Roeland Park council candidates on the issues: How to weather financial impact if Walmart leaves for Mission?

Walmart was set to decamp from Roeland Park and set up shop in the Mission Gateway development — but that project's future is very much up in the air.
Walmart was set to decamp from Roeland Park and set up shop in the Mission Gateway development — but that project’s future is very much up in the air.

Today we continue with responses to the questionnaire we developed with reader input for the candidates running for Roeland Park City Council. Today’s questionnaire item is:

If Walmart does move out of Roeland Park, the city will lose substantial sales tax revenue. The city has already been budgeting for that possibility. However, if more of a financial pinch is felt by the city, would you encourage more cost-cutting or additional revenue generation to fill the gap? Specifically describe the actions you would support.

Ward 2 Candidates

Blake_MorganBlake Morgan, Jr.

You have to take a balanced approach on both sides of the budget, but in a foremost sense, we need to always take consideration of the effect on our bond rating. These economic storms are cyclical, and often much less impact-full in a real dollar sense than the feel when you’re right in the middle of it. We need to take a long term approach that sees past short term hiccups to a time five and even ten years down the road. Cities pay for big important things like sewers and roads with bonds (that take decades to pay off at times), and the cost of those bonds years from now will be paid for with the decisions we make today. If you look at the most recent budget (really, read it, the folks who put the time into it made some tough decisions which they explain clearly and rationally), you’ll see that we’re in pretty good shape financially, and I think that we do budgeting better than most. Are there improvements that can be made? Of course, but we have historically set a high bar for bringing citizens into the budget discussion, and I think it should stay that way.

Tim_Janssen_HeadTim Janssen

Wal-Mart is an important part of our City, just as are all the shops and businesses in Roeland Park. Roeland Park was a vibrant community before Wal-Mart came to town and still will be when Wal-Mart decides to move. I think the Council should consider budgeting for help from an economic development specialist. Roeland Park needs to generate revenue by encouraging development or redevelopment of the available commercial sites in the city.

Ward 3 Candidates

Erin_Thompson+HeadErin Thompson

Additional revenue should be created to fill the gap combined with creating a more efficient government. The best way to create additional revenue is to focus on economic development. We should continue to look at creative ways to develop existing spaces. Roeland Park’s central location puts it in an ideal position to attract quality businesses.

Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes to see ways to be more efficient and cost effective. That’s where my fresh perspective would be a real asset to the City Council.

Continuing our commitment to the arts, parks and nondiscrimination combined with a renewed dedication to economic development and a more efficient government will put Roeland Park in a good position going forward.

Linda_Mau15Linda Mau

The City of Roeland Park has taken some measures should a revenue shortfall occur due to the loss of Walmart. However, belt tightening was not one of them. The city continued budgeting for positions that were open and then eventually filled them during this crisis. The city also created additional employment positions with huge salaries and benefits. They filled them. The city has recently hired an Assistant City Administrator/Director of Finance, however, our finances are outsourced and a management company handles our finances. If the city of Roeland Park is faced with tough decisions regarding its financial stability of its financial future, then I will advocate and vote for the most responsible avenue benefiting and protecting its citizens.

Ward 4 Candidates

Joanna_Rush_15JoAnna Rush

Walmart generates 40 percent of the city’s sales tax revenue. There is no way that cost cutting alone can make up for that deficit. The city can be proactive in working with the developers, landlords and leasing agents in our city to bring in quality retailers that will draw shoppers and outside dollars into Roeland Park. As a corporate and real estate attorney, I have worked on all sides of commercial real estate transactions. I understand the complexity and the motivations of the various parties. I can bring a grounded and experienced voice to the conversation on behalf of the city.

Not only do we need to focus on the soon to be vacant Walmart building, but also on the other retail opportunities within Roeland Park. These include the retail lots at the corner of Mission Rd. and 47th St., the Commerce Bank area in the NW corner of Roe and Johnson Drive, the NE corner of Roe and Johnson Drive and the Old Pool Site.

Having a strong retail base is not only important for generating revenue, it is a large influencer on retaining and attracting residents to Roeland Park. The amenities and perceptions that a vibrant retail scene have are incredibly important. Building a long term and sustainable retail base might be the single most important factor that the City Council can do to ensure Roeland Park and its residents grow and succeed as a city.

Poppa+15_HMichael Poppa

In 2011, Walmart announced it was leaving Roeland Park for Mission’s Gateway project. Walmart currently contributes over $700,000 yearly to our city’s tax base, which is earmarked for street, sidewalk, and storm drain maintenance, and pays for services such as the Roeland Park Aquatic and Community centers. The quality of Roeland Park’s infrastructure and services directly impact our property values and our ability to attract new business to Roeland Park. A new tenant must be found for the Walmart site, and our focus should be attracting business that will generate adequate revenue to meet our budgetary needs.

We have a responsibility to invest in Roeland Park’s future, while ensuring our city is running as efficiently as possible. Revenue must be spent wisely, and all new revenue sources must be considered and systematically evaluated. For example, the City of Roeland Park must avoid the example of our neighbors, who instituted an ill-advised “driveway tax” that alienated residents and businesses. We must work together to identify and pursue projects that contribute to our city’s long term growth.

Our priorities must include working closely with current business owners and developers in Roeland Park. We must build strategic partnerships with neighboring cities, and work closely with organizations such as the Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce to identify new businesses that share our values. We must rebuild our “rainy day” reserve fund to pay for unexpected contingencies and emergencies.

The City Council must identify and pursue projects that contribute to our city’s long term growth. We must follow through with responsible development of the Northeast Gateway, and redevelopment of the “old pool” site. Steady revenue streams are critical to the fiscal health of Roeland Park.

It is our responsibility to focus on the road ahead, and secure a vibrant future for all Roeland Parkers.

Tomorrow, the candidates will respond to the final item:

What steps could the city be taking to make Roeland Park a more appealing place to live for homebuyers?