The following questions were asked by participants at a town hall meeting on November 12,2013.
1) The proposed budget cut amounted to approximately $135,000; Sales tax will bring in $288,000. Is the Sales tax not just replacing the money cut from the proposed 2014 Budget plus an additional $153,000?
Answer: The increase in the property tax and the expected revenue generated from a sales tax total $702,000. The estimated loss of sales tax revenue from the relation of Wal-Mart is anticipated to be around $700,000. Funds from an additional sales tax, if adopted, could be used to restore some or all of the service cuts in the previous budgets.
2) Is Resolution 630 a binding resolution that limits the use of Sales Tax monies or can the Governing Body decide to use the revenue for other projects as it sees fit?
Answer: Resolutions adopted by the City Council are often used as way to express an opinion. Resolution 630 is not binding on future Councils; however, it does contain the intended uses for the sales tax funds as seen by the same City Council members who authorized the issue to be on the ballot.
3) In the Budget Town Hall Meetings many citizens believed that the Wal-Mart shortfall should be covered by 1/3 Property Tax increase, 1/3 Sales Tax increase and 1/3 by a cut back in City Services. The vast majority saw no need for community events, enhancements to Roe Blvd Design and entryway updates. Should the citizens/voters assume the Town Hall Budget Meetings were an exercise in futility after all?
Answer: Following the town hall meetings the community events budget for FY14 was cut in half and the Roe Boulevard Design elements and entryway updates were eliminated from the FY14 budget.
4) How much money does the City currently have in “emergency” reserves?
Answer: The City currently does not have an “emergency reserve.” There is a general fund reserve, a bond and interest reserve and an equipment/building maintenance reserve.
5) The vast majority of Budget Cuts were accomplished by not replacing the Deputy Chief position and purchasing one Police cruiser; Exactly what City Services will this Sales Tax help restore?
Answer: If the sales tax is adopted, that will be a decision of the City Council. With restoration of services being the third on the council’s priority list as set forth in the resolution 630, specific restored items are not guaranteed, but it is intended that they would be discussed if the other two higher priorities were addressed. A few examples of other service items that have been removed from the budget during the past few years include: tree trimming and public works summer help.
6) While the City is not replacing the Deputy Chief position a patrol officer is returning from active duty with the Armed Forces; the Police staff strength will stay the same as the current level. Why the rush to fill the Deputy Chief position without looking at alternative staffing solutions?
Answer: Under the budget model discussed during the summer of 2013, the deputy chief’s position will not be funded until January, 2016. During that time the new chief of police can review current staffing models for possible alteration.
7) If the proposed Sales Tax can be used to reduce the current mill levy and the Governing Body approved a budget projected to last for 3 years, how is that mathematically possible?
Answer: The Governing Body did not approve a three year budget. However, the Governing Body did forecast revenue and expenses for a period of three years. If the proposed sales tax is adopted, the Governing Body could consider the different many different uses for the sales tax, but they have stated a priority of intentions as outlined in Resolution 630. It generally states the priorities as first the emergency maintenance reserve would be funded; then general infrastructure needs would be considered, then service reductions could be considered and mill rate reduction. A reduction in the property tax rate after the first three prioritized uses of funds have been considered. In addition, since the Governing Body did not know if the Sales Tax would pass, the potential revenue from the Sales Tax was not included in the 3 year budget projections.
8) Road/Street improvements are budgeted for 2014 and not deferred; a Sales Tax increase for the same item is redundant.
Answer: In the past, the City used a mill and overlay for street maintenance. Now, other less expensive, shorter term, surface life extension techniques such as chip and seal and crack and seal are used more frequently. Additionally, there were many years where street maintenance was funded around the $400,000 level. In the FY14 budget, contracted and in house street maintenance is funded at $280,000. The FY12 CARS project, Roe Boulevard phase 1 was constructed and consisted of curb repairs, remedial full depth patches, striping, sidewalk repairs and striping. The FY13 CARS project, Roe Boulevard phase 2 (surface treatment) was scheduled but has been deferred to the year 2015. The 2015 project is also set to have Federal Grant money for 48th and Roe intersection improvement. FY14 CARS project is currently slated for Nall Avenue, however, some minor repairs were done by Public Works crews in an effort to further its life beyond 2014.
9) Will the new tenant fall under the Community Improvement District (CID) currently in place at the Wal-Mart site?
Answer: The CID additional 1% tax was requested by the property owner. The property owner could also petition the City asking that it be removed from the property. If the property owner does not request that it be removed then it will remain in effect as it is today. The use of the CID funds could be used to improve the new tenant’s space if that is how the owners of the property would like to use the funds and the City agrees.
10) What is the City doing to enhance the economic growth of the City, specifically, in re-tenanting the Wal-Mart property and in bringing businesses to vacant city properties?
