County Council votes to place MetroLink tax on ballot

County voters will be asked this November to approve a half-cent sales-tax increase to be used for MetroLink light-rail expansion and operations.

The County Council voted 4-2 on a party-line vote last week to place Proposition M on the Nov. 4 ballot.

While the council’s four Democrats voted “yes,” 6th District County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, and 7th District County Councilman Greg Quinn, R-Ball-win, voted “no.”

Third District County Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger, R-Town and Country, was absent Aug. 7.

The council in July also allocated $39.5 million to Metro from a separate half-cent transportation sales tax. The allocation is $10 million less than Metro got from that fund last year, and more money is proposed for improvement of arterial roads.

Prop M would raise an estimated $80 million a year for operation of Metro’s bus system and MetroLink and also expansion of the light-rail line to Westport and Florissant.

Metro Interim Chief Bob Baer has said that the transit agency has corrected many of its past mistakes that led to the County Council ultimately taking Prop M off the February ballot due to a rash of negative publicity, including the ouster of former Metro CEO Larry Salci.

Metro was faced with the request of $27 million in legal fees from attorneys representing the four firms Metro had sued.

The transit agency had sought more than $80 million from the Cross County Collaborative — Parsons Brinckerhoff, Jacobs Civil Inc., STV Inc. and Kwame Building Group — alleging they were responsible for delays and cost overruns on the Cross County MetroLink project.

That lawsuit ultimately proved to be unsuccessful, and Baer has said Metro has refocused its energies on fiscal responsibility and performance.

But while Metro officials have emphasized newfound fiscal responsibility and strong performance, Campisi said he cannot support Prop M because residents in his south county district will not benefit from it.

As proposed, MetroLink light-rail would be expanded to Westport and Florissant, but south county will remain off the rail’s path.

“We’re not getting the service,” Campisi said. “We’ve had service taken away from us. Nothing’s been done … And now we’ve got them asking for more tax money from the voters. And I just can’t approve anything that’s asking for more taxes from my constituents and my area because we’re taxed to death now as it is.

“And truthfully, they (Metro) ought to be getting more grants from the federal government and the state. This shouldn’t have to be coming from local government here … I really, truthfully don’t think that people are in the position to pay more taxes for something that they’re not going to be using at this time.”