Archive for Tuesday, July 23, 2013

City approves 2014 budget

July 23, 2013


Growth is a theme in the $185 million 2014 budget unanimously approved by Lawrence city commissioners Tuesday night.

The budget calls for an increase in the city’s property tax, water and sewer rates, but commissioners said they believe the increases will pave the way for new growth in the community.

“This budget will allow us to stimulate some of the growth we have been encouraging,” Mayor Mike Dever said. “It will allow us to serve the new residents that we hope to bring in.”

The budget calls for about a 6 percent increase in city spending in 2014, and for the city’s property tax rate to increase by about 0.5 mill. The increase will result in about $12 more per year in property taxes for an owner of a $200,000 home.

As part of the budget, commissioners also unanimously approved water and sewer rates that will increase the average monthly bill by about 5 percent.

Commissioners said the water and sewer rate increases are needed to put the city on a firm foundation for decades to come.

“The projects that are going to be built because of these rate increases are projects that are so important to developing this community over the next quarter century,” said City Commissioner Mike Amyx.

The budget includes funding for $47.2 million worth of water and sewer projects in 2014. Among the larger projects is $14.8 million worth of work for a new sewage treatment plant south of the Wakarusa River. The 2014 funding is only a downpayment on what is expected to be about a $65 million project that will stretch into 2017.

The city also has included $17.9 million to address intermittent taste and odor issues in the city’s drinking water. Commissioners, though, are reserving the right to scale that project back as they research the taste and odor issues, which occur when algae blooms become significant at Clinton Lake or on the Kansas River.

The budget also included funding for about $15.2 million in other capital improvements. They included:

• $1.7 million for reconstruction of the intersection at 23rd and Iowa streets. Expect new turn lanes and greater vehicle capacity.

• $2 million for the first phase of the 31st Street extension in eastern Lawrence. When completed in 2015, the project will extend 31st Street from Haskell Avenue to O’Connell Road.

• $2.5 million to rebuild a portion of Wakarusa Drive from Oread West to Legends Drive.

The budget also includes funding for 19 new City Hall employees. Included in the total are nine new employees to staff the Rock Chalk Park Recreation Center, five employees to staff an expanded rental registration program, four new employees in the water and sewer department, and one new employee related to citywide curbside recycling program that will begin in late 2014.


Kyle Chandler 4 years, 11 months ago

I find it amusing that there are MANY MANY empty rental properties, yet, we need 5 more employees to an EXPANDED rental registration program and yet a single lone employee for an entire citywide curbside recycling program.


Kyle Chandler 4 years, 11 months ago

You missed the point there Captain Facts, but hey, thanks for sharing!

Dave Trabert 4 years, 11 months ago

even more interesting...why is there a rental registration program in the first place?

jafs 4 years, 11 months ago

Because landlords, left alone, will often not live up to their responsibilities.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 11 months ago

Change the word "landlords" to "people" and you've hit the nail on the head. Now shall we have a government run program to check up on everyone, making certain they are living up to their responsibilities? At what cost?

jafs 4 years, 11 months ago

Well, we have a variety of such programs already, as well as laws. Do you think we shouldn't have agencies to protect children from negligent/abusive/deadbeat parents? What attempts to ensure people live up to their responsibilities would you eliminate?

Do you disagree with a rental registration/inspection program, and if so, why?

jhawkinsf 4 years, 11 months ago

Yes, we have agencies to protect children from negligence, abuse, deadbeats, etc. We also have agencies that deal with spousal abuse, rape, etc., all these things meeting your previous concerns that they are problems that go underreported. However, all of the problems are investigated by the appropriate government entity upon a report being made. That's different than what you have often advocated for, that a government cast a net so wide that they will ensnare bad landlords, good landlords and all those in between. And you want to charge them for the pleasure.

You mentioned protecting children, do you think the government ought to investigate whether or not I've been abusive to my child, in the absence of any report indicating that possibility? Should the government investigate whether or not you abuse your spouse, again, with no indication at all that it's happening?

You'd have a better argument if you mentioned things like a restaurant that gets inspected by the health dept. But here's the difference, I can include that cost in the costs of doing business. I can take a smaller profit, lower wages to my staff, raise prices to my customers, etc. But if the health dept. comes calling often, and they bring with them an inspector to look at my electrical, plumbing, building structure, ADA, etc., there will come a time when I will no longer be able to pass on those costs. I'll go out of business. So we strike a balance. I'm checked, sometimes. But not too often to make the whole process onerous.

Isn't that what we have now, a balance? We have a process where an investigation will happen upon receipt of a complaint.

I've mentioned before, sometimes, we implement policies hoping for certain outcomes, only to have the opposite happen. Rent control in S.F. was intended to keep rents low so lower income people could remain in their apartments. But it became so onerous that landlords simply took their units off the market. A lower supply led to high rents with lower income people being displaced. What will happen if landlords pass on the costs? Will some very low income folks be displaced? Will some very sketchy units be taken off the market, driving down supply and driving up prices?

