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City manager forecasting increase in city's general fund property tax rate for 2014 budget


If City Manager David Corliss has his way, property tax bills in Lawrence may go up just a bit in 2014.

Corliss is in the process of preparing his recommended 2014 city budget, but he has provided city commissioners a peek at one of the bottomline numbers. Corliss is forecasting that his recommended budget will call for at least a 0.4 mill increase in the city’s property tax rate, mainly to pay for four new positions in the city-county 911 center, for increased overtime costs for the police department and for additional equipment in the public works department.

In case your abacus is acting up in the heat, let me take my shoes off and do the math for you. A 0.4 mill increase would amount to an extra $9.20 a year in property taxes for the owner of a $200,000 home.

But as the saying goes at City Hall, the city manager proposes and the City Commission disposes. In other words, just because Corliss is recommending a mill levy increase doesn’t mean that City Commissioners will approve one.

Corliss is scheduled to provide a budget update to commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting. But most of the heavy budget lifting for the commission comes after Corliss releases his recommended budget, which is scheduled to happen in the last week of June. Commissioners then have until early August to finalize the budget for 2014.

There are still several questions outstanding on what else will be included in Corliss’ recommended budget. Budget-makers will have to make some decisions related to the budget for the Lawrence Public Library. Leaders at the library have asked for about $173,000 in additional funding for its operations. The library’s mill levy is separate from the city’s general fund mill levy, but both are controlled by city commissioners. Corliss didn’t provide a forecast for what may happen to that mill levy, but staff members previously have said the additional funding would either require a mill levy increase or a draw down of the library’s reserve funds. In other words, the total increase in the tax rate for city property owners may be more than 0.4 mill, depending on what happens to the library fund.

A mill levy increase for the library shouldn’t really catch anybody by surprise. During the bond election, library supporters said they would need a mill levy increase for both the construction of the expanded library and for the operations of the larger facility. Thus far, city commissioners have mainly just increased the mill levy to cover the construction costs but not the operational costs. The library is expected to move into the larger facility in 2014.

If the city’s mill levy does increase, it will continue a trend. The city’s property tax rate has increased each of the last two years, mainly due to increased spending to add more police officers and the voter-approved $19 million library expansion. The increases ended a period in the mid-to-late 2000s where the mill levy either held steady or declined. Here’s a look at mill levy rates:

• 2003: 28.09

• 2004: 27.86

• 2005: 26.36

• 2006: 26.36

• 2007: 26.79

• 2008: 26.65

• 2009: 26.69

• 2010: 26.69

• 2011: 28.61

• 2012: 29.53.

It is also worth noting that in 2008, city voters approved three new sales taxes — two for public transit and one for infrastructure — that took significant pressure off the city’s property.

It will be interesting to see if city commissioners balk at any increase in the mill levy this year, or whether they are willing to live with a small increase. An increase this year will come on the heels of the city’s decision to use recently unencumbered sales tax dollars to pay for a $25 million recreation center and infrastructure for the KU-oriented Rock Chalk Park project. City commissioners resisted calls to use those recently unencumbered sales tax dollars to fund other city budget priorities.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.


patkindle 2 years, 3 months ago

lets all open our check books and fund the new property tax increase after all , it is all about the kids, the homeless and the arts

Thomas Christie 2 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, toe... Teachers are so overpaid. Geezze

2 years, 3 months ago

Those overpaid teachers. I'd love to have starting pay of almost $40,000 to work little over 200 days a year.

Keith 2 years, 3 months ago

Nothing stopping you from going back to school to get qualified.

jack22 2 years, 3 months ago

Fred, your comments show you don't know much about teaching. There are hours and hours of unpaid labor for planning coursework, correcting papers, interacting with parents, being a babysitter and psychiatrist, etc. I'd bet it would actually be more work than I guy like you could probably ever handle. If you think it is so easy by all means do it and prove me wrong.

gatekeeper 2 years, 3 months ago

You don't get paid that much starting out. You can get up into that level after getting your master's. 200 days, huh? Teachers that care and those above K-3 level work thier butts off. Your day doesn't end when the school day ends. You stay or take work home. You pay out of your own pocket for supplies because the schools don't have enough funding to provide everything. You sometimes buy supplies because some poor families can't afford them for thier kids (I used to by toothbrushes and toothpaste because I had kids that didn't have them at home). Those summer breaks - that's when you go back and take a couple college courses because the only way to move up the pay scale is too keep adding credits and degrees and many teachers get part time or temp jobs to supplement their low pay.

I did it. Low pay, extremely long hours, parents you want to strangle (parents are more of a pain than the kids) and no appreciation. I went to the private sector and never looked back. Kills me because I loved the kids I worked with (spec ed), but the stress and everything else wasn't worth it. I know so many that have left for the same reasons.

Those that complain about teachers have never been in their shoes and have no clue.

Sue Grosdidier 2 years, 3 months ago

Maybe you should spend a day in a school and see what a pud job it is. Let me tell you as an educator, I work nights and weekends and many days in the summer to get ready for the upcoming year. Obviously, you do not know any educators you would sing a different tune if you did. When working with kids your job never ends.

jack22 2 years, 3 months ago

Well, we have to raise taxes somewhere, after all, we're not charging the developers their fair share of taxes for all the cheap high rise apartment buildings and hotels they're giving us. When you read tax abatement for development in the news it just means more tax for the rest of us.

