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.