Archive for Friday, July 9, 2010

Douglas County to consider ‘jaw-dropper’ property tax increase of 16.6 percent

July 9, 2010

A combination of dwindling revenues, ongoing state and federal cuts and increasing community needs have Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug proposing what would be the largest property tax increase in his more than three decades in local government.

And that’s just fine with him, as a starting point for deliberations.

“This budget does not defer public costs to future years,” Weinaug said of his proposed spending plan for 2011. “It does, in fact, play catch-up.”

The budget, which would allocate $69.5 million for the county’s public services, projects and reserve funds, calls for a property tax increase of 16.6 percent.

Among other things, the additional money would:

• Cover a $1 million decline in revenues generated by mortgage taxes.

• Help agencies such as Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center and Douglas County Community Corrections recover from revenue cuts from state and federal sources.

• Restore $500,000 to the county’s Capital Improvement Program, which finances major road projects, building maintenance and other projects.

• Pump $500,000 into a new economic-development fund, plus another $500,000 into a new fund to purchase and promote preservation and use of open space and other so-called “heritage” assets and activities.

To do all that and more, commissioners would need to increase the county’s property-tax rate by 5.44 mills. With a mill equal to $1 of tax for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed valuation, the boost would cost the owner of a $150,000 home another $122.40 in property taxes.

“I know it’s a jaw-dropper,” said Nancy Thellman, commission chairwoman. “I also know that these are extraordinary times. … We’ll end up with some kind of increase, but I don’t know how much.”

Commissioners plan to conduct budget hearings during the next two weeks, to review and possibly adjust specifics for spending and revenue generation. They plan to formally approve their budget next month.

“I think it’s highly likely there will be a slight mill levy increase, just to provide the essential services that we need to provide,” Commissioner Jim Flory said.

Other local governments are mulling tax increases as well. The Lawrence school district is discussing prospects for boosting its property tax rates for 2011, and while Lawrence city commissioners are considering a proposed budget that would hold the line on municipal property taxes, they will review possibilities for increasing rates for water, sewer and trash services.

City commissioners also have agreed to have Lawrence voters decide in November whether they want to increase property tax bills by 2 mills to finance construction and operations of an $18 million expansion to the Lawrence Public Library. The construction tab would be paid off during the next 20 years.

County Commissioner Mike Gaughan said that while the county’s revenue sources continue to deteriorate, community needs do not.

And while state government can and will continue cutting its own spending, he said, taxpayers will be left to pick up many of those costs on their local tax bills.

“If communities value the services that they receive, then local government needs to step up to the plate and find the revenue for that,” Gaughan said.

Comments

Torch 4 years, 4 months ago

Time to quit pretending we have money for status quo.

Close the rural day-care centers and consolidate our resources.

Many of us warned the community of the impending recession and that it was the wrong time to take on debt. But no...heads stuck in sand we moved on. Now it's time to pay the piper for our ignorance.

I also never got an answer to whether or not the State provided the 'matching funds' so heavily relied upon during the campaign for this albatross of a $chool bond we now have. (Well led by Amy Cleavinger, et al)

Everyone I've asked doesn't seem to know the answer. I'm guessing it didn't materialize but I wouldn't know. If the State didn't provide that funding that is something else we need to be proactive about...instead of blindly going down the road hoping the extra money will show up.

Your sales tax went up 16 percent on July 1st. Your county taxes may go up 16 percent. Your utility rates have gone up. You're going to be paying for the $chool bond. Tuition at Baker (already out of range for most of us) went up by 5.5 percent. KU (already out of range for most of us) raised theirs by more than that.

How many more freaking clues do you need to convince you that it's time to do more with less? It's time to make cuts?

I know...what if I say we need to make the cuts because 'It's for the kids'? That seems to work every time.

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Monkey 4 years, 4 months ago

Sounds to me like the state, federal, and local governments need to take a financial class and try to get us out of debt instead of making our taxes higher!!

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BaldwinDad 4 years, 4 months ago

I just can't wait till the bloated State Employee pension systems starts to explode...all those extreme promises made to State employees over the years are now coming back to bite a lot of state budgets in the butt.

I too agree they need to start closing down services and let the private industry take over where State and Federal Govt has failed. Seems insane in the time of a national recession/depression that you would contemplate expansion to non essential services like the economic development fund, Library, funding for Heritage sites or Bert Nash.

It also shows that they have no clue that this economic problem is only going to get worse the longer we keep sticking our head in the sand about the true problem with Govt spending.

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completelytoast 4 years, 4 months ago

How shocking that a 'let them eat cake' mentality could arise from an individual (Weinaug) who has spent over thirty years in government.

Mr. Weinaug would do well to remember that a good parasite never kills its host.

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NanCrisp 4 years, 4 months ago

I absolutely love your username. Because that's what we all are: completelytoast.

Now everyone is going to take to the streets and protest these things that could be seen from miles and miles away nearly two years ago. Yes, definitely (please take note of the correct spelling of this word, all you twitterers out there): The writing was on the wall well before the school bond referendum ever went to vote. Too bad it couldn't be seen by the 50% of B.C. voters who were wearing rose-colored glasses at the time.

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