ROELAND PARK, Kan. - City officials in Roeland Park, Kan., are grappling with how to make up a potential revenue shortfall of roughly $700,000 if a major retailer leaves town as expected sometime next year.
The Walmart at Roe and Sycamore is expected to close sometime in 2014, city officials say, when a new, larger, Walmart opens less than a mile south at the long-dormant Gateway development in Mission.
On Tuesday, this city of just 6,800 people held an innovative town hall to engage residents in how to make up for the projected budget shortfall -- which will likely require painful cuts to services, tax increases, or both.
"We have some big challenges coming up," Mayor Joel Marquardt warned an audience of some 25 residents and all but one member of the city council.
Options for making up the lost revenue include raising property taxes, upping the sales tax (which would require a city-wide vote) and making cuts to services like police or snow cleanup.
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Attendees broke into small groups to discuss what options they preferred, and which they felt would be untenable.
Interviews unveiled opinions that mirrored the national debate over taxes and spending.
"If we have to raise property tax, and they're only talking $90 a year, I haven't got a problem with that," said Kathleen Whitman, a lifelong resident.
"I don't know. I don't know where I would cut to find $100 more," said Chuck Hochstetler, a retiree on a fixed income.
No final decisions were made Tuesday night, and there will be one more town hall to take in ideas on July 9. A final city budget is due in mid-August.
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