Roeland Park to explore tax assistance program for residents hit hard by value increases

Roeland Park Mayor Mike Kelly.

By Holly Cook

Roeland Park councilors Monday signaled preliminary support for exploring a tax assistance program for elderly, disabled or veteran residents. The initiative was promoted by Mayor Mike Kelly and aims to offset some of the property tax increase expected for Roeland Park homeowners following the city’s 16.25% increase in single-home appraisals.

The objective would place a portion of the money from increased assessments into a fund for residents “who can show genuine hardship.” It also recommends creating an initiative that would provide rebates to prevent the continued increase in property taxes for seniors found to be qualified.

The estimated cost of the program is $30,000.

Councilmember Tom Madigan said while he supported creating a tax assistance program he did not want it to be the only way to lessen the tax burden for residents. Madigan noted that decreasing the mill levy would likely be an important part of the 2019 budget discussion.

Kelly said he was promoting the program because he expected some residents would need more assistance than what a decrease in the mill levy could provide.

City administrator Keith Moody said the new tax lid law, which went into effect Jan. 1, would require Roeland Park to decrease its mill levy in the 2019 budget.

“We are going to have to roll back the mill levy,” Moody said. “It’s a certainty.”

City staff said based on preliminary research they estimated the mill levy would need to be rolled back by at least 1.4 mills to comply with tax lid laws.

Councilors also provided preliminary support for exploring more than 20 other 2019 objectives including:

  • Implementing an improvement plan for the Roeland Park Community Center that would maximize the use and functionality of the center and improve its interior and exterior design.
  • Creating historical signage to tell the story of Roeland Park. Possible locations for the markers include City Hall, Nall Park, R Park, Site of the Roe Family Home and Strang Line Street Car Stop.
  • Add motorcycle and K-9 units to the police force. Roeland Park Police Chief John Morris said the RPPD has raised almost $7,000 in donations for the K-9 unit in the two weeks since the governing body approved the fundraising efforts.
  • Hiring a part-time public information consultant to implement marketing and communications activities.

Councilmembers also voted against moving forward with an objective that would explore a storm water utility fee for homeowners. The initiative aimed to provide a recommendation for implementation in 2020.

According to the staff report the fee would help replace or repair deteriorated infrastructure and be used along with SMAC funds to stretch local dollars for storm water maintenance needs.

Several councilors said they felt it would be poor timing to consider adding a fee onto residents’ bills, considering the recent increased tax assessments.

“I see a revolt coming,” Madigan said.

Councilman Tom Madigan said the city needed to look at ways to relieve the burden on homeowners hit hard by steep valuation increases in Roeland Park.