In my household, July means the start of two seasons: This is about the time that my wife’s refusal to turn on the air conditioner causes the kids and I to set up Gatorade stations throughout the house, and it is when city officials really start to dive into their budgeting process.
Fortunately, the weather has been cool this week, so there’s been plenty of time to focus on the budget. We’ve already reported that City Manager David Corliss’ recommended budget for 2014 calls for a 0.4 mill increase, which amounts to about $9.20 per year in extra taxes on a $200,000 home.
But the budget has a lot more details in it than just the bottomline. Here’s a look at a few other items of interest:
• There may be one fewer place for downtown motorists to park for free. As part of his budget, Corliss is proposing that the top level of the public parking garage in the 900 block of New Hampshire Street no longer be available for free parking. City officials several years ago agreed to make the top level of the garage free to park as a way to encourage more use of the garage. Usage of the garage, however, is not expected to be a problem in the future. Already, demand is up because of the multi-story apartment building at 901 New Hampshire, and more motorists are expected to be in the area as a new hotel/retail building gets built on the southeast corner of the intersection. By the way, hotel developer Doug Compton has told me he expects to get started on construction of the hotel around July 10.
• Perhaps we won’t get to make those fun commercials to attract retirees to Lawrence after all. Corliss’ budget does not recommend funding $30,000 for an annual marketing campaign to attract more retirees to the community. This will be an interesting one to watch because the city and county already have spent good money to get the ball rolling on retiree attraction. In January, commissioners agreed, along with the county, to award a $34,500 contract to Lawrence-based Kern Group to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy to attract higher-end retirees to the area. The contract calls for the group to create a title/slogan, a logo, a Web site, a package for marketing materials, and concepts for various print, broadcast and online advertising. Kern was up-front with officials that he expected it would take an advertising budget of about $60,000 to $80,000 a year to get the message out. If city officials don’t chip in $30,000 for the effort, I’m not sure where that leaves the commitment from the county or private stakeholders who may have made donations. We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, a fantastic advertising campaign hangs in the balance. I can see the commercial now: Retirees doing keg stands and streaking down Jayhawk Boulevard, followed by the tag line of “Lawrence: Where you are never old enough to know better.”
• Of all the books in the Lawrence Public Library, there must not be one entitled: How to Get Your Budget Request Fully-Funded at City Hall. Corliss is recommending a $100,000 increase in funding for the library as it prepares to move into its expanded facility downtown. But library leaders had asked for $175,000 increase. It is not unusual for agencies not to get everything they ask for, but how Corliss is proposing to fund this $100,000 increase is unusual. He recommends that the library fund dip into its rather paltry cash reserves to fund the $100,000 increase rather than raising the mill levy to do so. The library fund has about $235,000 in cash reserves, so this increase will eat up a good part of it. The strategy goes against the grain of one of Corliss’ long-held budget philosophies that permanent expenses need to be funded by permanent revenue sources. But in talking with Corliss, I think he is just hoping to buy time until the 2015 budget. The library’s first full year in its new facility will be 2015, and Corliss has said he has not forgotten what city officials told voters when they approved the $19 million expansion of the library. Officials told voters that they would provide the library additional money to operate the larger library. It was estimated a 0.5 mill increase would be needed for additional operational expenses. Thus far, the city only has funded a 0.2 mill increase for library operations. My crystal ball tells me to be on the lookout for a 0.3 mill increase in the 2015 budget.
• The new Rock Chalk Park recreation center will have a goal to shoot for — sort of. The 2014 recommended budget calls for the recreation center to generate about $715,000 in revenue, if it were to be open for a full year. But it won’t be open for a full year in 2014, so it won’t generate that much revenue. But that’s the number the city is shooting for once it is open full-time. As city officials said all along, the amount of revenue the center generates won’t be enough to cover its expenses. The 2014 budget — once again assuming a full year of operation — projects expenses for the center will be about $350,000 more than revenues. I believe revenues for the center will include things such as gym rental fees, class fees generated by the center, tournament and league revenue and concessions.
Ah, concessions. Maybe they’ll have a good deal on Gatorade. My kids and I sure hope so.
This talk of Lawrence really becoming a retirement community is getting more serious all the time.
The city and county last month already committed to a marketing strategy and have expressed a willingness to boost the salary of the open position for director of the Douglas County Senior Services in an effort to get an expert into the community. Together, those two initiatives may cost $75,000 to $100,000 a year to fund, although there is hope the private sector will help with the marketing campaign.
But now there are signs of an effort that may dwarf that. The city on Tuesday will consider spending up to $12,500 to help draw up the paperwork for a new nonprofit organization that would be tasked with creating a “retirement village” in Lawrence or Douglas County. The money also would go to help pay for a consultant, with the balance of the funding likely coming from other partners.
