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Archive for Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Lawrence looks at potential tax increases for new police headquarters

May 27, 2014

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Lawrence city commissioners still are interested in a November election to fund a new police headquarters building, although new questions have arisen over the project's $30 million price tag and the possible tax increases to fund it.

City commissioners on Tuesday were presented with a new funding scenario that includes both a 0.2 percent sales tax for 20 years and 3.7 mills of property taxes to pay for the project. That funding scenario is significantly larger than past projections because it includes funding not only for the building but also for 20 years worth of funding to grow the size of the police force.

"The need for additional equipment and policing is still very much there," said Police Chief Tarik Khatib, noting the department recently has cut school resource officers and traffic officers in order to increase the size of the city's patrol force.

Some commissioners, though, already were balking at the size of the potential tax increase. Both Mayor Mike Amyx and Commissioner Bob Schumm said they want to focus on finding funding for the building. Both said they prefer to let future commissions decide on a year-by-year basis what increases may be needed for additional police personnel.

A 0.2 percent increase in the city's sales tax would raise the rate to 8.9 percent. An additional 3.7 mills of property taxes would add about $64 a year in taxes to a $150,000 home.

Commissioners also reviewed about 10 other less aggressive tax scenarios that would provide funding only for the construction of the building, but not any additional police officers. They included:

• A 0.3 percent sales tax that would sunset after 10 years.

• A 1 percent sales tax that would expire after 2 years, plus 1.3 mills of property taxes that would continue indefinitely.

• A 2.8 mill property tax increase that would allow the project to be funded without a sales tax increase.

Commissioners made no decision on a potential tax increase, and also did not yet place the issue on the November citywide ballot.

First commissioners must decide how much the new police headquarters building should cost. Commissioners were told by architects that they're planning for a 103,000-square-foot building that would cost about $30 million to construct.

Some commissioners expressed concern at that price, but representatives with Lawrence-based Treanor Architects said that is below the national average for new police facilities, which currently are running about $250 per square foot to build.

"We don't take the approach that this needs to be a Cadillac of a building," said James Estes of Wilson Estes Police Architects, who also is working on the design. "We take an approach that it needs to be functional, and shouldn't become a maintenance nightmare for the city."

But commissioners directed staff members to work on some potential cuts that could be considered by the commission in future days. Particularly, commissioners asked about plans for about a 70-space underground parking garage at the facility. The garage would be used for the department's fleet vehicles, but commissioners said they wanted to explore an above-ground parking option in an effort to save money.

Commissioners are expected to discuss the police headquarters building again at their meeting next week.

Comments

Matthew Herbert 6 months, 3 weeks ago

The job of a city commissioner is to provide Lawrence with the necessary infrastructure to make the community safer and more functional/efficient. I am absolutely baffled by the notion that the police department has to beg voters for their money, but Rock Chalk Park was carried out not only without a vote but also without a bid!

Tom Thomson 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Deficient enough that it needs to be replaced.. Should they keep using the same building for another 30 years?

Stevi Scrivo Wisdom 6 months, 3 weeks ago

This is crap. Need a new HQ for what? So they can stand at 15th and Iowa talking and giggling like they were this morning? $30 million? We are cutting schools budgets but we need a new police headquarters? The LPD does NOT do their job and dang sure not well enough to get a $30 million dollar HQ... I can see it now. Like kids in a new car, pushing buttons jumping around. Lets see how long before this gets deleted. I'm ashamed to call Lawrence Home lately.

Jennifer Harrison 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I laughed when I read your post... It probably ruined your entire day to see officers talking and laughing amongst themselves...well, that must make them human!!!! I actually took the time to speak with two of the officers today as I was curious as to the activity. These officers are assigned to the accident investigation unit and were drawing a scaled diagram of the intersection as it was recently reconfigured so they could use the drawing for future accidents in the intersection.

Laughing police officers....who would ever of thought of such heinous activity:-)

Stevi Scrivo Wisdom 6 months, 3 weeks ago

There is nothing wrong with Laughing Officers by any means and I am glad I could make you laugh with such little effort. My point, if they were assigned to draw a scaled drawing of the intersection then you would think that's what they should be doing. I sat in the apartment complex right there for 30 minutes this morning drinking my coffee while they were "drawing the intersection" they did nothing but stand there and talk, what exactly do they need a new HQ for? so they can sit there in a $30 million dollar building talking and laughing NOT doing their jobs? Have you seen the things going on in this town lately? Robberies, Shootings, Assaults... Yet they are still investigating and looking for more information on those suspects. But hey lets just stand on the corner shootin the S*** as our coffee and donuts digest. While their are much more important things we could be doing like.... HMM... Protecting and serving, but I must be crazy to think that was their job.

Matthew Herbert 6 months, 3 weeks ago

What an exciting life you must lead to sit and stare at two people for 30 minutes. Perhaps tomorrow you can watch the grass grow

Matthew Herbert 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Cutting school budgets?? Did you miss the $90 million + bond we just passed?

Eric MacDonald 6 months, 3 weeks ago

This is not an expense that should be paid for with a special tax. City facility maintenance, or replacement, should be budgeted for and paid for out of existing revenue. There is nothing special or emergent about it. The Rock Chalk Park on the other hand should NOT have been paid for out of normal funding sources, but rather through a special tax, as it was discretionary. Nobody knew a decade ago, let alone two years ago that this park would be built but the city leadership in the past and now should have expected a new law enforcement facility may be needed one day. This is exactly why taxation is so high. Decision makers use money for "special projects" not related to the core function of government and then when revenue falls short of fulfilling the requirements of those core functions the decision makers cry of the need to raise taxes to pay for these important functions. At least we haven't heard the old fall back "it's for the children". That usually works on the voting public.

Wayne Kerr 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Wait a minute, you mean the city commission is able to budget and plan ahead for stuff like this instead of just raising taxes to fix all our problems?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Stop using money to build those damnable roundabouts!! That is the solution! Use the money for things we REALLY need!! Gads, this is not rocket science!!

Wayne Kerr 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Why don't we divert the "special" sales tax that has been collected to support the $30 million dollar recreation center to pay for the new police station? Is that "special" tax still being taken in? And why don't we get Fritzel to build it for us, that way it'll be worth $30 million but only cost us twenty?

How much are all those new hotel and apartment buildings that don't pay any new property tax and have their own "special" tax districts really costing the city? I guess we're just beginning to find that out.

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