Archive for Thursday, May 4, 2017

City manager’s recommended budget includes tax increase for police station, staff cuts

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

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

May 4, 2017


As part of his recommended budget, City Manager Tom Markus is proposing a 1.25 mill levy increase and the elimination of nearly a dozen positions.

“In order to present a balanced budget, tough decisions had to be made,” Markus wrote in a budget summary to the City Commission.

The mill levy increase will go to fund the construction of the first phase of a new police facility. The increase is exempt from the state’s new tax lid law, according to Assistant City Manager Casey Toomay.

The recommended 2018 budget was released Thursday evening. Markus is recommending a $415,000 increase, or .56 percent, in spending from the city’s general operating fund. Some of that money will go toward salary increases for eligible employees, an administrative support position dealing with Lawrence Police Department body cameras, and a municipal court security guard.

The proposed 1.25 mill levy increase would amount to about a $29 increase in annual property taxes on a $200,000 home.

Toomay said more money is allocated toward areas that the City Commission indicated it would like to focus on as part of its strategic plan. The strategic plan is broken into seven factors such as asset management, fiscal planning, commitment to core services, as well as safe, healthy and welcoming neighborhoods. She noted that the police facility, funding for body cameras and municipal court security fall into the commitment to core services goal.

“I think the focus this year is trying to move more in the direction of showing how we’re spending public dollars toward achieving those strategic goals that the commission identified,” Toomay said.

The recommended budget eliminates 11 positions, including the city auditor position, which examines the performance of multiple city programs. Markus proposed eliminating that position during last year's budget, but commissioners ultimately agreed to keep it. The only filled position that would be eliminated is the city auditor. In this latest budget proposal, the other 10 positions proposed to be cut are already vacant. The vacant positions that will not be filled are: one code enforcement position, two solid waste loader positions, one administrative support position, one communication manager position, three utility meter reader positions, one assistant golf pro position and an administrator at Sports Pavilion Lawrence.

Toomay noted that personnel costs are a major part of the city’s spending.

“Our salary and benefits are almost 40 percent of our expenditures,” Toomay said.

Under the recommendations, funding for social service agencies is held flat at $1.36 million, and the city will undergo a new process for allocating those funds. Instead of including specific allocations in the recommended budget, the Social Service Funding Advisory Board will provide recommendations for how to allocate the funds.

For the 2018 budget, the amount generated from property taxes is expected to grow an estimated 2 percent. Under the new spending lid, the amount of additional money the city is allowed to collect without getting voter approval is generally limited to the five-year average rate of inflation, but there are several exceptions. Because the police facility falls under those exceptions, Toomay said a special election would not be required.

In 2015, state lawmakers passed a law that requires cities and counties to get voter approval before increasing property tax revenues from one year to the next beyond the rate of inflation. Exemptions to the tax policy include debt service, public safety functions, legal settlements and spending to comply with state or federal mandates.

While revenues are growing, Toomay said another focus of the budget is that that growth is not enough.

“The cost of providing services in many areas increases, and our revenues, while they are growing, aren’t always growing at a rate that is equivalent,” Toomay said.

Under the recommended budget, residents would see an increase in their utility bills. If adopted, city utility bills for the typical household would go up about $60 per year.

Exactly what the final budget will look like will be determined this summer. City commissioners will alter the budget over the next two to three months, for final adoption in either August or September.

The timeline for the budget process depends on whether the commission decides to increase taxes beyond what is permitted by the tax lid, which the city manager’s budget is not recommending. At their meeting June 20, commissioners will determine whether to hold a mail ballot election to increase taxes beyond the tax lid.

The recommended budget will be presented to the City Commission at its work session Tuesday. The work session will begin at 3 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.

Correction: Due to an error in the budget document, a previous version of this story stated that two of the 11 positions that the recommended budget proposes to eliminate are vacant. The city auditor is the only position that is currently filled. A previous version of the budget and this article stated the Lawrence Public Library Board dictated a .27 mill levy increase when in fact the library mill was requested to be held flat.


Richard Heckler 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I say vote no on tax increase.

Lawrence needs a mental health facility which may place less demand on the LPD.

Amy Varoli Elliott 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Please provide proof of your claims. I would like to know these homeless people who are traveling from the coast a thousand miles to the middle of the US to live in a homeless shelter in Kansas.

Mike Riner 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Amy, I come in contact with homeless persons on a regular basis. Not all are from out of the area, but I have had a couple tell me they came here from the east coast and one came from the west coast. Some have told me they travel to and from Colorado. I believe some of them are transient in the true sense of the word. Again, not all.