One problem you aren't thinking about is that there are some people barely able to hold on to housing. They're just one step up from the shelter, and one slip away from being homeless again. These are the very people who might be able to afford those sketchy units, but not be able to afford that same units after improvements are made and the costs passed on, nor can they afford other improved units. They are the ones most at risk.

jafs 4 years, 11 months ago

In the case of rental units, I find a preventive program the best option, for a number of reasons.

One, tenants are often not well informed about landlord responsibilities. Two, even if they are, they may very understandably be shy about calling the city on their landlord, as they are dependent on them for references if they move. Good landlords have nothing to fear from the program, so should have no real reason to complain about it. Especially since, as you mention, they will almost certainly pass on the costs (minimal as they may be).

Your health dept example is a good one - instead of waiting until people get sick and or die from bad food practices, we have a preventive system in place. Which, by the way, isn't strict enough, in my opinion, since many local restaurants have numerous "critical violations".

How do you do on your inspections, if you're willing to share that?

Let's see - if random preventive investigations reduced child and/or spousal abuse, I'd have to think about it, but might well be in favor of it. People doing nothing wrong have nothing to fear. Isn't that your argument for letting the police look in your trunk randomly? Of course, we may have some constitutional issues there.

Very low income folks on the edge are a concern, but I'm sure we could find a way to ensure they don't fall into the chasm if we want to do that.

Bobby Burch 4 years, 11 months ago

Mike Denver looks like a plotting, evil genius in the homepage photo ...

skinny 4 years, 11 months ago

So much for trying to draw in the retiree's!! Plus running off what retirede's we have now. Good job Lawrence!

Maybe the citizens of Lawrenec need to find a new leadership as this one is not working! They seem to think money grows on trees!

nick_s 4 years, 11 months ago

Yesterday I was questioning line items for the Rock Chalk Park & was given the link to the city's full budget in pdf version. I do see line items budgeted, however they seem pretty vague. When do we get to see a real plan outlined as to how we are going to use, manage, & market our Rec Center as it has been sold to us? How are we going to get this thing off the ground & make it work. If we are already committed to this, & have already broken ground, one would assume there is a grand plan somewhere right? Right?

optimist 4 years, 11 months ago

The only growth here is the spending and debt. There will be no economic growth from this budget. Increasing the cost of living in the community will not attract businesses that will bring jobs and revenue from outside the city.

nick_s 4 years, 11 months ago

Agree. I realize that it takes money to make money, & that taxes are a must to provide essential services to the taxed masses, but somewhere fiscal responsibility & REALITY should come into play. The cost of living in Lawrence keeps increasing, yet the benefits are not very tangible. I love living in Lawrence, but for the price-tag I might as well live in a community that is worth the cost.

Orwell 4 years, 11 months ago

I think the appropriate term is "Don't let the door hit you…"

nick_s 4 years, 11 months ago

"...when its open & someone is closing it, & watch your fingers cause they might get smashed & it might hurt causing you to lose dexterity at work?" Yeah, im familiar with that age old phrase. Has a nice ring to it.

Orwell 4 years, 11 months ago

At the rate of a whopping dollar a month your sofa might be the first place to look.

jack22 4 years, 11 months ago

We're already spending that extra change for all the "special sales tax districts," the increase in water and sewage fees, new trash containers, higher electric and gas fees, etc., etc., we're being nickeled and dimed to death. It may seem like only a slight increase, but it all adds up over time.

Currahee 4 years, 11 months ago

All public works projects. You know when you're relying on public projects to fuel "growth" you're really just delaying the inevitable.

patkindle 4 years, 11 months ago

hey folks, get out the check books, after all it is all about the kids and arts what could be a better to spend your money ?

appleaday 4 years, 11 months ago

Actually, it looks like sewers and streets and western expansion

LeBo 4 years, 11 months ago

I am certain the city commissioners and city manager are not paying attention to the economic environment on the state, federal, and international levels. We are on pace to become bankrupt in the long-term.

jack22 4 years, 11 months ago

Sure, the city might be bankrupt in a few years, but we're going to have a sweet new indoor facility where we can play bad mitten without having to wait in line for 5 minutes like we used to.

jafs 4 years, 11 months ago

Well, I doubt that increasing the costs of living in Lawrence will attract more people.

And, of course, I question whether or not that's desirable. There are studies showing that areas that increase population more quickly actually perform worse economically in a variety of ways than slower growing areas.

optimist 4 years, 11 months ago

What studies? Have you lived anywhere else? I can tell you from experience that if a city stifles growth, businesses and talent will leave, leaving the community with lower paying jobs and only those that can't afford to leave (i.e. Detroit).

jafs 4 years, 11 months ago

A quick google search should find it - that's how I found it.

I grew up in NYC, lived in Chicago for about 10 years, and have lived in a number of other towns across the country.

The "grow or die"mentality is common but misguided, in my opinion. It may be true of small towns in which an aging population is dying off, and young folks leaving, but that's hardly analogous to a college town like Lawrence, or many other towns.

Even a rather conservative acquaintance and I were able to quickly agree that continued growth is not a uniformly positive thing (and that's true of very few subjects).

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