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Governor's budget produces list of potential local losers

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Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ proposed state budget may end one contentious debate at Lawrence City Hall. But it is almost guaranteed to create a whole host of other ones. For the past couple of years, debate has broken out over how the city ought to be spending money in its Special Alcohol Fund. The city has broken from the recommendations of if its Special Alcohol Fund Advisory Board to fund Lawrence police officers who act as school resource officers. A whole host of social service agencies in Lawrence have objected because that money has traditionally been an exclusive funding source for non-profit agencies that help youth or people with drug and alcohol problems. The fund receives its money from a portion of the special tax that is charged on liquor sales at bars and restaurants. Believe it or not, in Lawrence that’s a pretty good industry. It is good enough that the governor is proposing that the state keep all those tax collections for itself rather than sending about 70 percent of them back to the cities and counties where they are collected. That’s one way to make the City Hall debate moot. So, what groups or agencies here in Lawrence may be staring a big loss in the face? Here’s a look at how the money is scheduled to be distributed in 2009:• $250,000 to the Lawrence Police Department to partially fund its school resource officers program
• $100,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence
• $44,000 to the youth program Van Go Mobile Arts
• $41,000 to the drug and alcohol counseling program DCCCA
• $29,150 to DCCCA’s First Step House program
• $27,000 to the Big Brothers/Big Sisters CORE program
• $27,000 to the homeless shelter Lawrence Community Shelter;
• $22,500 to the suicide prevention program Headquarters Inc.;
• $17,000 to Women’s Transitional Care Services;
• $4,500 to the Ballard Community Center;
The liquor tax money also provides the resources for an entirely separate fund called the Special Recreation Fund. That fund provides $25,000 in scholarships for the Lawrence Arts Center, and provides $25,500 in funding to the Lawrence Arts Commission. Plus, the money is used for a variety of city projects related to the operation of the swimming pools and maintenance of parks. All these programs could be forced to make mid-year budget adjustments, if the governor’s budget is approved. Since the state’s fiscal year starts on July 1, City Manager David Corliss is estimating that the city would only receive half of the liquor tax revenues it has budgeted to receive in 2009. Then, presumably, in 2010, the city wouldn’t receive any liquor tax money. But, of course, this is only if the governor’s budget gets passed by the state. And that’s a big if. Corliss at Tuesday night’s City Commission meeting was reverting back to an old saying he surely used often in one of his previous jobs as a lobbyist for the League of Kansas Municipalities: “The governor proposes and the legislature disposes.” With the state potentially facing a $1 billion shortfall, we’ll see if that’s how it works this year.

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