A new police facility, automated water meters and major road reconstructions are all in the plans for the City of Lawrence, and along with them a potential tax increase.
Over the next five years, Lawrence is looking to fund about 180 large projects and purchases totaling $284 million. The first draft of the capital improvement plan was presented to the City Commission at its work session Tuesday.
One of the plan’s most expensive projects, the first phase of a police facility, is estimated to cost $17 million. Despite the multi-phase approach to the project, City Manager Tom Markus told the commission there wasn’t a way to fund the project without increasing taxes.
“I think the conversation is going to be more about how much of an increase are you willing to consider imposing on the taxpayers in the community,” Markus said. “Because if you start to look at the request and what’s fallen into the unfunded list, there’s a sizable amount there.”
Finance Director Bryan Kidney told commissioners that the first phase would require an increase of 1.25 mills. That’s the equivalent of about $30 more per year for the owner of a $200,000 home.
The police facility is just one of many projects the commission will have to consider. For next year, the plan calls for $56 million worth of projects and purchases. In coming weeks, the commission will decide on changes it wants to make to the five-year plan and finalize the projects slotted for next year.
The plan covers 2018 to 2022, and commissioners can make changes to the plan each year during the budget process. This is the second year that the city has done an in-depth capital improvement plan, which is meant to help the commission and city staff better prioritize and coordinate projects among departments.
“(The plan) helps direct those major projects out there that we want to make sure everyone keeps an eye on,” Kidney said.
The draft capital improvement plan includes any upcoming projects estimated at more than $100,000, which is the maximum spending level for the city manager. Markus revamped use of the plan last year to improve the city’s long-range planning.
“Personally I think it’s stunning that we haven’t been operating with a CIP for that many years,” Markus said.
The plan also makes a couple of assumptions regarding future revenue for the city. For one, the plan assumes that voters will choose to renew the city’s additional .55 percent sales tax, which helps fund city infrastructure and transit and is scheduled to sunset at the end of 2018. It also assumes the commission approves annual utility rate increases.
The plan also includes about $61 million of unfunded projects, some of which were citizen-proposed. In order to move a project from unfunded to funded, taxes would have to increase or other projects would have to give way.
“To me it gets down to an issue of how much tax impact do you think the community is willing to consider?” Markus said. “Because if you start to look at all those projects in the unfunded list, there’s a lot of things.”
The 2018-2022 capital improvement plan will go to the planning commission on April 26, then will be sent back to the city commission for additional review. The commission is scheduled to adopt the plan at its meeting May 2, and the budget for next year will be adopted in August.
Below are 10 of the high-dollar projects that the draft capital improvement plan has scheduled for next year or the year after. The full draft of the plan is available on the city’s website.
• Water main replacement: About $21.2 million total is budgeted for routine replacement of water mains. $2.6 million is budgeted for 2018, and the remaining amount divided among 2019-2022.
• Police facility: $17 million is budgeted for 2019 to construct the first phase of a new facility for the Lawrence Police Department.
• Automated meter reading: About $10.9 million total is budgeted to install automated water meters for the utility department. About $6.4 million is budgeted for 2018 and the remainder for 2019.
• Queens Road: $4.6 million is budgeted for 2018 to reconstruct Queens Road from Sixth Street to the city limits.
• Transit hub: $4.5 million is budgeted to construct a hub that would serve as the central transfer point for the city’s bus service. $500,000 is budgeted for 2018 and the remaining amount for 2019.
• 19th Street, phase 2: About $3.9 million is budgeted for 2018 to reconstruct 19th Street from Iowa Street to Naismith Drive.
• Solid waste facility, phase 2: $3.7 million is budgeted for 2019 to construct the second phase of the city’s solid waste facility located on Kresge Road.
• 19th Street reconstruction: About $3.6 million is budgeted for 2019 to reconstruct 19th Street from Harper Street to O’Connell Road.
• East Ninth Street: $2.5 million is budgeted for 2018 to reconstruct several blocks of East Ninth Street.
• Animal shelter: $2.5 million is budgeted to help the Lawrence Humane Society build a new facility. The facility's total cost is estimated at $7.5 million; the Humane Society will be responsible for raising the remaining $5 million.
Below are five of the $61 million of unfunded projects. The full draft of the unfunded projects is available on the city's website.
• Affordable housing initiatives funding increase: A total of $5.85 million was requested. For 2018 and 2019, $1.2 million annually was requested, and $1.15 million was requested for each remaining year in the plan.
• Boys & Girls Club Teen Center: $2.17 million was requested for 2018. The club is in the midst of a fundraising campaign to build a new teen center adjacent to the Lawrence College and Career Center.
• Peaslee Technical Training Center: $837,500 was requested to support the center for 2018. Markus said the amount represents about half the center’s mortgage, and that the city, county and center representatives need to come up with an agreement regarding the center’s public support.
• Lawrence Loop Trail: $500,000 was slotted for 2018 to pave a segment of the trail between Lawrence Memorial Hospital and Peterson Road.
• East Ninth Project Art: $500,000 was requested to support public art that would be incorporated into the reconstruction of East Ninth Street. $400,000 was requested for 2018, and the remaining $100,000 was requested for 2019.