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The Lawrence City Commission has received the 2017 recommended budget A public hearing will be held on Aug. 2 at 5:45 at City Hall for public comment. Here's where to find docs, links and other budget-related info:

The Recommended 2017 Budget

City Manager Tom Markus released his recommended budget for the City of Lawrence. The budget is guided by the City Commission’s identified goals: public safety, mental health, infrastructure, non-motorized transportation/transit, affordable housing and economic development. The budget reflects shifts to these goal areas from other areas of the city budget, without increasing the mill levy. Throughout the process, a significant amount has been cut from departmental and outside agency requests and capital improvements program requests, while additional resources have been added in the goal areas. This has been accomplished, while preserving core services, through a structurally balanced and sustainable budget. The budget presentation is available online for review. A public hearing on the budget will be held on Aug. 2 at 5:45 at City Hall.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the proposed mill levy rate for the 2017 budget?

The proposed City mill levy rate is estimated to be 31.488 for the 2017 budget. This is same mill levy rate as the 2016 budget. The proposed rate is subject to change by the County when valuations are finalized in the fall.

What are property taxes and a mill levy?

Property owners in the City of Lawrence pay property taxes each year. These taxes support four government units: Douglas County, the State of Kansas, Unified School District #497, and the City of Lawrence. Each unit of government determines its own tax rate depending on needs.

Property tax rates are based on mills and are assessed through a mill levy. One mill is equivalent to $1 for every thousand dollars of assess property value. For 2015, most property owners within City limits have a mill levy rate of 130.992 mills.

The assessed valuation used to build the 2017 budget is $928,929,602. This reflects an approximately 3.8% increase over the assessed valuation used to build the 2016 budget. This means that one mill will generate $928,929.

There are three aspects to the City’s portion of property taxes. First, 19.227 mills are used to support the general fund (the main operating fund for the City). Second, 8.504 mills are used to support the debt service fund (the fund used to pay-off long-term debts such as general obligation bonds). Third, 3.757 is used to support the library fund (all revenue generated through this portion of the property tax goes to the Lawrence Public Library).

When was the last time the City property tax mill levy increased?

The last mill levy increase was 1.432 mills for the 2015 budget.

How do I estimate my property taxes?

To calculate your estimated property tax bill, you need to know the approximate appraised value of your property. The total value of the house is then multiplied by the assessment rate of 11.5% for residential property or 25% for commercial/industrial property, to determine the assessed property value. Then apply the City mill levy rate.

For example, a house appraised at $100,000 would have an assessed property value of $11,500 ($100,000 X 11.5%). The City’s portion of the property tax on this house would be $361.65 ($11,500/$1,000 X 31.448).

What is structural balance?

Structural balance means revenues match expenditures. When expenditures exceed revenues there is structural imbalance. The City Manager recommended a structurally balanced 2017 budget.

How is the City able to pay for large projects like the Fire Station #1 Rehabilitation and Police Station Design when there are concerns about structural balance?

The City uses debt financing to pay for large projects. This allows the City to stretch the payments in order to stay in balance with the long-term financial forecasts. For example, the debt service for a $1,000,000 project currently is estimated to costs $85,000 in debt service over 15 years. This also allows the City to match the cost associated with long-term projects to the expected life-span of the project.

The debt service is generally paid from a City levied property tax and therefore in order to keep the tax rate level, large projects are identified over five year periods in the City’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) and balanced to City financial forecasts. Adding or adjusting any of the projects in the debt funded portion of the CIP necessitates adjusting other CIP projects in order to keep the forecasts in balance. The 2017-2021 CIP items proposed to be paid for with general obligation debt.

What is the purpose of dividing the City finances into funds and what are their purposes?

The City is required to account for assets, liabilities, and operations using fund accounting. Fund accounting is a system that emphasizes the accountability of operations by dividing funds into a self-balancing set of accounts segregated for specific purposes in accordance with state laws and local regulations. The City utilizes several funds, each of which is used for a specified purpose. Except for a few specific exceptions, state law requires that funds are kept separate and revenue created for one purpose may not be used for another funds’ purpose. A listing of the various funds and their specified purposes is here.

How much funding is the library receiving? How is that money collected?

The library is budgeted to receive $3,778,542 in 2017 (not including debt service).

The library has a dedicated mill levy, meaning the library portion of property taxes collected is put into the library fund. This fund is used to financially support the library. Currently the library mill levy rate is 3.757 of the 31.488 mills collected by the City of Lawrence. The following chart shows the amount of budgeted support the library has received since 2007 as well as the library mill levy rate since 2007. Please note that the library mill levy increased in 2012, 2014, and 2015.

Currently there is a structural imbalance. Expenditures have exceeded revenue generated by the library mill levy rate for the past three years and fund balance has been used to close this gap. The proposed 2017 budget depletes the fund balance. To fix the structural imbalance, either expenditures need to decrease and/or the mill levy rate needs to increase beginning 2018.

Please note this chart and numbers above do not reflect debt service for the new library which is paid from the City’s debt service mill levy rate. In 2012, the City’s debt service mill levy rate was increased by 1.5 mills for construction of the library.

How much financial support has City provided the Lawrence Arts Center for facility maintenance and scholarships? And how much is proposed for the 2017 budget?

The City of Lawrence has historically provided support to the Arts Center for facility maintenance, scholarships, and other activities such as the Free State Festival. The following chart shows the amount of budgeted support the Arts Center has received since 2007. Please note that the chart does not include funding for activities such as the Free State festival, it simply provides the budgeted funds for facility maintenance and scholarships.

The 2017 proposed budget includes $55,000 for facility maintenance and $30,000 for scholarships.

What is Emerald Ash Borer? How much funding is the Emerald Ash Borer Program receiving from the General Fund?

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is an exotic beetle that was confirmed in 2015. The adult beetles eat ash foliage and cause little damage. The larvae however, feed on the inner bark of ash trees, disrupting the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients. Once a tree is infected with EAB, the tree will not be able to survive. The City’s Forestry Division is working on mitigating the effects of EAB through the EAB Program.

The City Commission approved a multi-year EAB Program in 2016 with additional employees hired to inventory, treat, remove, dispose of, and replace infected ash trees. The 2017 budget for the EAP Program includes the base amount of $352,000 from the General Fund that includes the cost of 3.5 positions and the cost of treatment, disposal, and replacement of infected trees. There is an additional $40,000 budgeted for a vehicle that is to be paid for out of the Park Memorial Fund.

The program is anticipated to receive an additional $150,000 in 2018-2020 for the additional tree removal costs that are expected. This amount could be reduced depending on the City’s tolerance of having dead trees in City right-of-ways. The following chart shows the anticipated costs for the EAB Program from 2017-2021. Additional EAB information.

What are the detailed costs of the Emerald Ash Borer program?

A detailed breakdown of all costs related to the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) program is provided below. The EAB crew is 80 percent complete with its city-wide inventory of Ash trees. The EAB program is designed to elongate the removal of Ash trees on City property over an 8-10 year timeline.

In the following table, the top section represents costs incurred as a direct result of the forestry crew’s work. The bottom section reports contracted labor costs. The City’s EAB crew has been fully staffed for around six weeks, so removal and disposal costs are not discretionary if the crew is to perform its work. The only potential discretionary costs are treatment, planting and contracted labor. Please see the following considerations for those components of the program.

