WRITER: Elvyn Jones

Douglas County to put quarter-cent sales tax for behavioral health projects on November ballot

The Douglas County Commission agreed Wednesday to ask voters to approve a quarter-cent sales tax to build a behavioral health campus and fund enhanced mental health and substance abuse programming. If approved by voters in November, the quarter-cent sales tax will raise an estimated $4.9 million annually. That is $885,000 less than the amount needed to build the campus and fund the programming envisioned in ...

Lawrence school district students start classes this week; building upgrades to make debut

The 2018-2019 school year starts Wednesday for elementary school students in the Lawrence school district while most secondary school students will get one more day of summer vacation. Both groups will have some new building improvements and sights to see. Students in first grade through fifth grade will start the school year on Wednesday but will be released early. Classes at Cordley, Hillcrest, Langston ...

County Commission to decide which funding method for behavioral health projects will appear on ballot

With a new option on the table, the Douglas County Commission will decide Wednesday what kind of tax it will ask voters to approve to fund a slate of behavioral health projects. Last month, commissioners agreed they would put a ballot question on the November general election ballot asking voters to fund a behavioral health campus and expanded services. The decision came two months after county voters rejected ...

Douglas County clerk planning for recount in GOP gubernatorial primary; here's how it would work

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew expects to be working Saturday recounting about 8,600 county ballots cast in the Aug. 7 Republican primary for governor. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach held a 110-vote lead over Gov. Jeff Colyer after the state’s 105 counties finished counting late arriving advance ballots on Friday. The two men are vying for the Republican gubernatorial nomination for the November ...

Lawrence school district leaders hear update on technology, lost devices

The Lawrence school board on Monday received a technology update that included statistics on the number of iPads, MacBooks and associated accessories students lost during the 2017-2018 school year. Of the 2,500 iPads issued last year to middle school students, 26 were lost and another 42 weren’t checked back at the end-of-school due date, said Ellen Willets, district director of technology and learning, in ...

Slow enrollment growth, depletion of reserves to constrain future Lawrence school district budgets

This spring, the Lawrence school board had the rare task of deciding how to spend more than $4.8 million in new money coming the district’s way for the next school year. That was not a task the school board has had in recent years when there was little or no bump in state funding, nor are any school boards in the immediate future likely to have near that much new money to allocate toward district needs. With ...

Report: Students have lost more than $120K of district iPads, MacBooks

The district technology director will present the Lawrence school board a report Monday that suggests options that would require middle and high school students to help with the cost of replacing computing devices and accessories they lose. The district has provided iPads to middle school students the last two years, and it started providing all high school students MacBooks last year. A report that Ellen ...

'Defend the Flag' rally fizzles, but counterprotesters turn out in force

Fewer than 10 people showed up for a "Defend the Flag" rally planned for Saturday afternoon in downtown Lawrence, but hundreds of counterprotesters flocked to Massachusetts Street in opposition to the event. Organizer Clay Mead said the Defend the Flag rally was a response to a controversial art piece featuring an altered American flag that was displayed at the University of Kansas. The event's Facebook page ...

Baldwin City school district 2018-2019 budget would decrease local tax rate

The Baldwin City school board will consider approving later this month a 2018-2019 budget that will reduce the district property tax rate by 4 mills. Last week, the board approved publication of the proposed $24.1 million budget. If approved after an Aug. 20 public hearing on the budget, the district’s 2018-2019 mill levy will be 59.671 mills. At that rate, the district’s share of taxes on a $175,000 home ...

Douglas County has at least 500 ballots, and maybe as many as 800 ballots, left to count in primary election

There are potentially more than 800 votes yet to be counted from Tuesday’s primary in Douglas County, according to numbers from the Douglas County Clerk's Office. That means Douglas County alone has enough uncounted ballots to swing the gubernatorial race between Gov. Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who are separated by less than 200 votes statewide. Douglas County is just one of 105 counties ...

