Letters to the Editor

Letter: Think of the future

May 19, 2014


To the editor:

I note that there is a proposal to raise our property tax to fund bike paths. There are also proposals to consolidate our police functions. Our schools have indicated they intend to raise taxes. I am sure the county will weigh in with something.

Over the last several years we have made commitments to numerous initiatives with continuing costs. We are redeveloping the former Farmland Industry property. We have rebuilt our library. We are funding an expanded T. We are funding part of the construction and the operations of a new recreation center. We have funded part of the purchase of the depot. We have committed to a “heritage” preservation effort. We have expanded our social services. We are committed to a major capital fund for our schools. I could go on.

When does the combined total of all our commitments lead to tax rates that discourage people and industries relocating here? If there is a limit, can we afford to keep pushing it near term? Have we developed such a short-term philosophy that we have little regard for those who follow us?

It would be a shame if in our haste to do “neat” things near term we mortgage our future to the extent that those who follow us will be limited in their opportunity to address their own real and unavoidable needs.


Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 8 months ago

It is true that the property taxes in Lawrence are a bit, but not excessively, high by Kansas standards. That is why this is such a pleasant city in which to live. Lawrence has historically been a relatively expensive city to live in, by Kansas standards. Were you not aware of that when you moved here?

If you feel that your property taxes are too high, you can sell your property and move elsewhere, where the property taxes are lower. There is no shortage of buyers for real estate that don't mind the property taxes here.

But, it is a fact that you are not alone in feeling that taxes are too high here. But be careful where you move to, because property taxes here are not high at all compared with many other cities in Kansas.

Here's what your property taxes are for 2013:
In mills:
City of Lawrence 29.534
Douglas County 35.769
State of Kansas 1.500
USD #497 58.005
Total 124.808

Clipped from:
(Capitalization and line breaks for Lawrence added, so that it will be easy to find for comparison.)

'Topeka's tax rate is 15th-highest among state's first-class cities'
by By Tim Hrenchir
Posted: August 31, 2013

The property tax levy Topeka assesses this year is 35.828 mills. In mills:
(That is not the total property tax, that is only what is collected by the city of Topeka.)

The tax rate and fiscal book indicates total rates are higher in eight cities: Parsons, with 201.842 mills; Dodge City, 189.102; Fort Scott, 187.974; Kansas City, Kan., 179.532; Emporia, 172.511; Coffeyville, 166.967; Hutchinson, 163.144; and Atchison, 162.268.

Rates assessed are lower in 16 cities: Garden City, with 149.872 mills; Leavenworth, 141.141; Pittsburg, 148.911; Liberal, 148.769; Junction City, 147.369; Newton, 141.119; Manhattan, with 132.540 for that city’s residents living in Riley County and 121.310 for those living in Pottawatomie County; Lenexa, 130.131; Olathe, 128.900; Shawnee, 127.218; Salina, 126.634; Leawood, 125.986;
LAWRENCE, 124.844;
Wichita, 121.779; Prairie Village, 118.926; and Overland Park, 118.351.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 8 months ago

Note: I see that there is a discrepancy between the two published tax rates for Lawrence. I believe, but do not know for certain, that is because they are for consecutive, and not the same, years. But, it is possible there was a typo in the published material. I clipped and pasted the numbers, I did not type them in. But the difference is very small.
124.808 vs. 124.844, in mils, for Lawrence.

George Lippencott 3 years, 8 months ago

Taxes are a combination of property values and mil rate. In many communities in Kansas an equivalent home cost less, sometimes substantially less, than here in Lawrence. I have not recalculated since our property bust but at one time in the near past we were essentially the highest in Kansas.

Of course the total tax take is what is essential. Sales taxes, property taxes and fees enter into the equation.

The question remains are we approaching the limit of what we can demand and still retain a vibrant economy or (as some data indicates) have we already past that point???

Again I am not questioning the "goodness" of how we spend our money only the scope and pace with which we do it.

Leslie Swearingen 3 years, 8 months ago

Other cities rely on a comprehensive bus system to get people to and from work. Jobs are essential to the vitality and success of a community. Factories and stores are open and running 24/7 and this must be taken into account when thinking about the bus system.

Since the two bus systems were consolidated ideally there should be one type of bus. Drivers should have better training. Rules should be uniform and enforced equally on every bus. Drivers should wear uniforms because after all they are professionals.

Yes, it would cost money, but it would also create jobs with the new drivers for the new routes and maintenance workers to keep the buses running, with more superviseers and people to train the drivers. They would then spend their money in the community which would lead to new jobs in the local businesses.

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