Mission votes to fund pool; Roeland Park tax too close to call

Dan Blom - November 9, 2012 1:00 pm

 

The expected departure of the Roeland Park Walmart would put a major dent in the city’s budget. Roeland Park voters were asked to approve a tax hike that would fill the hole.

Although election day is over, a major issue for Roeland Park may still hang on provisional ballots that have yet to be counted.

In northeast Johnson County, both Roeland Park and Mission had questions on Tuesday’s ballot that did not involve candidates running for office. In Mission, voters were asked to approve a 3/8 cent increase in sales tax to fund a new city swimming pool and other park improvements. That measure passéd Tuesday by a vote of 2,482 to 1,950, a margin of 532 votes that would appear to be safe from any corrections to the unofficial results after provisional ballots are counted.

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However, in Roeland Park a ballot question that asked voters to approve a 3/4 cent increase in sales tax met a different fate. The unofficial results show the tax question lost by a vote of 1,741 to 1,706, a margin of only 35 votes. There are more than 8,000 provisional ballots to be counted — or rejected — by the Johnson County election office next week. It is unknown how many of those are in Roeland Park, but with only a 35-vote difference, it is within the realm of possibility that provisional ballots could affect the outcome.

Nearly half of the provisional ballots came in by mail and have a discrepancy, such as not being signed by the voter, that caused them not to be counted yet. The remainder come from problems at the polling place. According to the election office, a provisional ballot can be caused by someone who has moved and did not re-register, changed their name, or requested an advance ballot but showed up at the polls because they lost it or spoiled it. At that point, the voter fills out a paper ballot that is ‘provisional’ until it can be reviewed for its validity.

The county commissioners will set the procedures for counting the ballots Monday morning, usually following applicable state statute, and then the election office will go through the thousands of paper ballots to determine if they count. Official election results will be released early next week.

Roeland Park had asked for the sales tax increase to soften the blow of an estimated $700,000 in sales tax revenue that it anticipates losing when Walmart on Roe moves down the street to the Mission Gateway development. The tax was to start in July when it was expected that the .6 cent temporary state sales tax would expire. The 3/4 cent would generate about $630,000 and be used to fund the police department and other public safety expenses. The sales tax directly from Walmart is estimated at $550,000 and another $150,000 from business that is Walmart dependent. About 29 percent of sales tax money collected in Roeland Park comes from non residents.

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