
Commissioners will consider the budget at their meeting at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.