Archive for Wednesday, July 4, 2012

County approaches budget with caution

Mill levy raise not proposed, but cuts, property value drop expected

July 4, 2012


The proposed county budget for next year is flat — calling for no increase or decrease in the mill levy — but it does prepare for a coming budget shortfall.

additions to the budget sought

On Monday, the County Commission will hear from departments and agencies seeking to add the following to the budget:

8:45 a.m.: $150,000 for the Lawrence Community Shelter

9:10 a.m.: $5,000 for the Ballard Center

9:20 a.m.: $73,023 for Information Technology for a new position

9:35 a.m.: $83,340 for Emergency Management for four additional sirens

9:45 a.m.: $46,924 for County Appraiser to add a new appraiser

9:50 a.m.: $22,000 for the Lawrence Humane Society

10:10 a.m.: $111,272 for Public Works Budget, including request for two new equipment operators for U.S. Highway 59

10:40 a.m.: $196,399 for three new sheriff’s officers

11:15 a.m.: Various administrative issues

The session is an open meeting held on the second floor of the County Courthouse, 1100 Mass.

That’s because properties in the county likely are overvalued for taxing purposes and additional cuts at the state level likely are coming, said County Administrator Craig Weinaug.

Weinaug anticipates a 2 percent to 4 percent drop in the value of property in the county in 2013, which would affect revenue through its resulting tax. A 1 percent change in valuation roughly equates to $1 million in revenue, so the worst-case scenario for the 2014 budget could be a shortfall of $4 million.

Still, the overall valuation for 2012 was higher than expected — and possibly higher than the true retail value in some areas. That meant Weinaug could put together a budget that likely won’t increase taxes for most property owners — at least not at the hands of county, which gets about 20 percent of its funds from the mill levy.

The school board, which relies almost entirely on the levy, hasn’t put out its budget yet, and the city has proposed a slight mill increase.

State budget cuts resulted in about $250,000 less revenue this year and is expecting to plummet next year. So, while 2013 was an easier flat budget to put together than expected, the squeeze appears to be on the horizon, and this year’s round of budget talks comes with recommendations of caution.

Weinaug said that he “will be telling commissioners to carefully consider” any additions and that recommended cuts “provide a means of a ‘soft landing’ to try to avoid cutting services and/or increasing taxes.”

He released the proposal this week and will present it to the County Commission on Monday, during the first of several work sessions.

Increases built into the budget include:

• More than $100,000 for Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical department and sheriff’s office.

• Nearly $73,000 for a county corrections officer, a position that’s always existed but starting this year will no longer be funded by the state.

• $15,000 for the courts to make up for funds that will no longer be provided by the state.

• Another $6,700 for courts to make up for a cut grant.

• $10,000 to the district attorney to pay for rape kits, which Lawrence Memorial Hospital has raised the fee for administering.

• $32,000 for fleet operations.

• $30,000 for the health department to continue a program testing rural water that was cut from the state budget.

• A 3 percent increase in county employee benefits totaling $554,424 in costs.

Supplemental requests — the line items not in the budget but up for discussion starting Monday — could add up to five jobs, three of them in the sheriff’s office.

If any of the 12 supplemental requests are added, it could increase the mill levy, causing property taxes to go up. But it’s highly unlikely the commission would pass something supplemental without also cutting an item, Weinaug said. The proposed easy cuts include $500,000 in capital improvement and at least 1 percent of the proposed 3 percent county employee benefit raises.


David Holroyd 5 years, 11 months ago

The school district , the city, and county. Need to understand that $3,000 a year taxes on a $200,000. House is unacceptable. Especially since valuations are lowered. Houses are being sold for 5%. To. 10%. Under the already drop in valuation. The three taxing local units are in denial and out of touch. Watch for some big news down the pike about local job cutbacks. Why doesn't the journal world do an in depth factual story about home sales, foreclosures, and days on the market and include the respective neighborhoods. For those folks who wonder about thir valuations. Keep in mind the county appraiser is now expanding your neighborhood for comps. Bigger to get the numbers they need. Just ask and find out. Soon someone at 27th andousdahl will be compared with 27th and Lawrence ave. the FIX. Is in.

no_thanks 5 years, 11 months ago


Tough decisions are going to be required. The homeless shelter has received enough support, especially given the number of non-Douglas County residents that use that shelter.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 11 months ago

and at least 1 percent of the proposed 3 percent county employee benefit raises. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Cut it all, many have not had any kind of boost in 5 or so years.

insidR 5 years, 11 months ago

Am I missing something? 1) Increased county costs to make up for lost state funding of necessary local services (police, courts, drinking water safety, etc.) 2) New budget needs for fire and medical services 3) Drop in property valuations All this with no increase in your mill levy. And you guys are complaining?! Look around at the financial disasters that have hit other local governments around the country. Be grateful that the county commission and the administrator seem to have a pretty good handle on things this year. If this article is right, it seems like good news to a taxpayer like me.

irvan moore 5 years, 11 months ago

the county commissioners and the county administrator screwed us when they overpaid for the "county" land so the homeless shelter could be built east of town, watch them continue to give more money to the homeless shelter while taking away services from lawrence residents and taxpayers

Barleycorn 5 years, 11 months ago

I have to agree with insidR, I believe our county leaders are doing a great job in these difficult times giving the tremendous burden slammed upon their shoulders by our wonderful Governor. A large part of these funding requirements are a direct result of all counties having to pick up essential funding for cuts our wonderful Governor has caused. Mr. Brownback could care less how many citizens he has to hurt just so he can protect the Billionaire Koch brothers from paying one cent in taxes. People with disabilities, children in poverty, essential services such as public safety & protecting public health, are the acts of a dispicable person with no conscience. To add even more pathetic audaciousness, Mr. Brownback then attends church services on Sundays because he claims to be a "Christian." Apparently the bible he is reading from states that Jesus taught us to screw thy neighbor, especially the poor, and take money from the poor & give to the rich. This is the highest form of hypocrisy & Mr. Brownback will have to answer to God someday for these actions..

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