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

photo by: Journal-World Graphic

The Douglas County Commission meets in the historic courtroom on the second floor of the county courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St.

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 2018 mill levy rate of 46.018 mills. At that rate, the county’s share of taxes on a $175,000 home would be $926. A key feature of the budget is that $3 million has been reallocated for projects to reduce overcrowding at the county jail, although exactly what those projects will be has not been decided yet.

In order to provide funding to address the jail issues, the budget cuts funding to other programs. Among the cuts were a $1.4 million reduction to the capital accounts for county facilities and the road-and-bridge fund of Douglas County Public Works, a $115,000 cut to the Natural and Cultural Heritage Grant program and a $50,000 cut to the Douglas County Senior Resource Center.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners received an update on future road and facilities projects from Public Works Director Keith Browning and Assistant County Administrator Sarah Plinsky.

In the briefing on the five-year facilities and road-and-bridge capital improvement plans, Browning said the big county road project for 2019 would be upgrades to County Route 1055 (Haskell Avenue in Lawrence) from the Wakarusa Bridge south about 1.8 miles to North 1000 Road. Browning said that project would include paved shoulders as well as replacement of older and narrower culverts, the reduction of ditch slopes and repavement of the asphalt roadway surface.

Browning also said that a $1.45 million road project to replace two bridges on either side of a curve near Vinland, slated for 2020, will now include paved shoulders between the two bridges, something that looked doubtful when the 2019 budget was originally proposed. That was because the original 2019 budget included about $2.1 million in cuts to the capital accounts, not $1.4 million, he said.

In other business, commissioners approved an appeal from Mary Lee Robbins, of 1449 North 1100 Road, of a survey allowing placement of an access road for a 77-acre cluster development directly east of her property. A cluster development is a special kind of housing development in the city of Lawrence’s growth area that requires 40 percent of the site to be preserved as green space until the area is annexed into the city.

Robbins argued that the proposed location of the single access road serving future homes in the development was too close to the top of a hill on North 1100 Road to be safe. Commissioners agreed, suggesting developer Dean Grob locate the access road farther to the east.


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