Answer: Many do not realize that the Wal-Mart building is not owned by Wal-Mart or the building but it is owned by a group called the “Roeland Park TMM, LLC”. The City has been working with the property owners to provide the necessary economic incentives to all them to create an attractive site for future development/re-tenanting. The City has provided ideas of possible tenants it would like to see; however, ultimately the decision is the property owners on who they will rent the property to, within the limits of the CID. The following is a long list from the CID agreement which lists business that will not be permitted and specifies restrictions on the businesses for which it may be used:
- Any use which is offensive by reason of odor, fumes, dust, smoke, noise, or pollution, or which constitutes a nuisance or is hazardous by reason of fire or explosion, or injurious to the reputation of the shopping center. No oil, gasoline or flammable liquid shall be stored within the Project, except in quantities reasonably desirable and incidental to the business of an occupant within the Project and in the normal course of business.
- A gas station or car wash.
- A facility primarily used as a storage warehouse operation, mini-warehouse, or freight terminal.
- Any pawn shop, precious metals dealer, pay day lender, second hand store or flea market without the express written approval of the City Council;
- Any dumping, disposing, incineration or reduction of garbage; provided, however, this prohibition shall not be applicable to garbage compactors located near the rear of any building within the Project.
- Any fire sale, bankruptcy sale (unless pursuant to a court order) or auction house operation (but this provision shall not restrict the absolute freedom of an owner of any portion within the Project to determine its own selling prices nor shall it preclude second-hand sales or the conduct of periodic seasonal sales, promotional or clearance sales, all of which are specifically permitted).
- Any central laundry, or laundromat; provided, however, this prohibition shall not be applicable to a drop-off and pickup facility, or a central laundry or laundromat that complies with CERCLA, RCRA and other Applicable Laws and Requirements (as defined herein).
- Any automobile, truck, trailer or recreational vehicle with outside sales, leasing, or display unless approved by the City or in conjunction with promotions, displays and other similar marketing activities, subject, however, to compliance with all Applicable Laws and Requirements.
- Any body shop repair operation, engine repair or vehicle repair facility for all vehicles, including motorcycles.
- Any establishment selling or exhibiting sexually oriented materials or which sells drug-related paraphernalia or which exhibits either live or by other means to any degree, nude or partially clothed dancers or wait staff (this prohibition regarding partially clothed staff shall not apply to restaurants whose annual revenues from food exceed fifty percent (50%) of annual gross revenues); except that this provision shall not be deemed to preclude the operation within the Project of either a nationally or regionally recognized book store, or a drug store or pharmacy, or a department within a retail store offering for sale its usual or customary inventory of books, magazines and/or related pharmaceutical materials.
- A nightclub.
NW Roe and Johnson – This property has been sold to Commerce. The City is working with them on the possibility of getting a 2nd tenant on that site.
NE Roe and Johnson – The City is working with volunteer architects and designers and talking to different development consultants. The mayor, a couple of Council members and staff are working on different methods to move forward with development of this property.
4800 Roe (Old Pool Site) – This site has much potential, but also the most challenges including caves, a steep slope and difficult access on Roe. We have met with the County and are looking at trying to adjust the boundaries of two TIF districts so developers will have a more direct path at understanding development.
Most importantly, the City has no Development Dept. or Staff and minimal funds to work with from the budget. The Mayor, Council, a couple specialists and some volunteers and others are giving much time to advance these sites in a responsible manner.
11) When is Wal-Mart’s lease up, and has Wal-Mart provided official notice that they are leaving Roeland Park?
Answer: It is our understanding from the private property owner that the current lease with Wal-Mart runs through July, 2016. During the FY14 budget process time period, a senior manager of public affairs and government relations from Wal-Mart reaffirmed in an email the company’s intention to move to Mission and that current timeline was for a March, 2015 departure or very shortly thereafter.
12) Can the City assure residents that not one dime of funds collected from this sales tax will be spent until after Wal-Mart leaves?
Answer: This could be an outcome, but that would be a decision of the Governing Body. The Council recently passed a resolution delineating a priority list for possible expenditures of the funds.
13) If the City is forecasting the Wal-Mart losses and the possible additional sales tax revenue from the proposed 0.35% ballot, would the City please forecast the property values (change in average home price) over the same period to cover this loss?
Answer: The sales tax projection is based on current sales totals minus the estimated impact, which is the loss of sales from Wal-Mart and its impact on surrounding businesses as estimated by outside experts. For our ad valorem income, City staff projected that property tax values would decline slightly in 2014 (based upon trend for the past several years) and then level out during 2015 and 2016. It is difficult to estimate property value appreciation much beyond the next year. The county appraiser will provide the final total of assessed value on July 1st of each year for the next year’s budgeting purposes.
14) Is the “27B” sales tax dedicated to the continual maintenance of Roe Boulevard?
Answer: The ballot language for the “27B” sales tax was approved to be used for the following purposes:
“providing additional revenue to be used to pay a portion of the costs of the improvement of Roe Avenue, Roe Lane, Venture Plaza, Venture Lane and 47th street… with any amount of additional revenue raised and not required for the payment of the previously described costs to be added to the General Fund of the City.”