Douglas County Commission approves 2019 budget that maintains current property tax rate

The Douglas County Commission took less than five minutes Wednesday to complete one of its most important actions of the year — unanimously approving the county’s 2019 budget. Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug noted that although the final budget action required little time, the budget was developed during more than 18 hours of hearings in June and July. The approved 2019 budget maintains the ...

Douglas County Commission to consider approving budget that shifts $3M to ease jail issues

The Douglas County Commission will consider Wednesday approving a 2019 budget that cuts or reallocates $3 million in current spending to be used for yet undefined measures to reduce overcrowding at the local jail. Commissioners approved the budget for publication last month after deliberations over the cuts. The proposed budget maintains the 2018 mill levy of 46.018 mills. At that rate, the county’s share of ...

Patrick Kelly gets more than half the votes to win Douglas County Commission race

Lawrence educator Patrick Kelly pulled away from two competitors to win the Democratic Party primary race for the 1st District Douglas County Commission position. Kelly led throughout the night Tuesday as votes were tallied in the Douglas County Courthouse and finished the night with 53 percent of the vote. A political newcomer, Kelly received 2,014 votes. Lawrence City Commissioner Leslie Soden was second with ...

Amyx, Smith prevail in Kansas House primaries, will square off in November

Democrat Mike Amyx and Republican Cynthia Smith will face off in November to represent the 45th District in the Kansas House after each claimed easy victories Tuesday in their respective primaries. Amyx, a former mayor of Lawrence, Lawrence city commissioner and Douglas County commissioner, won with 56 percent of the vote against Aidan Loveland Koster, a Lecompton corporate administrator, and Steven X. Davis, ...

Douglas County voters go to primary polls in record numbers

Douglas County voters turned out for Tuesday primary in record shattering numbers, Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said. More than 18,500 voters participated in the primary for a turnout of about 24 percent. The turnout number isn’t known because advance ballots the Clerk’s Office receives by Friday will still be counted in the election. But Shew won’t need to see final numbers to know this year’s ...

Lecompton volunteer group turns old school building into community hub once again

One of the volunteers who helped reclaim a closed and vacant school in Lecompton says he is pleased the building is once again a hub of community activities. “There’s something going on down there all the time,” said Greg Howard. “That’s satisfying, because we’ve done a great deal of work.” The approximately four-year old project has gone so well that community leaders are preparing to invest ...

No independent candidates file for 1st District Douglas County Commission

The noon Monday deadline for independent candidates to file for the 1st District Douglas County Commission passed with no activity, Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said. That means the winner of Tuesday’s three-way Democratic Party primary contest will have no opponent on the November general election ballot. The candidates are Patrick Kelly, director of the Lawrence College & Career Center, Lawrence ...

Vinland Fair to return for annual 3-day run

The organizers of the Vinland Fair believe people can entertain themselves without the help of a carnival. “Instead of a carnival, we have sack races, a tug of war, a children’s pet parade and the tractor pull,” said Tamara Hagerman, Vinland Fair Board member with her husband, Rex. “It is old-time family entertainment.” The 111th annual Vinland Fair will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the hamlet ...

One Douglas County Commission candidate now employed by another's insurance agency

Douglas County Commission candidate Leslie Soden is now working as an agent for the Farmers Insurance office of fellow candidate John Magnuson. Both candidates are seeking the Democratic Party nomination for the 1st District County Commission seat, which represents most Lawrence neighborhoods north of 19th Street and west of Massachusetts Street. Patrick Kelly, director of the Lawrence College & Career ...

Democrats in Douglas County's 1st Commission District to choose from 3 candidates Tuesday

In all likelihood, Democratic Party voters in the 1st Douglas County Commission District will elect a new county commissioner Tuesday. Three candidates — Patrick Kelly, John Magnuson and Leslie Soden — are vying for the Democratic nomination for the 1st District seat that represents most Lawrence neighborhoods north of 19th Street and west of Massachusetts Street. The winner will not face a Republican ...