Paul Beyer 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Think I'll simply call pure BS on your claims that homeless travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to live in Lawrence homeless shelters.

RJ Johnson 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Most of the homeless at our shelter are not even from Lawrence. I posted when they wanted to build the shelter they would come from far and wide!

Richard Heckler 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I say vote no on tax increase.

Lawrence needs a mental health facility which may place less demand on the LPD.

One thing about a mental health health facility is that these services are in demand and often can be supported with medical insurance or other government assistance. Thus off the backs of the taxpayers per se.

Jail cells have yet to prove themselves as appropriate mental heath treatment centers or for that matter rehabilitation centers. I would rather have tax dollars spent on training through a Vo-Tech thus providing a skill or technical training thus opening doors for a self sustaining lifestyle.

It also seems our incarceration and house arrest programs are operated through private for profit vendors which makes it tough on those who want to change to become a more productive person. If any Lawrence/Douglas County law enforcement service is through a private for profit vendor I want that cut off now. Taxpayers cannot afford such corporate nonsense = draining our wallets.

Jennifer Harrison 10 months, 3 weeks ago

The police station has nothing at all to do with mental health. It has everything to do with cramming a patrol division, records division, mental health unit, crime analysis unit, evidence, IT division, report writing area, interview rooms, a briefing room, locker room, and office space into 9,000 square feet. That building was built in the 70's and has clearly outgrown its needs.

The police department has never EVER had its own police facility and it is time we the taxpayers build them one so they can do the job we expect of them, in a building they can be proud to work in.

Eric Gruber 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Why does the new city manager hate the city auditor position so much?

Richard Heckler 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I believe it to a good service to provide data on what is paying back so to speak and what is not. Fiscal responsibility needs that information.

David Holroyd 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Because Mr. Markus does not want anyone looking over his shoulder!!! Simple!!

The problem with the auditor is that the previous commission hired a local boy that is a runner with Wildgen and came from Funkhouser's front porch in KCMO.

The city commission, inept then and now, should have hired a real auditor with no connection to Lawrence and then put the guy/girl to work. But hence that has never happened.

Why did Mr. Eglinski leave Funkhouser's front porch? Remember Mayor Funkhouser?

Clara Westphal 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Eric, I agree. Getting rid of the auditor position has come up before. Why are they so anxious to get rid of the auditor? That position is very important to keep city business on the up and up.

David Holroyd 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Clara, the reason is the same as the Board of Just Food not doing their job and having an auditor keep track of the books and the Board members, and one was a banker no less!

Markus is on the take for a salary and bye bye. Quite frankly,one would think at age 66 he would retire and do something else and enjoy himself. Everyone I know at 66 is busy traveling, hobbies, in fact even relocating and not to Lawrence.

How much Clara do you suppose Mr. Markus is making?

Francis Hunt 10 months, 3 weeks ago

The mental health center is a county project not city so don't worry about it Richard. There is plenty of proof about people coming from all over to stay at our shelter. Google Johnson County homeless shelters and the Lawrence Community Shelter comes up (it's less than 10 miles from the county line so why would JoCo spend money on one). The Osawatomie bus drop off has been a problem since day one. "If you build it they will come"

Amy Varoli Elliott 10 months, 3 weeks ago

So because you tried to google one and the other shows up is somehow proof that homeless people are paying hundreds of dollars to come here and be homeless?

Blair Sutton 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Markus, as our city manager, is too new and unproven in this community to suggest eliminating the city auditor position. Let's see Markus pull out some A-grade projects and achievements before eliminating someone that gives solid independent review! If he suggests this again, I suggest we find a new city manager. My vote for commissioners this fall will follow this issue.

Will White 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Remember the retail development on south Iowa St that was denied by the commission for dubious, unintelligible reasons? Wonder if we would be talking tax increase if the commission had done the right thing and approved it.....

David Holroyd 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I thought the City Commissioners had the auditor working for them, not Mr. Markus. Markus wants the auditor gone so no one is looking over his shoulder. A comment above about Markus proving himself is true.

Fact: Mr. Markus cannot even get Doctor McCullough's office to organize even a simple citywide cleanup with staff assisting. Why? No glamour in that.

I just wonder where Mr. Markus is living? Where? The Oread Inn or in a rundown neighborhood in Lawrence which pretty much includes all neighborhoods. Why isn't the City Manager's wife involved in community activities? Is was expected of the Chancellors wives,,well in the case of Ms. Bernadette, Shade filled in.