No projects have been paid directly from the 27B Fund since prior to 1997. The last two times Roe Boulevard was worked on, mill and overlaid (2006) or had curb and surface repair work completed (2012), the projects were not paid for from 27B sales taxes.
15) What is the City going to do to support this issue in the media? Getting out the Vote?
Answer: The City will continue to do its best to respond to media inquiries as they are made. The City will have a mailing containing facts about the sales tax but will not advocate for or against the election such as the encouraging residents to “vote no” or “vote yes”.
16) Wanted to know why the Council did not fully or adequately disclose the rearrangement of the funding for leaf pick-up program?
Answer: There was discussion about funding the leaf program as part of the solid waste assessment on the June 3 Committee of the Whole meeting and June 3 Council meeting as well as in the July newsletter.
17) Why isn’t there a dedicated fund for the sales tax money?
Answer: Kansas Statutes only allows up to 1 percent sales tax to be dedicated to a special purposes and up to an additional 2 percent which can be dedicated to general purposes. With the current sales taxes that are in place there is insufficient space under the state imposed cap to have an additional restricted sales tax at the 0.35 percent rate. Therefore this sales tax has to be for general purposes. Because of this, the City Council passed Resolution 630 which outlined intended uses for this fund.
18) Don’t we have a surplus of money in the reserves (General Fund) already?
Answer: It depends on what threshold one would consider enough in order to have a “surplus.” The Government Financial Officers Association (GFOA) recommends a General Fund reserve of at least 16.7 percent of the general fund in normal economic conditions. With the expected loss of Wal-Mart one could make the argument that these are not normal economic conditions and it would be prudent to err on the conservative side. Additionally, many communities in Johnson County far exceed the GFOA recommendation, and in some cases have reserves as high as two or three times this minimum.
19) How much money will this mail ballot election cost?
Answer: Approximately $18,150 paid to the Johnson County Election Commissioner’s Office to conduct the election.
ADDED AFTER 12/5/2013 Town Hall Meeting
20) Walmart lease- going dark clause?
Answer: The City does not currently have a copy of the Walmart lease and therefore is unable to answer this question at this time.
21) How much is the RP Reserve Fund?
- General Fund Reserve Budgeted 2013 to have $1,159,986
- General Fund Reserve Budgeted 2014 to have $1,290,776
22) Are there any prospects for the closing of Walmart?
Answer: The Owners of the Property where Walmart is located have informed us that they have prospects, but have not provided details at this time.
23) Do you think the other small businesses will move out also, next to the closing Walmart?
Answer: We are not able to speculate on this item.
24) How much annual cost is the Leaf program?
Answer: $28.06 per household x 2845 households =$ 79,830.70
25) What % of the 702K is that of the total budget?
Answer: Total budget is $12,300,558, this includes all funds of the city. This equates to 5.7% of the total budget.
26) What services are currently being shared?
Answer: Police resources, such as traffic/accident coverage, Dispatch/911 preformed for all three Cities by the Johnson County Sherriff, Interoperability of radio and communications equipment, ILEADs for sharing criminal record management system, Equipment purchases such as police cars are made through a purchase agreement with MARC or on State contract, Northeast Johnson County Animal Control, Johnson County Crime Lab, Investigation assistance if requested, Training membership – JoCo Community College, Emergency Management – JoCo Emergency Management. Public Works resources, leaf pickup, emergency sweeping needs (ie. if their sweeper is down, for traffic accident cleanup), emergency storm debris aid if needed (ie. emergency removal of large tree across street), general assistance with vehicle/equipment maintenance; Purchases on shared contracts: Trash service, Public Works Trucks, Codes Vehicle, Public Works Reflectometer (federal mandated reflectivity testing equipment for signage), Administration – attorney fees with neighboring cities on mutual contracts, shredding events and fireworks with neighboring cities; Codes – building inspection services when needed.
27) Why does the tax have to start before Walmart leaves?
Answer: The governing body made the decision to put the vote on the sales tax before the voters in order to be proactive to the economic conditions forecasted with the leaving of Walmart.
28) What is tied to the losses referenced in the charts in the power point?
Answer: Reduced money available for Improvements to streets, curbs and sidewalks or for bond payments for the same.
Answer: Reduced money available for Community Center maintenance and operating expenses.
Answer: Reduced money available for infrastructure improvement or for bond payments for the same.
29) In the slides you have projected only 2 years of loss from the departure of Walmart, but the sales tax is for 5 years. Why are you requesting more money than you need?
Answer: The City is unsure how long it will take for the owner to re-tenant the property, therefore we have projected anywhere from 1 – 7 years. The City is asking for this sales tax rate for a period of 5 years, beginning April 1, 2014 and expiring in March 31, 2019. The sales tax can be terminated early by the City Council. To extend this sales tax it would take another vote of the people.
30) What’s the possibility of municipal bonds?
Answer: The City issues municipal bonds for major street/capital projects. When the City has another capital project, it will review the possibility of issuing bonds. The City’s current municipal obligations are represented in the following graph: