The 2017 Budget

The 2017 budget was adopted on August 16. A final budget document is in production and will be posted shortly.

The 2107 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. A overview of the budget is available online for review.

Quick Links

The Lawrence City Commission has approved the 2017 budget. Here’s where to find docs, links and other budget-related info:

Frequently Asked Questions

The estimated mill levy required to fund the proposed 2017 budget is 32.018 mills, an increase of 0.53 mills over the 2016 budget. The estimated mill levy is subject to change by the County when valuations are finalized in the fall.

The proposed operating budget for all funds in 2017 is $191,490,703. The operating budget reflects all expenditures associated with the daily operations of the City; including all general operating costs, all fee supported expenditures (i.e. utilities), debt payments, and cash funded Capital Improvement Plan projects.

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).

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

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).

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 Budget Meetings

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.