Lawrence leaders unanimously adopt $472 million 2024 budget, next 5-year Capital Improvement Plan

photo by: Rochelle Valverde/Journal-World

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on Jan. 31, 2023.

Lawrence leaders have officially approved the city’s $472 million budget for 2024 — and with it, committed to collecting more than $3.58 million more in property taxes compared to last year.

At Tuesday’s Lawrence City Commission meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to adopt the 2024 budget, which includes a flat mill levy compared to last year at 33.207 mills. But that property tax rate, though unchanged since 2023, is expected to bring in about $3.58 million more in property tax revenue next year.

“…I am proud of our staff, I’m proud of this commission, that we have put the plans in place and we’re sticking with the plans, and I truly believe that the community will feel and see and understand the fruits of that plan and those investments in the years to come,” Commissioner Brad Finkeldei said. “I think that’s why we get elected and I think that’s why we hear this input from all sides, to try to find that right balance, to create that situation that moves our community forward.”

More than half a dozen members of the public expressed their displeasure with the proposed budget during Tuesday’s meeting, after they’d waited through nearly four hours of other business earlier in the night. One of them urged commissioners to consider the rising cost of living through the past few years, and the amount residents have had to “tighten their belts” as a result. Another resident, Tim Hamilton, said the city is failing to see the consequences of continuously rising property tax rates.

As the Journal-World has reported, the 2024 budget includes $2 million to support a new Homeless Programs Department and another $1.1 million to boost the city’s affordable housing stock in partnership with Tenants to Homeowners. It also includes an additional $7.5 million in net employee compensation and benefits.

The money the city’s proposing spending on housing and homelessness initiatives is slated to come out of a more than $116 million general fund, which is the city’s primary operating fund for services like public safety and parks and recreation. The fund has increased by more than 10% compared to the 2023 budget.

Along with the 2024 budget, the City Commission also approved the next five-year Capital Improvement Plan, the city’s blueprint for how much capital projects will cost and when they’re scheduled to occur through 2028. The plan accounts for $460 million in projects, including more than $31 million in improvements at Lawrence’s Kansas River Wastewater Treatment Plant and a $5.9 million reconfiguration project at City Hall.

In other business, the commission:

* Approved a pair of contracts totaling more than $600,000 to install electrical, water and sewer services at 256 N. Michigan St., the future site of the city’s Pallet Shelter Village.

Both contracts were approved by a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Amber Sellers opposed. The cost of that temporary shelter site, which will feature 50 prefabricated 64-square-foot cabins for people experiencing homelessness, has now ballooned to nearly $2.5 million with the approval of those contracts. The city approved $1.1 million to purchase the shelter structures from the company Pallet and $725,000 to purchase the land on North Michigan Street in March.

The project was pushed back by about six months in early June, in part because the city didn’t have an outside agency lined up to operate the site after failing to receive any bids from social service agencies. City officials still didn’t have any details on that front to share with the Journal-World last week.

* Approved a site plan for accessory parking at 1514 Sigma Nu Place on a 5-0 vote. The request is related to an $8.5 million project to rebuild the existing Delta Delta Delta sorority house at 1630 Oxford Road a few blocks west of the University of Kansas football stadium.


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