The Roeland Park City Council on Monday narrowly approved putting a .75 percent sales tax increase proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot – and in the hands of voting residents.
The city is expecting a significant drop in revenue after Walmart announced it would be closing its Roeland Park store in 2014 and opening a larger store in neighboring Mission.
The city estimates a drop of $700,000 per year in sales tax once the retail giant leaves. The proposed sales tax would generate about $630,000 toward replacing the lost revenue, according to city estimates.
The sales tax money would be spent first on police department expenses, such as employees and equipment and vehicles. Any money not used by the police department would be put in the general fund for other city expenses.
The .75 percent increase would be in addition to the city’s current 1.25 percent sales tax, and if approved would be in effect for 10 years. The sales tax would go into effect after a state sales tax of .6 percent expires on July 1, 2013.
However, some council members said there was a chance the state could decide to renew that tax.
The sales tax in much of Roeland Park is 8.775 percent but the rate varies due to taxing districts in the city. If the increase is just the .15 percent difference between the new tax and the expiring state tax, the new tax rate would be 8.925 percent, making it one of the highest in Johnson County.
The rate at the Roeland Park Price Chopper would be 9.925.
With two council members absent from the meeting, the initial vote was four members in favor of the ordinance, and two opposing. The proposal needed five votes to pass.
Roeland Park Mayor Adrienne Foster said she initially was going to vote no to allow the absent members a chance to cast their votes at a later date, but upon being informed that this meeting was the final deadline to approve a change to November’s ballot, she reversed herself and cast the deciding yes vote to send the issue to the voters.
Council members Megan England, Marek Gliniecki, Jennifer Gunby and Betsy Mellor voted in favor of the ordinance, while members Becky Fast and Bill Art voted no.
“It’s not something pleasant to do but we can put it out to our voters,” England said. “… All we’re doing is asking them if this is the route they want to go.”
Fast said increasing the sales tax would make it harder to attract businesses to replace the Walmart in Roeland Park.
Linda Mau, a 27-year resident of Roeland Park and former council member, used the public comment time to vehemently oppose the new sales tax, saying an increase in the tax would undercut the citizens and chase money out of the town.
“You’ve taxed us enough, give us a break,” Mau said.
In other business, the council voted unanimously to renew a measure passed last year allowing residents apply for a special permit to own up to six female chickens inside the city limits.
Also, the council unanimously voted in favor of, pending approval from legal counsel, the purchase of six in-car video camera systems for Roeland Park police officers at a cost of $35,925. About $20,000 of the cost will be borne from the Special Law Enforcement Fund, which is not funded by taxes but by grants and assets from drug seizures and forfeitures. The remaining cost would come out of the police department’s budget, said Roeland Park Police Chief Rex Taylor.