That is essentially where the council stood in early February after taking test votes to narrow the options. The council split 5-4 Monday night on a test vote to give city staff guidance on preparing an ordinance for a final vote. The direction provided by the council means that all of the current exemptions will be included in an ordinance to be voted on June 16. Those exemptions include churches, schools, governments and non-profits.
The franchise agreement grants KCP&L the right to use the streets and alleys in the city to serve customers in Roeland Park. In exchange, the utility charges a franchise fee and turns that money over to the city. The franchise fee arrangement and the five percent charge are common practice. However, granting exemptions to the fee is becoming less common. No exemptions are granted by Roeland Park or other cities on Kansas Gas franchise fees.
In early discussions, Bishop Miege and St. Agnes were the most mentioned exemptions. Monday, Roeland Park City Administrator Aaron Otto asked the council to consider if it wanted to keep non-profits in the mix since all the institutions currently exempted fall under another category. The open-ended non-profit language could mean more exempt property in the future, he pointed out. A poll of councilors left the non-profit exemption in the draft ordinance.
The franchise fee exemptions remove about $40,000 per year from city collections, but a quarter of that money is a wash because it is the city exemption. The issue was part of a community public forum earlier this year that attracted a number of public comments.