Proposed Sales Tax Hikes Angers Some in Roeland Park

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ROELAND PARK, Kan. -- Two proposed sales tax hikes in Roeland Park, Kan., have residents frustrated -- and have propelled a former city council woman to accuse city officials of not being forthright.

The taxes are centered around the pending departure of the city's Walmart. City leaders say sales tax revenue from the Walmart is responsible for about one-seventh of the city budget. That's about $700,000 the city says it has to replace when Walmart moves to the city of Mission in two years.

On the November ballot the city will ask voters to approve a three-quarter cent sales tax to make up for lost revenue when Walmart moves its store a mile away outside city limits.

"I'm not happy," said Tom Madigan, resident. "This is ridiculous."

Madigan is especially upset because three-quarters of a cent sales tax would come on top of a one cent sales tax the city wants to create specifically at the Walmart site. It's called a CID for Community Improvement District, and the idea is to add another penny to every purchase made at the strip mall next to Walmart and to whatever retailer replaces Walmart.

"My wife and I live on a fixed income," Madigan said. "The taxes keep going up. The property tax went up for Roeland Park. We're going to get to the point we're going to have to move or shop some place else."

City administrator Aaron Otto said sometimes there aren't a lot of good options.

"The reality is if people want the services they've come to expect and their quality of services from the evaluations that we get, then you got to pay for them somehow," Otto said.

If the city loses Walmart it has to either raise property taxes, sales taxes or cut the budget beyond the bone. Otto said a separate CID sales tax is needed to bring in new tenants where Walmart sits.

"One way to do that is to have a sale tax in place that helps improve that site to make it more marketable and more appealing to potential replacement," he said.

But one critic doesn't buy the city's reasoning.

"They're not being very honest with the people of Roeland Park," said former council woman Linda Mau.

Mau said the city's plan will backfire because retailers won't come to the old Walmart site if the sales tax is too high.

"Prohibits and kind of hinders additional businesses from coming in to even fill the space, so I think we're hindering ourselves before we began," she said.

A public meeting at City Hall will be held Monday at 7 p.m. to discuss the CID one-cent sales tax, but critics say outcome is predetermined because council members are voting right after the public hearing.

There's another public hearing Tuesday night at 7. That one focuses on the three-quarter cent sales tax, which will require voter approval in November.

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