Lawrence City Commission to hold public hearing on 2019 budget

photo by: Mike Yoder

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

City of Lawrence leaders will soon take the next step in shaping the city’s 2019 budget, which, as currently proposed, would hold the property tax rate flat, increase utility rates and provide millions for new projects.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will hold a public hearing on the budget. As proposed, the $206.5 million budget includes about $69 million in capital improvement projects for next year, including funding for a new bus hub, sidewalk repairs, automated water meters and downtown security cameras.

The full proposed budget is located on the city’s website. A rundown of some of the budget’s components is as follows:

• Property taxes: The budget holds the mill levy rate flat at 33.279 mills, but rising home values mean some residents will pay more than last year once property tax bills are calculated. It’s estimated that assessed valuation will increase 5.3 percent. The owner of a $175,500 home, the median home value in Lawrence, would pay $10 more per year, according to budget estimates.

• Utility rate increases: The budget provides a 7.5 percent increase in the rates for water and sewer and a 3 percent increase for stormwater. City utility bills for the typical household will go up about $58 per year, according to budget estimates.

• Sidewalk maintenance: The budget provides $1 million of sidewalk repairs. Of that amount, $800,000 will go toward a public sidewalk hazard mitigation fund, which will be used to provide financial assistance to help qualifying homeowners repair sidewalks adjacent to their properties. Another $200,000 is allocated for repairs of sidewalks owned by the city. The repair dollars are separate from another $600,000 allocated for sidewalk, pedestrian and bikeway improvements.

• Bus hub: The budget provides $4.5 million for the construction of a new transfer hub for the city’s bus service. A consultant-led study determined the two best locations for the city’s bus transfer hub were the 700 block of Vermont Street and a site at 1941 Stewart Ave., but the City Commission directed city staff to talk to University of Kansas officials about the possibility of using a location on Bob Billings Parkway. Another $500,000 is budgeted from the public transit fund to purchase additional buses for fixed routes, and an additional $150,000 is budgeted for transit shelters and amenities.

• Automated meter reading: The budget provides $4.45 million toward the installation of additional automated utility meters. Some funding for new water meters that won’t have to be checked manually has already been approved. Last year, as part of the 2018 budget, about $6.42 million was allocated for the project.

• Downtown public cameras: The budget provides $108,000 from the city’s special alcohol fund for public cameras. Lawrence Police Chief Gregory Burns Jr. previously recommended that 19 overt cameras — meaning they are noticeable by passersby — be installed on Massachusetts Street between Sixth and 11th streets. City leaders requested the public cameras be considered following a shooting in October on Massachusetts Street that killed three people and injured two others.

The City Commission will convene at 5:00 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.


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