Roeland Park’s first quarterly community forum was dominated by the comments on a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance, but it was not the only item on the agenda. The council has been wrestling with a renewal of franchise fee with KCP&L for several meetings.
In a previous attempt, the council had been unable to muster enough votes to either eliminate current exemptions from the five percent fee, or to approve keeping the current exemptions in place, which include churches, schools, non profits and government.
Feedback has run on both sides of the issue, and did again when comments were taken at the forum. Churches account for about $4,900 of the revenue lost to exemptions and schools about $14,427, it was explained. No other utility franchise agreements have exemptions. The fee is collected by the utility and passed to the city in exchange for the use of public right of way.
Councilors Marek Gliniecki and Teresa Kelly presented pro and con arguments for removal of the exemption before public comments were taken. Kelly, who presented the case to remove them, said all property would be contributing for city services used, most neighboring communities have removed exemptions, and only the KCP&L fee has exemptions. Gliniecki said the churches, schools and other non profits contribute to the community and give back more than the exemption, exemptions should be considered when other franchise fees are up for renewal, the city should not get its revenue on the back of service organizations and the exemption keeps the balance of church and state.
Among the commenters were the two previous Roeland Park mayors, Adrienne Foster and Steve Petrehn, who offered contrasting views on the franchise fee just as they did later in comments on an anti-discrimination ordinance. Foster favored the exemptions, saying the city could find revenue in other ways. Petrehn said continuing the exemptions opened a “miasma of cherry picking” and that one policy should apply to all franchise fees.