Fairway, Roeland Park hosting budget forums this week

Both Roeland Park and Fairway residents get to add their input to the budget process this week. Fairway will hold a budget public forum at 6:45 p.m. tonight prior to its regular council meeting at city hall and Roeland Park will hold its second budget town hall 6:30 p.m.Tuesday at the Roeland Park Community Center.

Walmart and its sales taxes won’t be leaving Roeland Park for the new Mission Gateway development, shown above, until 2015 — giving the city some breathing room for its 2014 budget.

Roeland Park’s first town hall let residents talk in small groups about which city services they want to preserve and which they might be willing to cut. Since then, the council has created a first draft of the budget, which maintains most services at current levels and adds some additional expense, the most notable being $200,000 for major street maintenance.

The significant loss of sales tax revenue from Walmart will not happen until 2015, the city has been told. Mayor Joel Marquardt said at the last city council meeting that Walmart has informed the city its move to the Mission Gateway will not occur until at least the first quarter of 2015. The Gateway project has not yet broken ground. The annual sales tax loss to Roeland Park could reach $700,000 from the move.

Even without that loss, Roeland Park faced a 2014 budget deficit, partially from a 2.3 percent property devaluation and other expenses increasing. The first budget draft gives residents an option of a property tax increase of approximately 39 percent or reducing expenses and services. Another option for the future is to increase the city sales tax. That would require voter approval and can’t be included in the 2014 budget. The property tax increase in the first budget draft would increase taxes on a $145,000 home by just over $250 per year.

In Fairway, residents have been able to talk about the budget in ward meetings that have been held over the last few weeks. Tonight’s budget forum brings the discussion back to the full city.