Archive for Monday, July 10, 2017

Lawrence City Commission to consider asking voters to renew city sales tax

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., Thursday, July 7, 2016

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., Thursday, July 7, 2016

July 10, 2017


At their meeting Tuesday, city commissioners will decide whether to ask Lawrence voters to renew a citywide sales tax instead of allowing it to expire next year.

If renewed, the .55 percent citywide sales tax would be in place from 2019 to 2029 and is projected to generate more than $116 million for city infrastructure improvements, transit operations and affordable housing projects.

Instead of allowing the tax to sunset, city staff are recommending that the City Commission approve an election to ask for its renewal. The renewal would be part of the Nov. 7 election, and the ballot question would allow voters to consider each of the three components of the tax individually.

The .55 percent tax breaks down as follows: .3 percent for infrastructure, .2 percent for transit and .05 percent for the city’s affordable housing trust fund. Currently, the .05 percent funds expansion of the city’s transit service, but that portion would be repurposed as part of the renewal.

Specifically, the infrastructure portion of the tax would fund improvements and maintenance of streets, sidewalks and storm water facilities; construction and maintenance of recreational trails and paths; and purchase and replacement of city fire equipment and infrastructure.

The transit portion would fund the operations of the city’s public transit service. In a memo to the commission, staff state that the sales tax is the primary source of local funding for transit operations and that the service would not likely continue without a renewal. The affordable housing portion would provide additional revenues for affordable housing projects and programs in the city.

If renewed, the city projects the taxes to generate more than $63 million for infrastructure, $42 million for transit and $10.5 million for affordable housing over a 10-year period. The proposed 2018 budget also calls for a 1.25-mill increase in the property tax rate. Last week, a local group launched a campaign for voters to reject the city sales tax renewal.

When combined with the county and state’s sales tax rates, Lawrence residents pay 9.05 percent on their purchases, which in Kansas includes groceries. The .55 percent sales tax is in addition to the 1 percent general city sales tax . If not renewed by Lawrence voters, the taxes will sunset in March 2019.

In other business, the commission will:

Conduct a public hearing regarding VanTrust Real Estate’s application to the city’s Catalyst incentive program. The real estate company is seeking city tax abatements and free land to construct up to $31 million of industrial buildings at Lawrence VenturePark.

The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.


David Holroyd 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Rochelle, could you write a story and inquire how the HERE project was touted at 75 million dollars but is now only valued at $29 million for taxation? And the site was purchased for$6,800,000 deed recorded 121/12/2014...They bought land...that is the bottom line so deduct the land from $29 Million and then the value is around 22 MILLION..

the numbers are so confusing that a reporter at the Journal World could straighten this out by interviewing Mr. Brad Eldridge and Mr. Miles in the appraiser's office.

Rochelle, will Chad help you out? The public needs to know how to get their valuatons to 40 percent.

See, then Deborah could take 80% of her house valuation and pay lower property taxes like HERE or Van Trust is about to do.

Lawrence residents are suckers, they really are.

Chad Lawhorn 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Hi David: We did write about this particular issue. I addressed it in a Town Talk column in May 2015. It provided an explanation from the city about the difference between the $75 million number — which was used when the project was seeking tax incentives — and the approximately $45 million number when the project got its building permit. The $45 million represents just building materials and labor. The $75 million also included land costs, demo cost, and quite a few soft costs. Despite the explanation, I still noted it was odd, but the issue didn’t seem to cause much concern with others. The current question is why the project has a tax value of about $29 million when the building permit was close to $45 million. Tax values and building permit numbers don’t always match, but they usually are a lot closer than that. I’ve had discussions with a county official about it. One explanation is the project still really isn’t finished from a tax valuation standpoint (and definitely wasn’t on Jan. 1 when the tax value was set.) If you remember, the city has placed occupancy restrictions on the building until it gets some parking issues and other issues resolved. The lack of the robotic garage also will likely reduce the value of the project some, as the building now has to rely on leased, off-site parking to a large degree. Still, it is an interesting question. Unfortunately, I think we’ll probably have to wait until the 2018 values to get a better picture of it. Here’s the link to the May 2015 article:

Carol Bowen 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Wasn't the assessed value prorated based on apartments ready to rent?

Bob Summers 9 months, 2 weeks ago

These government people covet your money to the point of gluttony. Their greed is a sickness.

John Kyle 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I like the ability to repair roads, have a transit system and help people with affordable housing. How do you propose we pay for road improvements? (Paranoia is an actual sickness)

Carol Bowen 9 months, 2 weeks ago

The sales tax funds practical infrastructure. If this request does not get the community's support, we will be driving over pot holes because we chose to.

RJ Johnson 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Why, they have a 1.4 million surplus from the sales tax already, which means they don't need it. I vote NO!!

Carol Bowen 9 months, 2 weeks ago

You must have missed the discussion about the city's neglected infrastructure. We are talking decades of neglect. Our tax money funded new growth and projects, but there was little to attention to maintenance, repair, or renovation of existing infrastructure. We could continue letting the old vs the new compete for funds, or we cam buck up and fund both old and new infrastructure.

David Holroyd 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Well, Chad thanks for the explanation provided but I would like to know if you could interview Mr. Brad Eldridge at the assessor's office. Something is not correct in the 29 million, it really isn't.

The paper consistently said it was a 75 million dollar project so the final product should be $75 million for taxation.

Since when did the number of units occupied play into the valuation? I know many owners of multifamlly properties and the county makes no exceptions for vacant units. That is fact!

So who was the county official that provided the answer? I might even consider paying my back taxes if the county gave me an 80% break on valuation. That would be taxes on a very small number but the fact is , even with that they would be too high.

The problem with the 29million, if I am correct, is that , that amount is what the tax abatement is figured on..correct?

If Mr. Eldridge is going to set a lower value , why then would the PIRC committee and the commissioners even want to give an abatement? Mr. Eldridge already did so.

And back to the $75 million, that was the figure set for exemption of sales taxes on materials. Did Stevens Construction and HERE officials really buy $75 million worth of materials? If the building permit as you stated was for $45 million, why then did the commission at the time agree to the $75 million for IRBs. The building permit included the garage, so I am not clear how not being able to park cars changes the valuation. The real estate is there, the structure is there and now I am wondering if the figure shown for the 2017 taxes may be a bit low for the retail side..

You are correct about 2018, but will those two numbers, retail and residential reach anywhere close to $75 million.

I understand there was a hearing and Mr. Eldridge was involved and some others. Can you verify that and if so, who were the others.

It might be beneficial for many owners to know who to contact when an appeal is necessary.

btw, is it true that the City Planning department has made access to building permit information a bit more difficult? That's the rumor at the swap meet.

thanks Chad for commenting, now only if the printed paper had these comments and answers in it, the Journal World would exceed sales above those of National Enquirer.

The juicy stuff is on these comment sections, it really is.

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