  • Treatment: The program includes treatment of 700 trees in order to prolong their life and eventual replacement. Trees succumb to EAB within 2-4 years of infestation, so eliminating treatments will likely accelerate removals at the contracted labor rate of $750 per tree.
  • Replacement: The $150 per tree cost represents the estimated purchase cost of a tree – a conservative cost. The City’s EAB crew will plant these trees. As a long standing practice, the City plants at least one tree for every tree removed on City property. For context, City Code requires all subdivision plans to include at least one tree per 40 feet of street frontage.
  • Contracted Labor: The program anticipates utilizing contracted labor to augment the EAB crew’s efforts in order to minimize the number of dead Ash trees on City property. Eliminating this component would not affect the 2017 budget. Elimination of this component will result in an increased presence of dead trees on City property and will extend the work of the City’s EAB crew by at least one year. Extending the program would likely increase the overall cost of the program.

How will the City dispose of tree waste related to the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) program?

The City’s current practice for managing tree waste entails chipping and reusing the wood for mulch as much as possible. The EAB program doubles the amount of tree waste generated by Parks and Recreation though, so the disposal needs are anticipated to exceed the current capacity of the City’s recycling center. The cost shown in the EAB program pro forma anticipates the need to pay landfill charges estimated at $100 per tree on average to dispose of excess waste. Ash is a relatively dense, hard wood and tipping fees ($27.94 per ton) for mature Ash trees are reasonably expected to cost $100 on average.

Other options for disposal of the wood include burning, milling and preparing as firewood. Implementation of these methods would require employees who were dedicated to processing the substantial amount of wood product that will result from removal of these trees. This type of program enhancement would likely exceed anticipated landfill charges. In past research conducted by Parks and Recreation, no markets for this amount of wood product has been identified although the department does work with local saw mills to put logs to numerous alternative uses. Past alternative uses have included natural playgrounds, public benches, fencing, informational kiosks, building materials for facilities at YSC and Boy Scout Eagle projects. The department will continue monitoring the market for alternative, cost effective and local alternatives.

How will the City fund the CIP project to upgrade Eagle Bend Golf Course pro-shop, concessions and restroom facilities (PR1708CIP)?

As of July, Parks and Recreation has added 11 new golf tournaments to the Eagle Bend calendar in 2017 compared to previous years. Discussions with over a dozen other associations could lead to even more tournaments at the course in the near future. Additionally, the privatization of Alvamar’s 18-hole public course could lead even more organizers to host tournaments at Eagle Bend. The pro-shop complex expansion would address facility deficits that currently prevent larger tournaments from being hosted at Eagle Bend despite organizers expressing interest in the course to City staff. Facility needs addressed by the facilities expansion include additional parking, restrooms and seating capacity.

As programed in the CIP, the Eagle Bend project would be funded by bond proceeds and the debt service would be funded by the additional Golf Course Fund revenue generated from new tournaments hosted at the facility. Estimated costs for the project total $500,000 and are planned to be funded by bond proceeds. Parks and Recreation anticipates the ability to attract at least 15 new tournaments annually compared to previous years and each tournament generates approximately $4,000 in revenue on average. The new revenue of $60,000 annually is expected to fund the debt service for the 10-year bond. Further analysis, including a risk assessment to ensure that the additional revenue will be sufficient to repay the principle and interest on the bonds, will be conducted before final approvals will be considered for this project.

The Annual Budget Process

The City Commission has started the process to develop city’s 2017 budget. Budgets define the city's priorities and provide a way to organize and plan how and when we use city funds. Public input and engagement in this process is critical. We will offer many ways for our community to provide comments and feedback as we develop the 2017 budget.

City Commission Meetings related to the budget process:

Get Involved: Listening Sessions, Study Sessions & Surveys

Lawrence Listens

Budget preparation is a process which involves many constituents. The city used two Lawrence Listens surveys to request feedback about priorities and held two Community Budget Meetings in May 2016 for residents to provide input on priorities. The results of the Lawrence Listens surveys are online for review.

2017 Funding Applications

Agency Funding Materials

Each year, the city provides an opportunity for outside agencies and organizations that act as a vendor for the city to submit funding requests.

Supporting Documents

Budget Archives

Question about past funding or budgets? View our archives.