Roeland Park approves 2.5 mill reduction in property tax rate for 2019

Roeland Park residents can expect to see a 2.5 reduction in their mill rate after councilmembers included the $207,500 property tax cut within the 2019 budget, passed Monday with a 7-1 vote.

Councilmember Jim Kelly was the lone member to vote against the budget after arguing a 2.5 mill reduction was too steep.

The 2019 budget originally included a 1.66 mill reduction — the amount required by the state’s tax lid law which restricts local government from collecting property tax revenues beyond the rate of inflation without public voter approval.

But with Roeland Park residents facing among the highest average increase in appraised home value this year, members of the council and residents were looking for an additional reduction in the mill rate to take some of the sting out of property tax bills.

Discussion of cutting the mill beyond 1.66 was kicked off by Mayor Mike Kelly who offered to cut the budget for his objective to create a property tax assistance program from $30,000 to $15,000. Councilmember Jen Hill followed up by offering to remove $20,000 from her objective to create bike lane striping on Fontana Street and councilmember Claudia McCormack offered to cut her backyard compost education program from $6,000 to $3,000.

City assistant administrator Jennifer Jones-Lacy said if the council wanted to round the number to an even 2-mill reduction they could use a portion of the city’s $96,000 surplus of sales tax reserve funds.

Councilmember Tim Janssen then moved to amend the budget to cut the mill even further, to a total reduction of 3 mills. Councilmember Tom Madigan seconded the motion.

Mayor Kelly said he thought a 3-mill reduction would be too steep and said while the city was currently in a favorable financial position “good times don’t always last.”

Hill was also not in favor of a 3-mill reduction and said she would like to see a 2-mill cut.

“I think it’s fiscally irresponsible that we drop it too quickly,” Hill said.

Councilmember Michael Poppa suggested councilmembers compromise at a 2.5 mill reduction.

Councilmembers Erin Thompson, Madigan and Janssen agreed to compromise at 2.5 and Janssen amended his motion to further cut the mill for a total reduction of 2.5. His amendment passed 6-2 with councilmembers Hill and Kelly voting against it.

Prior to the council’s budget discussion five members of the public spoke in favor of the city’s proposed budget and cautioned the council against cutting the mill beyond the originally anticipated 1.66 reduction.

“I support the budget and the mill levy as you have proposed it, but please no lower,” said resident Gretchen Davis.