Roeland Park City Administrator Keith Moody rolled out a comprehensive comparison of the costs of living in cities across the Kansas City metro Monday, showing how the cities line up on taxes and utilities. Even with the increase in property tax rates a few years ago, Moody concluded, the cost of living in Roeland Park is still just average.
Moody’s charts compare the taxes and utility costs for a $250,000 house in a long list of cities on both sides of the state line. Cities, Moody contended with his data, have control over only a small percentage of the total cost of living. More impact comes from the state and school district taxes that a family pays. Taxes make up 69 percent of the costs on average while utilities account for 31 percent.
From 2013 to 2016, Roeland Park’s tax and utility costs increased by $613, higher than the $345 average, but that included a 2014 property tax levy increase of 29 percent in anticipation of the departure of the Walmart store. That property tax increase accounted for only $294 of the $613 increase, he said.
Moody’s comparison, which he had been doing before taking the Roeland Park job, assumes the costs for a family with a $100,000 income (a variable that can be changed) and that sales tax dollars are all spent in the city of residence.
Although Kansas has lowered income tax rates dramatically in recent years, Moody pointed out that deductions have reduced, making the income tax cost a for a family about the same in Kansas and Missouri.
Roeland Park could increase its sales tax and lower its high property tax rate to match some other cities, Moody told the city council, but he said he would not recommend it because the sales tax is regressive and shifts the tax burden more to the resident.
“A race for the bottom is just that – a race to the bottom,” Moody said. “People vote with their feet. They will pay for quality of life.” The total tax cost in Roeland Park was barely above average for the metro. Several nearby Johnson County communities, including Prairie Village ranked very low on the tax cost chart.
Being in the WaterOne service area and on Johnson County Wastewater kept those utility costs low.
Showing the growth in population in Johnson County, Moody said, “it is pretty apparent that people are voting with the feet. It (Johnson County) is where they want to live.”
Moody’s presentation is shown below: