Roeland Park to put sales tax hike up for vote again this year

Roeland Park will make another attempt to pass a sales tax increase. The city council Monday approved an ordinance calling for a city-wide vote in December on a sales tax increase of .35 percent.

Roeland Park BannerThat would be in addition to the 1.25 percent sales tax that the city already charges. A ballot measure in the city last November to pass a heftier 3/4 cent sales tax was defeated by only 36 votes.  The sales tax increases have been proposed to soften the expected blow to city revenues from the eventual Walmart move to the new Gateway project in Mission. The anticipated loss has been estimated to reach $700,000 per year from Walmart and surrounding businesses. The Walmart move is now expected in early 2015.

The council also approved a property tax increase Monday as part of its 2014 budget. The tax increase follows a number of budget sessions and two well-attended town hall meetings. The new tax rate is calculated to be sufficient to avoid another increase over a three-year period.

The council split 5-3 on both the sales tax proposal and the budget adoption. Councilors Becky Fast, Robert Meyers, Jr. and Mel Croston voted against both motions.

The sales tax ordinance asks for a mail ballot. If approved by city voters, the tax would take effect on April 1, 2014 and end on March 31, 2019. The sales tax would supplement the general fund where much of the city’s current sales tax revenue is directed to special purposes. Because it takes voter approval, any possible sales tax revenue could not be counted in the 2014 budget preparation.

On the property tax side, the council approved a budget for 2014 that increases the amount to be raised through property taxes by $414, 348, which represents a more than 26 percent increase for 2014. However, the city has predicted that the associated mill levy increase of more than 7.5 mills can be sustained through 2015 and 2016 when the Walmart departure hits, consequently spreading the impact of the sales tax loss across multiple years. The first draft of the budget included an increase of more than 10 mills.

The budget adds money for major street maintenance over those years, but also plans budget cuts, such as leaving the assistant police chief slot vacant.

For a Roeland Park homeowner with a home appraised at $145,000, the property tax bill would increase $127 per year to support the new tax rate. For a $125,000 home it would be $109.48.

A successful sales tax initiative, though, could add more than $280,000 per year back to general fund revenue by the city’s calculation.

The last budget town hall drew approximately 100 people and council chambers were full Monday with approximately 50 in attendance and several citizen speakers.