Campisi supports placing bond issue before county voters Nov. 4

Commission proposes two ballot measures for November, two more for next April

By BURKE WASSON

Sixth District County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, will support asking voters to approve a $120 million general-obligation bond issue in November.

The bond issue would fund a list of capital projects that have been recommended by the county’s Blue Ribbon Commission, a group of county officials and leaders.

Those capital projects include a new family courts building, renovations to the county’s court building, construction of a new animal shelter and expansion of the county’s crime and health labs.

The bond issue would not increase the county’s tax rate, but would lengthen the time that county residents pay property tax to retire that debt’s interest and principal for those capital projects.

Because of the need for improvements to courts buildings and an expansion of the County Police Department’s crime lab as well as the fact that the bond issue would not raise residents’ tax rate, Campisi supports asking voters to approve it.

“Number one, it’s going to take care of all of our courts buildings,” Campisi said. “The court building is really in need of repair. Number two, it’s not going to raise any taxes. It has nothing to do with taxes at all. So I am going to go forward with it. I want to be able to make sure that our courts are safe and the police officers are safe. I am going to go forward with that to put it on the ballot for people to vote on.”

County officials plan to ask residents to support two ballot issues in the Nov. 4 election and also plan to seek another tax-rate increase as well as a new tax next April. All four issues were recommended by the Blue Ribbon Commission.

County residents will vote Nov. 4 on Proposition M — a half-cent sales-tax increase that will be used to fund MetroLink operations and rail expansion to Westport and Florissant. The measure also would go toward arterial road improvements throughout the county.

The commission also has recommended that voters be asked in April to approve a sales-and-use tax as well as a sales-tax increase to fund parks improvements.

The increase in the sales tax for parks would use $7 million of revenue to issue $70 million in certificates of participation, or COPs, for parks projects. Voters in April 2004 narrowly rejected a parks sales-tax increase of one-eighth of a cent.

Approval of Proposition P just slipped out of the county’s reach in April 2004 with 49.71 percent of voters supporting the tax — 59,877 votes. A difference of 687 ballots, however, revealed that more than half of voters op-posed the tax with 60,564 total votes saying “no” to the parks tax — 50.29 percent.

The county’s other tax proposed for April — the new sales-and-use tax — would tax out-of-state purchases of more than $2,000. The county would use $15 million of that revenue to support $150 million in COPs for public safety and job creation.

The sales-and-use tax would go toward funding a new county police communications system that will increase interoperability with other police departments.

Blue Ribbon Commission Chairman and former County Councilman Skip Mange said the commission struggled with waiting until April to recommend that voters decide the sales-and-use tax, but realized that three ballot issues in November would likely be too overwhelming for voters.

“We had three members of our commission who voted in opposition to our final recommendations, primarily on the basis that the emergency communications interoperability should be addressed in November of this year and not in April of next year,” he said. “… In the end, the commission’s recommendation was to wait until next year to do that.”

In total, county officials proposed to the Blue Ribbon Commission that $528.7 million be spent over the next five to seven years on an expansive capital-investment program. The projects would be funded through a combination of existing funding as well as general-obligation bonds and certificates of participation, some of which would require voter approval.

The county’s proposed $528.7 million capital-investment initiative is broken down into five sections — buildings, transportation, parks, economic development and “safety/security and communication.”

The county’s $528.7 million proposal over the next five to seven years includes $213.4 million for transportation facilities as well as roadways, bridges, sidewalks and intersections; $117.1 million for safety/security and communication; $112.8 million for buildings; $43.9 million for parks improvements and $41.5 million for economic development.

The five-to-seven-year $528.7 million proposal initially was estimated to be a proposal of $430 million to $530 million that would be needed in the next 10 to 20 years.

Financing options for these would be obtained through existing funding, general-obligation bonds and COPs.

Besides issuing its recommendations for two ballot issues in November and two more next April, the commission also made several other recommendations to the council.

“All new buildings that are designed and built should be green,” Mange said. “And the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards should be followed to the highest level economically feasible. And that’s an important word — economically feasible. You can build some expensive dream buildings or you can build some buildings that you can afford to build. We’re saying be green, but do it in an economically feasible manner for the county buildings.”