2 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, cause the .001 mil levy increase it would take to cover the few thousand dollars a year abatement is a huge burden on the tax payer.

That's just too much to ask to create some jobs and all those property tax dollars that weren't in the abatement.

jack22 2 years, 3 months ago

Fred, simple math my friend. Someone has to pay for all the police, firefighters, roads, sewers, and other infrastructure we all use. If you're adding a huge apartment building into the mix, you shouldn't get a huge break from paying for all the resources you're taking. Adding a few leasing agents and dishwasher jobs isn't a fair trade off for us taxpayers.

jack22 2 years, 3 months ago

Those temporary construction jobs are a good thing, but these developers have their own construction companies that they move around from project to project. It's not like they're hiring a ton of new people or adding any new jobs that wouldn't have been there anyway without all the tax breaks. I don't think anyone needs a 20 year tax holiday to help them decide to develop prime commercial real estate in downtown Lawrence.

gatekeeper 2 years, 3 months ago

Often they bring in outside labor that's cheaper than using local people.

Tammy Copp-Barta 2 years, 3 months ago

Funny - I though a while back - when they were wanting to fund the library and the new rec center, the told us we had all this money?!?!?!?!!??

Keith 2 years, 3 months ago

Can we just write a check to the Bliss Foundation?

kansasredlegs 2 years, 3 months ago

"Overtime costs for the police department," really? Chad review the paper's article about the overtime paid to LPD officers, some of whom made more than Chief Khatib. The reason for the review is because your newspaper was told that most of that overtime was due to long, expensive FEDERAL drug investigations and these expended funds would be reimbursed by the federal government. So, was the reporter being lied to then or now? Ask Mr. Corliss for the receipt showing that federal reimbursement. If no receipt can be produced, ask why your paper had be advised otherwise when LPD was requesting additional officers last budget cycle? It's definitely budget time, as evidenced by Mr. Corliss' reliance of tax payers to forget what were told when spending our money last year.

Come on Dave, open the books and show that federal reimbursement. If reimbursed, then your explanation for additional tax money taken from us is a sham.

Thomas Bryce 2 years, 3 months ago

Lawrence Property Taxes go up and Douglas County Property Valuations go down. My property is not the only one to loose value I am sure. Lower valuation, Lower Taxes. If my Douglas County Valuation had stayed the same or increased wouldn't I be paying more taxes? Why are so many properties in Douglas county actually Decreasing in value?

Matthew Herbert 2 years, 3 months ago

Because they are finally coming to terms with reality. Two years ago I paid $97k for a house (fair market not short sale). The property tax valuation was $140k. A property should be valued at what the market supports not what the city dreams up

George_Braziller 2 years, 3 months ago

This is peanuts compared to what's going to happen to property taxes next year when State funding for municipalities is cut because of Brownback's tax plan. Prepare to watch them shoot through the roof (if you still have one over your head).

George_Braziller 2 years, 3 months ago

And let's not forget about the $440 million school funding issue. That still hasn't been resolved and in court waiting for some movement. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature violated funding levels required by the State Constitution but they chose to ignore the ruling. La, la, la, la, la --- we'll just stick our fingers in our ears and pretend we didn't hear it because that will make it go away.

guavablues 2 years, 3 months ago

Property taxes are to high yet we keep spending on some things that are not needed. With Brownback's budget property tax is going up further. I voted against the library and the school bond because I see what's coming down the road.

dirt 2 years, 3 months ago

If we become more business friendly, and allow more jobs sales tax will go up and help take care of our shortfall. If we keep the doors shut and don't allow anyone in or allow any change, guess who gets to pay? The people that are still here.

Centerville 2 years, 3 months ago

toe: teachers got at 3% raise? Can't be -we've been hearing for 18 months that they're starving to death and that teacher salaries are being cut "drastically" and, of course, "to the bone."

Richard Heckler 2 years, 3 months ago

One could say all the new development of the past 25 years is not paying back the taxpayers. Saturating the markets has never ever been good for business. All of those years of inflated real estate values enabled reckless spending to live well.

City hall, elected officials and local profiteers are draining OUR pocketbooks and raising OUR taxes. We've subsidized local profiteers at such a basic level for so long, that many people believe Lawrence will die if we don't. This is false-what we think of as a level playing field is tilted steeply in favor of local profiteers driving development.

How do we subsidize profiteers?

--- pick up the cost of more criminal activity as Lawrence grows.

--- building new and wider roads such as the SLT.

--- building schools on the fringe.

--- extending sewer and water lines to not necessary development.

--- extending emergency services to the fringe.

--- direct pay-outs to developers.

--- For example in Lawrence downtown two more 9th and New Hampshire structures looking at more and quite healthy multi-million tax $$$$ “donations if you will”. http://www.sierraclub.org/sprawl/report00/intro.asp

"Free Lunch: How Local Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Taxpayer Expense (And Stick You with the Bill)." This reveals how local government subsidies and new regulations have quietly funneled money from the local poor and the local middle class to the rich politically connected.

Bill Moyers http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01182008/transcript.html

David Cay Johnson – What exactly is TIF? http://www.democracynow.org/2008/1/18/free_lunch_how_the_wealthiest_americans

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