Archive for Sunday, June 11, 2017

Lawrence City Commission to review changes to budget from increased property values, other sources

Increases in property values in Lawrence are giving the city’s budget a boost, but city staff is still recommending an increase in the property tax rate.

Increases in property values in Lawrence are giving the city’s budget a boost, but city staff is still recommending an increase in the property tax rate.

June 11, 2017

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Increases in property values in Lawrence are giving the city’s budget a boost, but city staff is still recommending an increase in the property tax rate.

As part of his 2018 recommended budget, City Manager Tom Markus proposed a 1.25 mill levy increase, which would amount to about a $29 increase in annual property taxes on a $200,000 home. The City Commission will discuss updates to the budget at its meeting Tuesday.

Mayor Leslie Soden said she definitely wants to talk to staff about the changes in revenue and expenditures, as well as to see if there is any likelihood of carrying a balance over from this year to next. Soden said the commission’s new strategic plan, which has prioritized specific short-term priorities, will help the decision-making process.

“This is why having the strategic plan is really helpful for us, so that when things like this happen, then staff is already aware of future goals and can start working on them perhaps earlier than normal," she said.

The recommended budget, released May 4, assumed an assessed value increase for Lawrence properties of 2 percent. The projection is meant to be conservative, and the Douglas County Appraiser’s office has since estimated the increase to be 6 percent, generating a $1.3 million increase in the city’s projected revenue. Other sources of revenue — such as sales tax and franchise fees — came in below projections.

“Despite the increase in assessed valuation, staff continues to recommend a 1.25 mill increase in the mill levy for the Bond and Interest Fund in order to sufficiently fund the proposed multi-year Capital Improvement Plan,” a staff memo to commissioners states.

Over the next five years, Lawrence is looking to fund about 180 large projects and purchases totaling $284 million. A new police facility, automated water meters and major road reconstructions are all in the plans. If approved by the commission, the 1.25-mill increase would generate $11-12 million toward the $17 million police facility.

The recommended budget also includes staff cuts and approximately $9 million in unfunded department requests, including more than $6 million in deferred capital improvement projects and unfunded requests for new staff positions in the human resources, information technology, police and fire-medical departments.

The adjustments to revenue projections for the budget, according to the memo, are as follows:

• Property tax: An increase of about $38 million, or 6 percent, over the assessed valuation used to build the 2017 budget. The result is a total increase of $1.3 million in the projected revenue for the general operating, public library, and bond and interest funds.

• Sales tax: The original budget assumed sales tax proceeds would increase 2.2 percent over the projected 2017 amount. However, recent sales tax collections have been significantly less. The result is a total decrease of $767,000 in revenues for the general operating, public transportation and infrastructure sales tax funds.

• Franchise fees: Revenue from franchise agreements permits have been decreased by $241,000, based on the collections received year to date below this period last year.

• Charges for service: Revenue from building inspections and permits have been increased by $114,000, based on the collections received year to date that continue to exceed original projections.

The memo also notes two significant changes to expenditures made since the recommended budget was released. The cost of longevity payments — for which Markus is now recommending a decrease in November 2018 — will result in an increase in spending of about $280,000. The budget for economic development was reduced by $50,000 due to an entry error that was discovered since release of the recommended budget, according to the memo.

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

Comments

RJ Johnson 10 months, 2 weeks ago

That's what the City of Lawrence is all about! Keep raising those taxes!!

Instead of Rock Chalk Park they should have built a new Police Dept!!!

Gene Douglas 10 months, 1 week ago

Well said and I second that.....and leave out the all too soon and multitudinous foundation cracks.

Bob Summers 10 months, 1 week ago

People in government need your money to feed and clothe their children. They need healthcare too.

Fixing stuff around town is the excuse they use to take it.

Clara Westphal 10 months, 1 week ago

Enough with the property tax increases. Go collect some of the money the city auditor found that is owed the city.

David Holroyd 10 months, 1 week ago

Ms soden if you hire independent inspectors you are spending money that cannot be carried over.maybe you know who is in charge of sending out bills to be paid, do you?

David Reynolds 10 months, 1 week ago

This is absolutely amazing, the discussion the city is having regarding the increased revenues..."Hey we have more money, how can we spend it?"

Does "City Hall" have any respect for the citizens precious tax dollars? Why can't the city say to the citizens..."No mill levy increase this year, and by the way here is a small decrease, as a thank you for supporting the city when the city really needed the money."

No, the city can't manage it's own affairs as shown by not handling billing properly. Why aren't heads rolling over that issue? Where is the accountability? Why has it taken years for the auditor to find this issue? That is just plain horrible stewardship of the tax payers money!

And now I read in the paper this AM that the city is going to spend $58,000 to save a hundred year old tree...Amazing! Couldn't some other arrangement be made to accommodate this situation? If this was West Lawrence the City would be demanding a certain number of "Affordable Housing Units", or some other exaction. Why not request the builder donate the lot with the tree on it as a park, instead of just the "unbuildable land"?

If the City has so much excess cash sitting around why not use that $58,000 to fix our deteriorating sidewalks? The City can make a quick decision to spend $58,000 to save a tree, but can't make a decision to finance & repair our crumbling infrastructure?

There shouldn't be any need to go to City Staff to discuss how to spend excess funds! If there are excess funds then that means the city wasn't expecting or planning to use those funds. The Citizens don't need a knee jerk reaction from the city, to scramble to find some "projects" to spend the money.

The City Commission needs to exhibit some real leadership & financial stewardship..."Give The Money Back To The Citizens"! The citizens can manage their own money, thank you very much.

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