By: Lawrence City Council President, Patrick Blanchette – December 2004
Unfortunately the City of Lawrence is dealing with tough financial problems this year. When I was first elected to the Lawrence City Council (over five years ago,) the annual operating budget was roughly $170 million, with a contingency reserve account of $3 million. The current fiscal year’s annual operating budget is roughly $200 million with no reserve account.
For the past two years, the city has taken some steps to fill budget gaps throughout our city departments. Some of these steps have included but were not limited to a tax amnesty program, early retirement programs, sale of city-owned land, along with a host of other initiatives, some more successful than others. This year the City of Lawrence is operating on a budget that is not balanced due to poor planning and fiscal irresponsibility by those who are paid full-time salaries to forecast our financial future.
When people are confronted with questions dealing with balancing the budget or questioning the very initiatives that were proposed back in July (but have either failed or were never implemented), that person is labeled as being “negative”.
The fact of the matter is that the City of Lawrence is in desperate need of finding $6.5 million to balance the current year’s budget.
The city is also responsible for coming up with money to pay the Department of Public Works employees their well deserved raise, which was promised to them via a signed contract by the city administration.
The last time I checked, when an official contract is signed and then violated, court proceedings usually follow. I have faith that the DPW workers will not place our residents at risk in the upcoming months by going on strike, but in return I stand with them to make sure that the city of Lawrence doesn’t place them and their families at financial risk. Let’s keep the promises we make. Is that not what integrity is all about?
As an elected official, I feel it is my duty to inform the public about the “real” fiscal problems our city faces. We need a fulltime Budget Director! The fiscal crisis continues! As you know, tax classification time is upon us, and the forecast does not look good. According to a December 1, 2004 proposal, the Administration is proposing to raise property taxes on the average homeowner based on the new valuation of property within the city of Lawrence. I believe in the theory that the end result must justify the means. For instance, water bills will probably be increased this year.
However, a new state of the art facility is currently being built. All new underground piping will be replaced and in the end a better product clean, safe drinking water! With this current tax proposal, what is the justification? Due to improper planning, the homeowner must once again be the Cedric Maxwell and carry the city on its back. I think not. The average homeowner is spent right now.
The current proposal will increase a single-family homeowner’s bill by $201.57 per year. The average three-family home owner will see their tax bill raised $747.57 this year. This will be on top of an increase in water. This, my fellow residents, is unacceptable. Let us try all other means possible before we take the easy way out.
I will pledge to you that, as your elected official, I will do whatever I can in the upcoming month to ease your burden. Please make your voices heard over the next couple of weeks (attend a meeting, make a phone call, write a letter) and make sure you – the taxpayer-– get the right bang for your buck!