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Archive for Friday, July 13, 2012

Spending spree

City officials may be moving forward on more projects than taxpayers are willing and able to support.

July 13, 2012

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More and more, it appears the policy of Lawrence city officials and city commissioners is to figure out ways to spend rather than to conserve money or at least to spend more than what might be necessary to attain the same results.

First came the $18 million library expansion at a time when library usage and design is undergoing major changes throughout the country. On top of the $18 million likely will be the cost for a temporary library annex for an estimated two years while the current facility is expanded and renovated.

Next came the proposed massive recreation project at the northwest corner of the city. No specific cost figures have been attached to the center, but it will be a major expense and will have a significant impact on downtown Lawrence.

About the same time, city officials announced they needed a new, larger police station plus additional officers. The estimated cost of the station ranges from $24 million to $30 million, although there are buildings, such as the vacated Sears store, that could be remodeled, renovated and converted into a fine police station with a large parking lot at a significantly lower cost than a new building. But why do something at a lower cost when taxpayers can be tagged with the added expense?

A few days ago, city officials suggested a tax or assessment be placed on downtown property owners to pay for another deck on the parking garage to be built adjacent to the new library.

It’s great news that the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has approved the route to complete the South Lawrence Trafficway, but that project will involve substantial expense for the city such as work to connect Bob Billings Parkway to the trafficway and other similar projects on the road’s eastern leg.

Although not an immediate need, city officials will be working on plans for a new sewer treatment plant south of the Wakarusa River, at a cost of up to $50 million.

Another project will be the development of the 400-plus acres at the former Farmland Industries site on the city’s east side.

It would seem Lawrence officials should be acutely aware and sensitive to the growing number of cities across the country that find themselves in serious financial condition due to unwise spending and shortsighted bargaining with municipal employees for wage and fringe benefits. Some of these cities are facing bankruptcy, and knowledgeable observers suggest far more municipalities may consider a similar strategy to address their financial crises.

It is understandable that Lawrence city officials and residents want the best for the city, but, at the same time, with Lawrence showing one of the slowest growth rates among the state’s larger cities and with few prospects for new major retailers or manufacturing plants or other projects that would increase the city’s tax revenues, it would seem prudent for city officials to be more careful in giving almost automatic approval to major expenditures and/or commitments for city funding.

At what time do these officials think it might be wise to ask local residents, taxpayers, for their approval to raise taxes to pay for the numerous costly projects on the table?

Comments

50YearResident 2 years ago

I agree with this article. Lawrence Commissioners are out of control on spending. They seem to forget this country in in financial trouble. People are struggling to just make ends meet and spending, sales taxes and real estate taxes are breaking the camel's back. Now we are in a drought that may put local farmers into bankrupsy also. Most of the projects need to be shelved until better times.

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ResQd 2 years ago

Well said and a great article.

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TheBigW 2 years ago

Not only do they seem to think there is money to burn and throw away (empT & shelter, and lots of consultants) they also do their best to run off businesses who seek to located here or from locals who are trying to start businesses.

They want you to think all of a sudden this town is business friendly or has never been business unfriendly.... ha!

But hey, just think of all those construction jobs and spending we'll have from all these projects that will save Lawrence.

"San Bernardino became the third California city in less than two weeks to file municipal bankruptcy" http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/07/11/12675262-san-bernardino-becomes-3rd-calif-city-in-2-weeks-to-file-for-bankruptcy-protection?lite

Don't worry can't happen here, we're too thrifty.

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Peter Macfarlane 2 years ago

More name-calling! And snarky, too!

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Carol Bowen 2 years ago

Not so. I tend to be moderate to liberal. I have already written an email about spending to the the commissioners. Have you?

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msezdsit 2 years ago

Lawrence city commissioners liberal, theres a laugh for us all. Every one Baa doesn't like is a liberal. Great program. Deep thought.

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heygary 2 years ago

Well said!

When a significant portion of the local population is employed by an organization which can annually increase the cost of its “product” seemingly without bounds, and in a manner which ignores the annual increrase in the actual cost of living, it is no wonder why those in that group (and the representatives they elect to represent them) show a total disregard for fiscal responsibility. If the city commissioners were tuned in to the down-sizing efforts being taken by the major commercial businesses in the area, they would realize that the proverbial chickens will be coming home to roost pretty soon now!

Seems to be a liberal affliction … damn the deficit, this is my vision!

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Kate Rogge 2 years ago

You really think the city commissioners are liberals? How about borrow and spend, spend, spend good old boy corporatists?