This city manager is duping the city commission, which by the way is not hard to do.

Just look at them !

Why doesn't the Journal World instead of writing about what happens to JC Penney building or Eudaly' liqour store building do a real story about employees in Lawrence who will get laid off when a business closes.

Lawrence is only interested in the property taxes on vacant buildings and houses and Mr. Markus is right in there with the Chamber and commission.

It is truly too bad that the commission doesn't step forward and say " look when a company lays off employees we are going to assist them, since the Chamber will not" HOW? We can at least give them 3 months of free water,sanitation, trash , storm fees..

The city commission can't even figure that out...and only weeks away...the Mausoleum is still in disrepair..

Any small town around would already have taken care of the problem.

The problem with the Mausoleum is at 6 E 6th. Five problems contribute to it: Amyx, Herbert, Soden, Boley and Larsen.

Mr. Blair Sutton, you are correct. Markus is a drain to the city and when he doesn't want an audtior that the city commisson hired, not he...something smells! I suspect Mr. Kidney and Mr. Markus and Doctor McCullough are all in cohoots at the Development and Planning and Proctology Department.

Folks, you have a city commission that is inept! No guts!

David Holroyd 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Why did Mr. Markus have at least six different jobs. Atnd being in Birmingham Michigan certainly isn't that impressive. I wonder if he knew the folks at Malan Realty?

Paul Beyer 10 months, 3 weeks ago

How mny different jobs have you held? Other than slumlord that is?

Richard Quinlan 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Seems to me Mr Markus has done a fine job rooting out the lost revenues and waste i.e. Fritzel and the yet to be revealed "oops we didnt bill you" issues. He also is questioning some of the good ole boy practices here which I think is great. He does also understand that Lawrence does not have the growth to supply revenue for all of Lawrences envious needs. He has not done the usual panic crapola that Corliss performed each year so I commend him on that. Set attainable priorities in a logical plan then move forward. Lawrence has been guilty of grabbing whatever project and jumping in it without regard to the rest of our needs in the past so I think his approach and development of a long range capital plan is very appropriate. The auditor has done little in my estimation and last years politicking with the city council sealed the deal for me that that position can be eliminated.

Richard Heckler 10 months, 3 weeks ago

The retailers should know and they do know yes even in Lawrence,Kansas. WE know there are only so many dollars available so maybe a hard look at planning should be on the table.

The red flags have been up for awhile about 10 years. Now those ten year flags are being reinforced.

=== Over Retailed In General..... There really Are Too Many Stores Just Ask The Retailers

There really Are Too Many Stores Just Ask The Retailers

More have closed:

According to Adobe:

Perhaps fewer stores could be hiring more employees if the pie were not so small at this point.

Perhaps economic growth tax dollars could be better spent training our population for technical positions throughout the Douglas County/JOCO/KCMO metro. We know most people would rather live in Lawrence no matter where they are employed. Training locals for better paying technical positions could provide that perception a boost and the money to live in Lawrence.

David Holroyd 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Paul Beyer,,,I had one job too many. More at least than you...after all, there is no Paul Beyer.

And please do inform me of the properties I am supposed to have owned...really now, can't you figure that out. So there I gave you a response which you were seeking and got you all tingly and happy.

Too bad the posters are not real...but instead use fake names

Trump is right about fake news.

Paul Beyer 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Surprised to hear I don't exist. So the army had a non-existent person for 20 years and promoted all the way to senior master sergeant a non person? Talk about a FUBAR organization.

David Holroyd 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Please Mr. Beyer, you present no proof of being a senior master sergeant...btw the Army has no position of Senior Master Sergeant... but.the air force does ..perhaps you cannot recall what branch you were in.

Next tell me you were in clandestine operations and your current name is not really Paul Beyer...but when you are dead the real name will come forth.

Richard Heckler 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Exactly what the final budget will look like will be determined this summer.

City commissioners will alter the budget over the next two to three months, for final adoption in either August or September, depending on whether an election related to the tax spending lid is held.

The recommended budget was released Thursday, about a month earlier than last year.

“We’ve tried to start this a lot earlier,” Markus said. “And part of that thought process was to get the manager’s recommended budget out there to give the public enough time to really see what is there, rather than waiting until the latter part of the process.”

The recommended budget will be presented to the City Commission at its work session Tuesday. The work session will begin at 3 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.

The budget proposal related to LPD financing:

City Commission agenda or lack thereof ........

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