Roeland Park draft budget shows tax increase, draws critics

Former Roeland Park Mayor Adrienne Foster spoke to the council about the city budget Monday night.

Roeland Park is still designing its 2014 budget in an attempt to come to terms with the future loss of sales tax revenue and a continuing slide in property values, but its first pass has already drawn some critics. The draft estimates a 39 percent property tax levy increase over 2013.

The city has held a number of budget workshops and discussions this year, including a budget town hall in June for citizens to work together on services they want to see preserved. Another town hall is scheduled for next week and the council is continuing its workshops tonight. All the budget meetings are open to the public. The major sales tax loss facing the city comes from the anticipated relocation of Walmart to Mission.

Former Roeland Park Mayor Adrienne Foster and former councilor Scott Gregory both appeared at the Monday city council meeting to talk about the budget. Gregory was particularly critical of the first draft document calling the general fund spending plan “outrageous,” telling the council it has “frittered away valuable time,” and criticizing some council members by name.

Foster, the incumbent who was ousted in the primary this year, proposed several cuts to the operating budget, including not replacing the retiring police chief, but collaborating with Fairway or Westwood for police supervision. Another of Foster’s suggestions was to have the county take over some services. “I was never for a sales tax,” Foster said, “and I know the voters won’t be for it the next time.”

Mayor Joel Marquardt, who won election this year in a contest with Foster and former councilor Linda Mau, said the draft budget was just a starting point. “We are talking about all of these issues,” the mayor said, adding that he knew a budget increase would be a concern. Street work that has been put off accounts for some of the budget increase.

The first draft shows, which can be found here, shows a greater than 10 mill increase in property tax and a potential option for a sales tax increase. A new sales tax would require voter approval.