Roeland Park voters have received their ballots and now have only a few days left to get them back into the Johnson County Election Office to have a voice in whether the city raises its sales tax by .35 percent. Ballots must arrive in the election office by noon on Tuesday in order to be counted.
Ballots were distributed by mail from the election office in late November. Wednesday evening, the city held the second of its public forums to provide information about the proposal and to let residents talk in small groups, a technique it used successfully during budget forums this summer. Fewer people turned out than at the first forum, but about 25 residents joined city council members and city staff for the session.
Council and staff were careful Wednesday to answer only what they considered “clarifying” questions that would provide factual information about the tax vote. The city has come under some criticism from tax opponents who had complained about them advocating for the tax rather than providing neutral information. On the other hand, some residents also had appeared at recent council meetings complaining about the deliberate method the city is taking to answer many questions: gathering the questions at the forums and posting answers online.
Written answers to questions asked at the November forum also were posted on the walls at the community center Wednesday. A small number of yard signs opposing the tax have appeared around Roeland Park, but in some areas residents have received hand-delivered letters supporting the tax.
If passed, the sales tax increase will be in place for a maximum of five years without a voter renewal. The council has set priorities of using the money for emergency infrastructure needs, infrastructure, restorations of service cuts and property tax reduction in that order. If passed, the tax is expected to raise about $288,000 per year. Combined with a property tax increase, the new revenue is designed to plug a budget hole created by the anticipated move of Walmart to Mission and the loss of an estimated $700,000 per year in sales tax revenue.
Some residents Wednesday applauded the city for being pro-active. Others asked about sharing of services with nearby cities and what the city has heard about new tenants to replace Walmart (nothing substantial was the answer).