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Richard Heckler 2 years ago

"At what time do these officials think it might be wise to ask local residents, taxpayers, for their approval to raise taxes to pay for the numerous costly projects on the table?"

Exactly....

If the city must spend $40,000 of T tax dollars forget the consultant and build passenger shelters! We've been through this process I believe twice surely Lawrence can work out appropriate plans.

City Hall and Commissioners are way too close to developers who obviously are running the city into RED INK. The city is handing out millions upon millions upon millions of tax dollars to developers and increasing taxes and user fees at the same time. There is NOT strong support for these tax dollar give aways.

USD 497 needs to rehab schools using existing capital outlay sources. Sure it may take 3 or 4 years but this is the approach taxpayers displayed interest. http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/oct/how_should_school_district_pay_20_million_maintena/

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joes_donuts 2 years ago

What does this article have to do with the developers? The only project listed that involves a developer is the Rec Center, and that would be one that would attract people to Lawrence.

Why I even bothered reading your post this time Merrill is beyond me...

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Chelsea Kapfer 2 years ago

Do you really, honestly believe that a Rec Center will have people flocking to live in Lawrence? Give me a break.

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bad_dog 2 years ago

A rec center could be considered an "attraction". You know, sonething that causes non-residents to come witness or participate in events...

I could be wrong, but I'm guessing that's what Joe meant.

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Carol Bowen 2 years ago

Folks, this is an editorial, not an article. For one, I am glad to see that the Journal World is beginning to pull this together. Have you noticed that there has actually been more news in the newspaper? It's not just up to the newspaper to push the busget issue, although it sure would help.

The budget hearings on various projects have been a farce . . . more of a here's what we are going to do information meetings. Contact information for the city commissioners: http://www.ci.lawrence.ks.us/commissioners. Copy David Corliss at "David L. Corliss" dcorliss@lawrenceks.org to make public record. Let them know what you think. With no input, they have no idea.

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jayhawklawrence 2 years ago

This was a good and timely article, but I get tired of hearing the same people jump on this as being proof that a "Liberal Satan" possesses this community.

This is a character issue, not a political one and character is something in short supply when we are talking about our current political systems. You are only as good as the level of talent you are able to recruit.

Just ask the Royals.

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George Lippencott 2 years ago

Are they?

Our two largest employers are planning an above inflation remuneration increase. Since taxes are only a portion of our personal spending, those so blessed are less resistant to a tax increase from which they will benefit. I think the commission reads it right.

Those of us not employed by those engines are just caught up in the whirlwind. You either pay taxes or have so little income that you hardly notice the little tax levied. If you do not like this reality then consider moving. The top and the bottom rule here.

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Carol Bowen 2 years ago

I'm not following your thought. 1. Who do you consider the two largest employers? 2. Some of the city's proposals impact property tax rather than sales tax.

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George Lippencott 2 years ago

Think KU and School district Of course on property taxes but we can have the argument once again about who pays how much in property taxes.

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Richard Heckler 2 years ago

Developers running the city and the Chamber are pushing a dangerous path continuing the road of "Boom Town Economics" which is what killed the USA economy and millions upon millions upon millions of jobs,

A 'Boom Town Economy" by developers does not use tax dollars wisely instead expands the list of taxpayer responsibilities with no way to pay for it!

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kansanbygrace 2 years ago

What on earth do you mean "no way to pay for it?" All we have to do is lower the taxes on all the wealthier people some more and we will have all we need. Just like the nation's economy. Tax breaks to the job exporters is the only way out of debt.

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JackMcKee 2 years ago

Cromwell is behind at least half of the dumb ideas of this city commission. He should stick to acting like a gangster.

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Flap Doodle 2 years ago

The role of Lawrence real estate developers in the death of Charles Pierre Baudelaire (1867) has never been fully explored.

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JackMcKee 2 years ago

Maybe that's because they aren't "libs".

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Carol Bowen 2 years ago

Oh, for Pete's sake. Have a mature thought once in a while. The budget has nothing to do with liberals vs conservatives.

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Carol Bowen 2 years ago

I thought about this.

+Spending can be liberal or conservative. That's behavior, not people.

  • A budget is a constraint, not behaviors or people. Spending over the budget would be spending liberally. Spending under the budget would be spending conservatively. Those are behaviors, not people.L

  • The old labels do not work anymore. For example, corporate welfare is rampant, yet we'd normally label business as conservative.

If we are going to accomplish anything as a community (or a country), we need to forget labels and work on solutions. For the record, I think we are spending too liberally in our community.

