County voters should reject sales-tax increase proposal

County voters should reject sales-tax increase proposal

When St. Louis County voters go to the polls in November, they’ll consider whether to approve a 0.1-percent sales tax to fund a new countywide emergency communications system.

We urge county residents to vote “no” on this measure and applaud 6th District Councilman Steve Stenger, D-south county, and 7th District Councilman Greg Quinn, R-Ballwin, for voting against placing the sales-tax increase on the ballot.

As proposed, the sales tax would fund an $80 million countywide emergency communications system.

The interoperable system would allow all police, firefighters, ambulance, public works personnel and other emergency service workers to communicate with each other at a disaster scene. In addition, the new countywide communications system would allow emergency responders to meet a Federal Communications Commission requirement to narrow their frequencies by the end of 2012.

Councilman Stenger and Councilman Quinn both agree that the communications system is necessary, but believe other funding options should be pursued before asking already-overburdened county taxpayers to pick up another tab in today’s dire economic climate.

If anything, the majority of the County Council should have been able to take a hint given voters’ rejection of Proposition H last November.

More than 55 percent of county voters rejected Proposition H, a countywide 1.85-percent use tax on all out-of-state purchases of more than $2,000 for the purposes of “enhancing county and municipal public safety, parks and job creation and enhancing local government services,” including a countywide emergency communications system.

Certainly, it’s a reasonable assumption that our esteemed County Executive Charlie Dooley would have a clue.

After all, didn’t he call for reducing the county’s tax rate and ask local taxing jurisdictions in the county to reduce their tax rates as well? But he didn’t waste any time in signing the legislation to place the 0.1-percent sales tax on the November ballot. In fact, he signed it May 13 — the day after it was approved.

We certainly support the need for a countywide emergency communications system, but we agree with Councilman Stenger and Councilman Quinn that other funding options should be pursued. Until then, we urge county voters to reject another attempt by county officials to separate them from their hard-earned cash.