Overland Park’s plan for a budget with a reduced taxing rate got mixed reviews from the handful of residents who commented at the public hearing Aug 7. For Earl Long, the reduction didn’t go far enough. On the other hand, David Willig warned council members that the city needs to increase its commitment to streets and parks that continue to suffer from the economic downturn of a few years ago.
However the city budget didn’t inspire a great deal of debate. Only five people spoke at the public hearing. One was the president of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce.
The city has proposed a $292 million budget for 2018, a 4.9 percent increase over the current year. Of that, $128 million supports day-to-day operations of the city.
Because of increasing property values and predictions of a relatively stable sales tax collection, council members asked for a 0.25 mill reduction in the tax rate, lowering it from 13.8 mills to 13.55 mills. A mill equals $1 of tax per each $1,000 of taxable value.
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The reduced rate would mean the city will gradually spend down the amount it expects to have left over after paying expenses. But the amount spent will not ding the fund balance enough to put the bond rating in danger, according to a five-year projection done by staff.
Speakers at the public hearing presented a wide variety of views.
Willig said he’d like to see a return to commitment to the Metcalf corridor plan known as Vision Metcalf. He said parks and roads have “gone downhill” in recent years, and that the city has missed opportunities to improve its arterial roads.
“Getting by on the cheap isn’t a vision,” he said.
But Long said the quarter-mill reduction in the rate is “ridiculous,” and “insignificant.” The city could cut more from its non-essential community services and reduce the mill levy to 10 mills without harming the city’s core mission, he said.
However Melissa Cheatham disagreed, saying services such as parks should not be considered “non-essential” since they are the reason many people decided to live in Overland Park.
Tracey Osborne, president of the Chamber of Commerce, presented a letter from the group’s directors supporting continued public investment in infrastructure and economic development.
A lower taxing rate doesn’t necessarily mean lower tax bill. Higher property values could still increase the amount homeowners pay.
In other action, the council furthered the progress of a development on the site of the former Sprint nursery at 11300 Nall Ave. The council voted to proceed with plans for a Community Improvement taxing district and revenue bonds for an exemption on sales tax for construction materials and equipment for a mixed-use, multi-family residential and retail project proposed by 115 Land Investors, LLC.
The City Planning Commission approved the rezoning of the 37-acre tract near the Jewish Community Center and Leawood commercial properties in June. Developers want to put two five-story buildings with 548 units on the vacant land. Also in the plan are 241,000 square feet of retail space.
The council also accepted without discussion six Chinese sculptures for the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, which is undergoing an expansion. The donated sculptures are Stroking, by Lei Yixin, Rhyme by Zhang Kun, Chinese Drama by Ma Hui, Ni by Yao Xiang, Adorable by Hu Bing and Gone by Ma Qiang.