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Ray Thomson 2 years ago

@ Born Again, Cheeseburger, etc, thought you might enjoy this - make sure to check out the graphic ("Slowest spending in decades") halfway down the page. love and kisses!

http://articles.marketwatch.com/2012-05-22/commentary/31802270_1_spending-federal-budget-drunken-sailor

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Richard Heckler 2 years ago

Worker's taxes siphoned off by their bosses Thursday, April 26, 2012 | Posted by Jim Hightower

Where is the $47 million tax dollars that belong to Kansas taxpayers?

My congratulations to workers in 16 states – from Maine to Georgia, New Jersey to Colorado! Many of you will be thrilled to know that the income taxes deducted from your paychecks each month are going to a very worthy cause: your corporate boss.

Good Jobs First, a non-profit, non-partisan research center, has analyzed state programs meant to create jobs, but instead have created some $700 million a year in corporate welfare. This scam starts with the normal practice of corporations withholding from each employee's monthly check the state income taxes their workers owe.

But rather than remitting this money to pay for state services, these 16 states simply allow the corporations to keep the tax payments for themselves! Adding to the funkiness of taxation-by-corporation, the bosses don't even have to tell workers that the company is siphoning off their state taxes for its own fun and profit.

These heists are rationalized in the name of "job creation," but that's a hoax, too. They're really just bribes the states pay to get corporations to move existing jobs from one state to another, or they're hostage payments to corporations that demand the public's money – or else they'll move their jobs out of state.

Last year, Kansas used workers' withholding taxes to bribe AMC Entertainment with a $47 million payment to move its headquarters from downtown Kansas City, Missouri, to a KC suburb on the Kansas side, just 10 miles away. What a ripoff! Among the 2,700 corporations cashing in on such absurd diversions of state taxes from public need to private greed are Goldman Sachs, GE, Motorola, and Procter & Gamble.

For more information – and for ways you can help stop this despicable giveaway – get the full report, entitled "Paying Taxes to the Boss." It's available at www.GoodJobsFirst.org.

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Richard Heckler 2 years ago

"At what time do these officials think it might be wise to ask local residents, taxpayers, for their approval to raise taxes to pay for the numerous costly projects on the table?"

Elected officials believe that voters put them into office to spend however they see fit. Not me!

Let the taxpayers decide if taxpayers want to be reckless and to what extent!

Put these matters to a vote: A. Field House/rec center = who knows how much this cost taxpayers for the next 100 years.

B. Annexation of Property ( adds to the list of taxpayer liabilities/expenses)

C. Any type of preferential tax consideration ( pork barrel) ( increases the wealth of the few at the expense of the many. It is not the responsibility of the taxpayer to insure sweet profits for speculating developers) http://www.democracynow.org/2008/1/18/free_lunch_how_the_wealthiest_americans http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01182008/transcript.html

D. Tax increasing new housing developments - 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.

E. $50 - $100 million $$$ sewage treatment plant = pork barrel to the real estate industry = additional tax dollar increase to existing taxpayers.

F. Additional parking attached to library project

G. Another police station ( 25 years of new growth must be making Lawrence a dangerous place to live. Police request for military level guns and such is another indication Lawrence is losing its' image as a safe place to raise a family. Secret impact of growth = more and more crime)

H. 31st street expansion = tax increase

I. SLT may well come with a new/additional tax to build. Some former county commissioners have been chompin at the bit to vote in this tax = grab your wallets.

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Richard Heckler 2 years ago

Let the voters decide on all projects whereby the consequence is local profiteers and elected officials are draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.

Let's remove the appearance of special interests controlling our local government.

Let the voters decide...

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independent_rebel 2 years ago

Since we voters decided to vote for the SLT, and yes, we did vote for it to be built, please come out and say you support the completion of it. I mean, that is the argument you use for all of the projectes you support that the public voted in favor of.

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Carol Bowen 2 years ago

It was a long time ago. Did we vote on the path for the SLT? When did it change from a bypass to a traffic way.

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independent_rebel 2 years ago

When the lawsuits started. I voted for the bypass, trafficway, road, whatever you want to call it, and so did a majority of the voters. If the majority of votes is good enough for the empTy and the ultra-costly library renovation then it should be the same for the bypass, trafficway, road, bike patch etc. we the people voted for.

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Thomas Bryce 2 years ago

Why isn't it considered a conflict of interest to have developers sitting in positions that allow them to push their own agendas? Why is that allowed? I know it has been going on for years, but that does not make it right.

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lunacydetector 2 years ago

downtown property owners need to pay more in taxes so the: city library; douglas county senior center; lawrence public pool; lawrence chamber of commerce: and united states post office; have more parking spaces.

it's good to be king, screw the peasants.

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