With Walmart staying put for now, Roeland Park councilmembers push for sharp property tax reduction

Roeland Park Mayor Joel Marquardt says a 2 mill reduction is "sustainable" for the city, and was not supportive of a more aggressive reduction.
Roeland Park Mayor Joel Marquardt says a 2 mill reduction is “sustainable” for the city, and was not supportive of a more aggressive reduction.

By Holly Cook

A budget discussion during Monday’s Roeland Park workshop veered into a debate on whether the city should consider decreasing the property rate by more than 2 mills, the amount outlined in current plans. After prodding from councilmembers Tim Janssen and Ryan Kellerman, the council directed staff to look into how a 7-mill reduction would impact the city’s financial outlook.

Janssen pointed out the city’s decision to increase the mill by 7 in the 2014 budget in anticipation of Walmart leaving had generated $1.4 million in reserves and said now that the city had shored up funds it was time to consider decreasing the mill.

“The mill was raised for a reason, we have met that objective and it’s time to lower it,” Janssen said.

Councilmember Teresa Kelly said the 2014 mill increase had also helped patch gaps left by substantial budget cuts made by previous councils.

“We’re playing catch up and I think we are doing a good job,” she said.

Mayor Joel Marquardt said he was not supportive of an aggressive decrease in the mill over a one-year period and that the current proposal of a 2-mill decrease was a “sustainable way forward.”

Decreasing the mill by 2 would create a loss of $144,000 in property taxes for the city. Each mill decrease translates to a $19 decline in property taxes for an average single family home in Roeland Park.

The city has until August 25 to finalize the mill levy for 2018 and submit its budget to the county.

Councilmembers Erin Thompson and Michael Poppa agreed the proposed 2-mill decrease was a good compromise and said they were comfortable supporting that reduction.

Poppa also said he would entertain the option of putting a sales tax initiative on a future ballot and if that passed the council could consider lowering the mill further in 2019.

Kelly and Marquardt cautioned the council that there was a good possibility Walmart would decide to leave the city at some point in the future.

“The Walmart issue is not gone,” Marquardt said.

Walmart has announced it is staying in Roeland Park -- for now, at least.
Walmart has announced it is staying in Roeland Park — for now, at least.