Big sales and property tax increases don’t often make for happy citizens. But for Roeland Park there was a small bright spot this month.
KC Consensus, a nonprofit dedicated to helping policy makers deal with difficult issues, has bestowed its 2013 Civility Award on the city council and Mayor Joel Marquardt for conducting town hall meetings on how to deal with a massive loss in tax revenue that will occur when Wal-Mart moves from Roeland Park to Mission.
Roeland Park was one of five recipients and the only governing body to be recognized. The other winners were individuals.
The award comes as the city gears up for a Dec. 10 mail-in ballot issue asking for a 0.35-cent sales tax increase. That increase would come on top of a double-digit property tax increase already approved, as well as some cuts in services, most notably the police department. Council members have said the increase is necessary to make up for $700,000 in lost revenue when Wal-Mart moves to the Gateway development in 2015.
City leaders are still grappling with the sales tax issue. The council’s committee of the whole has been hashing out various plans to specify how the sales tax money should be spent, said City Administrator Aaron Otto.
The only requirement at present is that the money goes to the general fund, which has some flexibility as to how it will be spent. But some members want to dedicate the sales tax income into infrastructure, reinstatement of service cuts or reduction of the mill levy.
Effective in January, property tax rates will increase 26.5 percent, according to the city’s calculation. That amounts to about $114 more per year on a $130,000 house.
The city held two town halls to get citizen input before adopting the property tax increases and will likely hold two more before the deadline to turn in sales tax ballots Dec. 10. Tentative dates for those town halls are Nov. 12 and Dec. 4, Otto said.
Citizens turned down a larger proposed sales tax increase by a narrow margin last November. Although proponents are hopeful a smaller increase will pass, the idea has some detractors.
Former city councilwoman Linda Mau points out that a big majority of shoppers live in the city and will pay the tax, she said.