City Commission to hear funding requests from nonprofits, economic development agencies

Outside agencies requested $9.5 million for 2017

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on May 3, 2016.

Forty-five Lawrence social service agencies, economic development groups, city boards and other outside agencies are requesting $9.5 million total in public dollars in 2017, a million more than they received altogether in 2016.

Based on current recommendations from Lawrence leaders, many requests will not be granted in full.

Of the $9,549,422 requested for 2017, the city is recommending $8,432,501 be funded. The money would come from the general fund, the city’s main fund for city services, as well as the special alcohol, guest tax and special recreation funds. All of the recommendations were made assuming the city would not increase its levy on property taxes.

The Lawrence City Commission will review the requests Tuesday during a work session on the 2017 budget. City Manager Tom Markus will release his recommended budget in July, and commissioners will have time to make changes before passing a budget in August.

Here are some key points from the list of outside agency requests:

• The city is recommending the Lawrence chamber of commerce receive its usual annual payment of $200,000, an amount established through a contract between Lawrence and The Chamber. Last week, the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods sent a letter to city commissioners and City Manager Tom Markus, citing their frustration with The Chamber and asking that Lawrence terminate the contract. The letter was added onto the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.

• The Lawrence Community Shelter requested a 74 percent increase from what was allocated for 2016. The 2016 city budget included $184,000 for the shelter. This year, it’s seeking a total $319,500, but the city’s Social Service Funding Advisory Board recommended it receive the same as in 2016.

Last July, shelter leaders came to the city seeking emergency funding to keep the facility afloat for the rest of 2015. A city audit later found the homeless shelter’s financial problems were caused by the combination of a slow fundraising environment and the cost of moving to a new building in 2012.

The request for 2017, from shelter director Trey Meyer, states the shelter has “seen an increase in the amount of people needing access to emergency services” and a funding reduction “would mean the possibility of staff cuts, program cuts and the ability of our case managers to take on new clients.”

In part, a funding increase would allow the shelter to hire another case manager, the application states.

• The Lawrence Public Library is recommended to receive $86,100 of a $300,000 funding increase it requested for 2017. The recommendations for the library and other outside agencies are based on the city not increasing property taxes next year. If the library were to receive its full increase, the amount it levies from property taxes, which is separate from the city’s levy, would need to increase by 0.23 mills. Library Director Brad Allen asked last week for commissioners to consider the increase so the library could raise employees’ wages.

• Johnson County has asked Lawrence to pay $327,800 for K-10 Connector service in 2017, a 178 percent increase from what’s being paid this year. The K-10 Connector runs along Kansas Highway 10 taking riders between Kansas University, Johnson County Community College and KU’s Edwards Campus.

The current recommendation shows Lawrence paying $120,000 in 2017, as it is this year.

A letter from Deputy Johnson County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson states that the county’s Board of Commissioners “would likely need to revisit and reassess its support of the route if funding from the city of Lawrence were to remain flat.”

In 2012, Johnson County leaders, facing a budget reduction for the K-10 Connector, asked Lawrence to help support the service. Ferguson’s letter to Markus states a funding agreement “was discussed and approved in concept” with former City Manager David Corliss. The agreement was for $120,000 in 2014, $200,000 in 2015 and $327,800 in 2016 and beyond.

• The Dwayne Peaslee Technical Training Center, opened last year, is seeking $195,105 for 2017, the amount it needs to help break even through 2018.

In the funding application, director Marvin Hunt said without the support, the Peaslee Center “will not be able to meet its financial obligations and workforce training would either be significantly reduced or eliminated.” It goes on to say the director, administrative assistant and instructors “could lose their jobs.”

The current recommendation is for the Peaslee Center to receive $150,000, which is $50,000 more than the city allotted for 2016.

• Through agreements, the city is required to fund an incubator through the Bioscience and Technology Business Center and The Watkins Museum. The incubator will get $75,000, part of the $750,000 it will receive in installments for 10 years. Watkins Museum is set to receive $40,000 — the last of $100,000 the city agreed to pay over three years.

A full list of requests from outside agencies, and recommendations, can be found at

Also on Tuesday, commissioners will hear about proposed rate increases for water, solid waste and stormwater.

Public Works Director Charles Soules has said the stormwater and solid waste divisions were each requesting a 3 percent increase. The extra funds would be used to pay for high-priority stormwater projects and for increases in the city’s contract with HAMM Waste Services.

The stormwater fee was created in 1996 and was increased once in 2001 and again in 2003. It’s added onto bills for water, sewer and trash service and based on a property’s square footage. For an average single-family residence, the charge is currently $4 and would be increased by about 12 cents per month if the increase were approved, Soules said.

Residents’ monthly trash bills last increased in 2012, when curbside recycling was implemented.

Last week, Markus told commissioners he was projecting a $1.3 million deficit in the city’s general fund. To fill that deficit, commissioners need to decide whether to raise property taxes or cut city staff.

The City Commission will convene at 3 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St. The work session is expected to end about 5:15 p.m.