Roeland Park sets up $1.4 million contingency fund in case major retailer leaves city


By Holly Cook

The Roeland Park City Council Monday approved a resolution 6-1 establishing a committed reserve fund for the $1.41 million generated in anticipation of Walmart leaving the city for the Mission Gateway Development. In late 2016 Walmart decided to pull out of the development and keep its Roeland Park store, leaving the city with $1.41 million in reserves.

According to the resolution the reserve funds can only be accessed “if there is a sustained decrease by 25% or more in sales tax revenue that continues for at least six months.” The decrease would be compared to the same time period from the prior year.

Councilmember Ryan Kellerman voted against the measure after requesting the resolution name specifically reference “big box stores.” Kellerman’s motion to amend the resolution’s name failed after councilors said they preferred the title’s flexibility and its ability to apply to groups of stores leaving.

Councilmember Sheri McNeil questioned whether the resolution could truly act as a safeguard to ensure future councils did not dip into the fund for lost revenue triggered by events other than a major retailer leaving the city.

“It seems almost too easy to get into and access the funds,” she said.

McNeil questioned whether these funds could be retrieved to offset sales tax losses, such as the decline expected during the Roe Boulevard updates.
“I would really hate to see the reserve used during that period,” she said.

City assistant administrator Jennifer Jones-Lacy said the intent of the resolution could be amended only if future council members went through a specific public process.

Councilmember Michael Poppa said he felt the resolution was a “promise to our residents” that the city would use the funds raised through the mil l levy increase for their original intended purpose.