If local residents want to have an impact on how city officials spend their hard-earned tax dollars, now is the time.
Work on the city’s 2015 budget is getting started, and two public meetings have been scheduled to provide input on how that budget is crafted. The meetings are set for 5:30 p.m. today at the Union Pacific Depot, 402 N. Second, and 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Fire Station No. 5, 1901 Stewart Ave. According to a city news release, people who can’t attend either meeting can email their comments to firstname.lastname@example.org — or presumably use an envelope and stamp to mail them to City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.
These sessions are intended specifically as an opportunity for residents to voice their opinions on what should be the city’s top priorities and concerns. That could include such things as how the city allocates funds to social service agencies, what new projects it plans to pursue in the next budget year or how it sets its economic development budget.
In addition to offering input on how the city should spend money, residents also may give some advice on how it might economize. Perhaps the figures released last week showing that the cost of living in Lawrence is the highest of any metro area in the state would be worthy of some discussion. City commissioners expressed some concern about the report but one commissioner also thought the cost of living was “outweighed by the quality of life” in Lawrence which includes “a vibrant downtown, a lot of amenities.”
That’s nice, but all of those amenities come at a price that our current tax base can’t easily support. The city now is paying for a new recreation center and has plans for a new waste water treatment plant at the south edge of town. Are residents also ready to consider an additional sales tax or higher property taxes next year to begin work on a new police headquarters estimated to cost up to $30 million.
Traditionally, public meetings about the city budget don’t draw much of a crowd, but this year could be different. Whether it’s roundabouts or recreation, sidewalks or water, city officials face a big job in balancing the city’s resources with its wish list. Maybe the residents of Lawrence can give them a little help at this week’s public meetings.