County commissioners asked to clarify budget directives related to economic development for Lawrence chamber of commerce
photo by: Journal-World
Updated at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 23
Douglas County commissioners remain on track to approve publication of the county’s proposed 2024 budget on Aug. 30, but County Administrator Sarah Plinsky wants more details from commissioners at their meeting on Wednesday about how and when to distribute economic development funding to the Lawrence chamber of commerce.
When commissioners gave preliminary approval to the budget weeks ago, it included support for more than $100,000 in funding requests made by the Lawrence chamber of commerce and its associated Economic Development Corporation of Lawrence & Douglas County (EDC). But that support was contingent upon the Chamber meeting several goals. In a memo to commissioners, Plinsky says she would like more details on how and when to provide those funds.
Most of the tentatively approved amount would be for the Chamber/EDC’s Revolving Loan Fund, an initiative to support minority business owners who are just starting out. As commissioners noted during budget deliberations, that money comes with a catch: the Chamber/EDC will have to raise funds from private donors first, and then the county will match the funding they raise — up to $105,000 of private funds. According to the agenda packet, Plinsky noted that “staff wants to confirm that use and discuss any requirements the commission is looking for in the documentation (of it).”
Plinsky also indicated that staff would like more information on the commission’s “goals and objectives” in the area of economic development funding and are hoping to better discern what information is needed “from community partners to determine if goals and objectives are being met.”
Plinsky cited examples of the county’s past economic funding framework, saying that it’s previously been used to “promote commercial and industrial development through the EDC and the Lawrence chamber of commerce, workforce development with Peaslee Tech, and bioscience and technology business incubation with the University of Kansas Innovation Park (KUIP).”
“Staff anticipate an informal conversation and consensus among the commission to provide additional direction,” Plinsky wrote in the agenda packet memo. “After the discussion, staff can bring back additional materials, if needed.”
Commissioners still must take one more vote, scheduled for Aug. 30, before the 2024 budget becomes final. The original budget proposal for 2024 totaled around $194 million, but after the commission trimmed the property tax mill levy by two mills during the process of budget hearings, the proposed budget now totals $190.7 million. Under the proposed budget, the owner of a $200,000 home would pay $46 less in property taxes this tax year than they would have under the original proposal.
In other business, commissioners will hear an update from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council on its recent work.
The commission’s meeting begins at 4 p.m. with a work session to review plans for future renovations of the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St.
The work session will be followed by the regular business meeting at 5:30 pm. A Zoom link can be found on the county’s website, douglascountyks.org.
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the work session is about renovations to the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, not the Douglas County Courthouse.