Lawrence council to consider new tax for city projects


The City of Lawrence Common Council reviewed proposals – including a new tax — related to city finances during its regular meeting April 17 but delayed voting on the measures because some require a public hearing before they can be approved.

The proposals were an ordinance establishing a cumulative capital development fund and two others related to bonds for city projects; and a resolution approving a plan to spend the city’s remaining American Rescue Plan Act funds. 

According to documents provided by the city, the proposed cumulative capital development fund would increase the current property tax rate for that fund from 2.5 cents to 5 cents per $100 assessed value. Revenue from the tax is restricted for capital projects only and can’t go toward ongoing expenses such as salaries. 

Oscar Gutierrez of Bondry Consulting, who is advising the city on financial planning, told the council that the higher rate would raise an estimated $1.1 million in 2025, compared to about $550,000 this year. He estimated that the average homeowner would pay an additional $30 a year. 

One of the two ordinances related to general obligation bonds would only authorize the city to issue bonds for future projects and doesn’t include a fiscal appropriation. The second ordinance would appropriate $7 million in bond funding for city expenses — specifically to pay off equipment leases that currently are paid for through the operating fund or department budgets. 

The cumulative capital development fund and the two ordinances have public hearings scheduled for May 6, the same day as the council’s next regular meeting.

The council referred the proposed ARPA spending plan to the Finance Committee for review. The plan, submitted by Mayor Deb Whitfield’s administration, calls for appropriating the approximately $5.6 million remaining from the city’s 2021 federal allocation for infrastructure, public safety and budget revenue replacement. 

Specific allocations listed are matching funds for two grants — a state Community Crossings grant to maximize street paving within the city and a state Next Level Trails grant for trail improvements — along with replacing city fire and police department vehicles and funding government services as allowed by ARPA program regulations. 

The city received about $11 million from ARPA in 2021. It allocated about half of that amount in 2021 and 2022. The city is required to appropriate all the funds by the end of this year. 

In 2023, then-Mayor Steve Collier’s administration proposed spending about $3 million of the remaining funds, but the council declined to vote on the measure. Similar to the recently submitted plan, Collier’s 2023 ARPA spending plan would have funded matching grants for street repairs and trails, public safety vehicle replacements, training and police cameras. 

The next Lawrence Common Council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. May 6 at Lawrence Government Center, 9001 E. 59th St.