County Council to consider initial approval of bill placing sales-tax hike on Feb. 5 ballot

Legislation calling for a Feb. 5 election on a countywide half-cent sales-tax in-crease to expand MetroLink was introduced at last week’s County Council meeting.

Council Chairman Michael O’Mara introduced the measure Oct. 30 to add an additional half-cent sales tax to the quarter-cent sales tax that county residents already pay for Metro operations. The council was scheduled to consider initial approval of the legislation Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

The deadline for the County Council to place the proposal on the Feb. 5 ballot is Nov. 27.

The proposed sales-tax increase would have a 20-year sunset and generate an estimated $75 million to $80 million per year for Metro operations in only the county and not the city of St. Louis. As proposed, half of the proposed sales-tax increase would be used for the expansion of Metro-Link and half would be used to maintain existing public-transit facilities.

County officials have said they are eyeing an expansion of MetroLink to north county or west county.

County Chief Operating Officer Garry Earls has said that despite the fact that south county would see no light-rail expansion from the sales-tax proposal, he believes south county residents still have ample reason to support the measure because of expanded job opportunities in west county and north county.

“You don’t have to have the train come to you,” Earls previously told the Call. “You could go to the train … You have an extension that’s available in Shrewsbury, which people that live in south county … could easily access the end of the train that would ultimately end up at jobs in the Westport area.

“So where we’re proposing to put the train out toward the west is where the greatest concentration of jobs are in St. Louis County. So what we’re trying to make available for those folks in south county is a way to use transit to get to and from their job through the Shrewsbury station that’s already there.”