Tuesday’s action would just get the ball rolling, but where it rolls to is the interesting part. City Commissioner Hugh Carter, KU Professor Dennis Domer and others have been talking for quite awhile now about the idea of an intergenerational village that would attract KU alumni and others back to the community.
There are still a lot of details that need to be worked out; where such a village would be built and how it would be funded are two of the larger ones. But a proposal to the City Commission starts to paint a picture. Here are some details:
• A village likely would be anywhere from 20 to 60 acres in size.
• Potential partners for the project include the city, the county, Kansas University, Lawrence Memorial Hospital and the private sector, among others.
• About 25 to 35 percent of the project would be single-family homes, apartments and condominiums designed to attract people 62 years and younger. The private sector would build those living units.
• About 50 to 60 percent of the project would be a not-for-profit “continuing care retirement community” for people 62 and older. Such a facility would include independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and memory care facilities.
• The project would include a substantial health care facility that would offer diagnostics, laboratory services, radiology, urgent care and other services that could be offered a by a community-based nursing program. Organizers hope the facility would be run by Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
• The project ideally would be located next to park land and athletic facilities. The design would highlight pedestrian activity, access to nature, and would integrate the senior and nonsenior living areas.
It appears the structure for the development would call for a new nonprofit organization to oversee the development. Creating that organization is what city commissioners are being asked to help with at their Tuesday meeting. The county also would be asked to contribute $12,500.
Once the organization is formed and a board is created, further planning can begin, including “creation of a development calendar, project visioning, financial projections, and site review,” City Commissioner Hugh Carter wrote in a memo to commissioners.
Eventually, it sounds like the group will want to hire a consultant that specializes in creating nonprofit retirement communities. Carter estimated the cost for the first phase of planning may run to about $75,000. Besides the city and the county, other potential funding partners are LMH, KU and Douglas County Senior Services.
If this project makes it past Tuesday — and it appears it will because the request is on the city’s consent agenda — it will be a project to watch in the weeks and months ahead.
City, county moving forward on marketing strategy to attract retirees; $60,000 to $80,000 annual media campaign may be on tap
The business of attracting lucrative retirees to live in Lawrence and Douglas County is beginning to get a clearer price tag.
It looks like it will take around $60,000 to $80,000 worth of advertising a year to get the job done.
Lawrence city commissioners at their Tuesday meeting are being asked to approve a contract with the Lawrence-based Kern Group to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy to convince higher-end retirees that Lawrence and Douglas County are great places to settle.
The company — which is led by advertising and marketing veteran Mark Kern — will create a title/slogan for the effort, a logo, a Web site, a package of marketing materials to provide to interested retirees, and concepts for radio, television, print and Internet ads.
The proposed contract calls for that work to cost $34,500, with the city and the county splitting the costs. But the more substantial commitment comes in the form of an annual advertising budget that Kern estimates will need to be in the $60,000 to $80,000 range each year. At least a couple of years of that type of spending, but maybe four or five, may be in order, the proposal suggest. Kern has suggested a good amount of that money, however, can come from private partners in the community that would benefit by having a larger retiree presence in the city. Creating a list of those potential partners is one of the things Kern will do as part of the initial contract.
It will be interesting to see what type of slogan or tag line the marketing folks come up with for Lawrence and Douglas County. Maybe: Lawrence: Where ’Hawks Come to Roost and Retire. Or DOuglas County: We DO retirement. Or since edgy seems to be all the rage in advertising these days: Lawrence: Where Keg Stands aren’t Just for the Young. (Yeah, I don’t understand why the advertising people never invite me to lunch.)
Expect whatever campaign develops (I haven’t yet trademarked the ones above, but you had better hurry) to have a strong element designed to attract KU alumni. Kern’s proposal calls for developing advertising that would work well in various KU publications, such as the Alumni Association and KU Endowment’s magazines. Plus, the marketers will look at developing television advertising to run in the other regional cities that televise Jayhawk sporting events.
Douglas County leaders are optimistic that attracting the right type of retiree will greatly increase the amount of disposable income in Lawrence and Douglas County and provide a boost to area businesses.
This marketing contract is just the latest budget item to come up related to the retiree efforts. The city and county earlier agreed to restructure the Douglas County Senior Services Board and put it in charge of overseeing the Web site and the retiree attraction efforts.
As a result, Lawrence and Douglas County also have both expressed a willingness to provide additional funding to Douglas County Senior Services as it seeks to hire a new director that has the skill set to lead the retiree attraction program. It previously has been estimated that could require the salary of the approximately $55,000 a year position to be boosted by $15,000 to $25,000 a year to attract the right candidate.
City commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday. Maybe by then I’ll have some other slogans. Oooh, got one: Lawrence: Where You’re Never Old Enough to Know Better.