Lawrence City Commission moves forward with budget adjustments, including loop funding
photo by: Nick Krug
City leaders made several adjustments to the proposed 2019 budget Tuesday evening, one of which would fund the design process for a segment of the citywide trail system.
The budget includes $100,000 for the design of the downtown segment of the Lawrence Loop, with plans for construction to take place in upcoming years. Commissioners directed city staff to provide funding for the loop last week, and indicated they were satisfied with the changes.
“I like the changes that were made from the last discussion we had on this,” Vice Mayor Lisa Larsen said. “I’m glad we have money for the loop, and about the other changes that were made.”
The loop is about 75 percent complete and will eventually provide a continuous 22-mile concrete path around the city, with connector trails linking it to neighborhoods. As originally proposed, the 2019 budget did not include any money for the loop, and the only allocation in the city’s five-year capital improvement plan was $600,000 for the downtown segment in 2021. But the city amended the CIP Tuesday, and it now calls for more than $1 million for the construction of the downtown segment and other gaps in the trail over the next few years.
The CIP is examined every year as part of the budget process, and several other changes were made to it on Tuesday. The city removed $1.5 million included in 2023 for an event space at the Indoor Aquatic Center and $2 million included in 2020 for a downtown parking garage. Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard clarified that the removal of funding for the parking garage, which is related to a proposal for a downtown grocery store, was unrelated to the loop discussion. Stoddard said removing the garage’s funding was done based on discussions with the city’s parking consultant, who advised that the garage wasn’t necessary for the project.
The city’s proposed $206.5 million budget for 2019 will hold the city’s mill levy rate flat at 33.279 mills. However, the budget calls for an increase in the rates for water, sewer and stormwater. If it is adopted, city utility bills for the typical household will go up about $58 per year, according to budget estimates. Overall, the budget estimates that residents will see about a 4 percent increase in the cost of all city services next year because of increased utility rates and rising home values.
The commission also voted on amendments to the 2018 budget, which determined what the city will do with a $2.25 million surplus in the city’s general fund. Commissioners voted to move forward with plans proposed last week to put $2.05 million of the surplus in the city’s capital improvement reserve fund, which is used to fund improvements to city facilities and infrastructure. Commissioners also voted to transfer the remaining $200,000 of the surplus to the city’s affordable housing trust fund, with a plan to use it for a housing voucher program for homeless families.
Finance Director Bryan Kidney said the largest portion of the approximately $2 million transferred to the capital improvement reserve fund will be used for sidewalk repairs. Specifically, he pointed to plans for 2019 to allocate $800,000 for a public sidewalk hazard mitigation fund, which will be used to provide financial assistance to help qualifying homeowners repair sidewalks adjacent to their properties. Kidney also noted another $200,000 that is allocated for repairs of sidewalks owned by the city.
Also at the meeting, the commission set the city’s maximum spending authority at $280.4 million. That spending authority includes both the $206.5 million budget and the city’s various reserve funds.
Now that the maximum expenditures for 2019 have been established, the commission can adjust them downward but not upward. The public hearing on the budget will take place Aug. 7.