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Archive for Sunday, July 8, 2012

Proposed city budget anticipates revenue loss

July 8, 2012

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Pavement markings, like crosswalks and turn lanes, are going to get clearer in Lawrence. The future of a key state tax that helps pay for such street maintenance activities is not.

Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday will begin debating City Manager David Corliss’ 2013 recommended city budget. The budget includes both good news and bad news for the ever-popular topic of street maintenance.

On one front, Corliss is pleased to put forward a plan that will help the city more aggressively improve the condition of pavement markings on city streets. Corliss is recommending a 0.07 mill increase in the city’s property tax rate to pay for increased supplies for a recently purchased pavement-marking machine operated by city crews.

But Corliss’ budget also is sounding pessimistic about the future of motor vehicle fuels tax revenues the city annually receives from the state. City leaders over the past two years have been holding out hope that gas taxes revenues would pick back up as the economy improves and motorists start driving more.

Now, city budget-makers are less optimistic that the state gas tax fund will ever rebound, and Corliss’ recommended budget calls for cutting about $500,000 worth of street maintenance activities that previously were funded by the city’s share of the 24 cent per gallon state gasoline tax.

“People are still driving less, but the other factor is people are driving more fuel-efficient cars,” said Casey Toomay, the city’s budget manager. “Even the people who haven’t cut back on their driving aren’t using as much gas.

“We don’t see any of that changing. We think this is a long-term revenue problem at this point.”

As a result, the recommended city budget cuts the line item for general street maintenance from $5.6 million in 2012 to $4.9 million in 2013. The $4.9 million is still more than the about $4 million a year the city was spending for street maintenance prior to voters approving a new 0.3 percent sales tax for infrastructure projects.

The reduction also continues a trend. In 2011, the city’s line item for street maintenance was $6.05 million.

Mark Thiel, assistant director of public works, said the proposed reduction will mean the city will have to scale back its contracts for street repavings and other similar projects.

But Thiel thinks Lawrence is still in a better position than many other communities who rely solely on gas tax revenues to fund street maintenance. Since 2009, the city also has been using sales tax money from the voter-approved infrastructure sales tax.

The sales tax, Thiel said, is providing about $1.5 million in general street maintenance. In addition, the sales tax also is providing funding for multiyear program to rebuild major streets in the city such as Kasold, Iowa, Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive.

“We don’t have all our eggs in one basket anymore,” Thiel said.

Corliss’ budget calls for a slight property tax increase to help fund the city’s efforts to improve pavement markings in the city.

The proposed 0.07 mill increase would add about $50,000 to the city’s pavement marking program, which currently has a budget of about $15,000, Thiel said.

He said motorists and pedestrians have expressed concerns about faded pavement markings. The city this spring purchased a pavement marking machine that city crews can use. Thiel said the machine is capable of painting anything from center lines to crosswalks.

Thiel said his crews currently are doing a complete inventory of all crosswalks in the city and will try to repaint many of them before the new school year begins. But Thiel said it will take some time before the city gets caught up on the pavement marking program.

“We’re still in the first step right now,” Thiel said. “We have the machine, which will allow us to do some work in-house that we couldn’t before. But it is still going to take us a couple of years to get a handle on it.”

City commissioners are scheduled to talk about budget issues at a 4 p.m. study session Tuesday at City Hall.

Comments

LadyJ 2 years ago

Didn't they just say they money they are getting from the sales taxes is way more than they were expecting?

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Joe Hyde 2 years ago

I don't know if the spot sits inside Lawrence city limits. It might be barely outside the limits. But I would really appreciate either the city or state painting a "stop line" across both northbound lanes of US-56 at its intersection with the exit lane from eastbound K-10/SLT. There right before you reach the "Bridge to Nowhere"?

Maybe a better idea is to install a post bearing one of those signs with a downward-pointing arrow, with words saying, "STOP HERE".

Something needs to be done there. If you're northbound and are caught by the red light at that intersection you're forced to slow from 55mph to a dead stop...but nowhere at the intersection do you see any signage or lane markings telling you exactly where to stop. This makes it all too easy for northbound motorists to inadvertently stop deep into the intersection itself, which increases the risk of getting t-boned on the driver's side by a fast-moving vehicle turning left off K-10 intending to go north into town on Iowa St.

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Jeff Supernaw 2 years ago

How 'bout we repave 6th st every other year?

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nedcolt 2 years ago

a few prisoners,bucket of paint,brushes, problem solved....

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years ago

Cut spending on crap we don't need. Quit catering to people who can't or won't pay their own way. Get rid of the empT, new library, LAC, DLA, New theatre, homeless shelter, etc, and you will have plenty of money.

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Carol Bowen 2 years ago

We really need to prioritize. I love the library, but think we should modify or postpone that project. You really have an old ax to bear on the bus system. My grandson the buses he takes are always full. The buses are not as expensive as if twenty people per bus were driving cars. We're looking at road maintenance, traffic controls and safety improvements, police and courts, and road expansion. As more people take the bus, they will save us on other capacity issues.

In general, I agree with you. The city allowed too many projects to slip through, and the school board is planning to float another bond issue. I don't care if some of the projects are in the works, we can pause or stop them if we really want to. I say "we", because we need to put the pressure on the commissioners.

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irvan moore 2 years ago

i hope the retirees we attract aren't smart enough to figure out how much more they will benefit by renting instead of owning property here

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Carol Bowen 2 years ago

You forgot to mention the lack of home services in lieu of senior facilities. Some states will provide visiting nurses, etc. kansas does if you can afford them.

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Weather_Watcher 2 years ago

It just doesn't end does it.

How about for a change we only use as many eggs as we have in our baskets instead of asking all us citizens to contribute more eggs.

With this drought my money trees are having a darn hard time keeping up, or is it now money hens I need.

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patkindle 2 years ago

no problem, lower property values, raise the mill get some more money it is all about money just take from the folks that have it and leave the others alone hope and change put it to a vote we have too few folks that work for a living but too many that vote for a living and hide under the radar of paying taxes rob from the rich and give to the smart ones that work the loopholes and skate for free

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Eride 2 years ago

They should at the minimum keep the double left turn lane markings maintained because it has become abundantly clear that people can't stay within the lane while turning when the markings are not visible.

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flyin_squirrel 2 years ago

Instead of giving minors drinking a slap on the wrist, lets put them to work painting the lines. If you are caught drinking underage, you will spend the night in jail, and then spend 8 hrs of the next day in a hot pink jumper suit doing community service work (i.e. painting lines, cleaning alleys, etc...). It will save on our budget and maybe teach students some respect.

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