In mapping out 2019 budget, Roeland Park considering potential loss of tax revenue if big box stores’ valuation appeals succeed

Roeland Park is looking at the effect big box stores’ appeals of their valuations and property taxes would have on the city budget.

Roeland Park councilmembers dove into 2019 budget plans Monday, which include a property tax reduction of 1.5 mills, a 4.5 percent merit-based salary increase for city personnel, and more than $2 million in Public Works projects.

The budget does not include funding for replacing the Aquatic Center’s dome, as decided by the council last month and only accounts for summer operations of the pool in 2018 and 2019. Tentative budgets for 2020 and 2021 include year-round costs for the pool.

Among items outlined in 2019 budget:

  • $534,000 for reconstruction of Rosewood Street between 55th and Alder
  • $245,000 to add pedestrian walkways, street trees, unique lighting and signaling along Roe Boulevard from County Line to Johnson Drive (part of the 2020 Roe Blvd. project)
  • $196,000 in improvements for El Monte Street
  • $191,000 in improvements for 50th Terrace from Roe Boulevard to Cedar
  • $150,000 in storm water maintenance to remove and replace failed corrugated metal pipe under Skyline Drive, west of Roe
  • $87,294 to accommodate a 4.5% merit increase for staff (does not include increases in pay for councilmembers or the mayor)
  • $30,000 in historical signage
  • $20,000 to support park maintenance and improvements
  • $10,000 to construct a replica of the Roe House as a kids play structure
  • $30,000 for a Harley Davidson Patrol Motorcycle for the Roeland Park Police Department’s fleet
  • $1,000 for police body cameras

(Many of the street improvement items noted above will receive some partial support through grants or TIF funds)

City Administrator Keith Moody briefly touched on potential tax revenue loss that could occur if the city’s big-box retailers are successful in their property valuation appeals.

Walmart, CVS, Lowes and Walgreens all have filed appeals to their valuations. Based on preliminary data the city estimates successful appeals of these four stores could result in about $154,000 in losses for 2019 and $309,000 in losses for 2020. These tentative amounts are based on estimates that successful appeals would result in a 30 percent decrease in property appraisals.

These losses would come out of city’s well-stocked TIF fund reserves and would not impact the general fund, Moody said.

City staff said they were unsure whether retailers were using the “dark store theory” approach, which argues that stores should be valued as if they were empty or abandoned, or if the retailers were appealing on different grounds.

As noted by the Kansas City Star, commercial property appraisals for some Johnson County big box stores nearly doubled between 2015 and 2016. Proponents of the companies’ appeals say they’re just trying to correct for a sharp and unjustified increase in valuation — and thereby taxes.

Residents can review the budget and provide feedback during the upcoming community forum, happening Monday, May 14 at 6 p.m. at the Roeland Park Community Center.