County voters to weigh five ballot measures, including three tax-rate hikes

County residents will be asked to decide five ballot measures, including three tax-rate increases and one bond issue, in the Nov. 4 election.

Proposition C asks residents if they want to establish a charter commission to revise and amend the County Charter. The charter requires county residents to decide every 10 years whether to form a charter commission.

In November 1998, voters agreed to form a charter commission. In April 2000, voters then rejected that commission’s proposed amendments, which would have raised the salaries of the county executive, county prosecuting attorney and County Council members.

The County Council later agreed to raise those salaries anyway, with the last such raise for those positions approved in November 2005.

Additionally, residents will consider Proposition I, which would authorize the county to issue up to $120 million in general-obligation bonds “for the purposes of constructing various capital improvements to county buildings and facilities and making improvements to county safety/security and communication facilities.”

The proposal was unanimously placed on the Nov. 4 ballot by the County Council.

Proposition I originally was recommended last summer by the St. Louis County Blue Ribbon Commission, a collection of regional business, political and civic leaders appointed this year by County Executive Charlie Dooley.

Capital projects to be funded by the bond issue 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 extend the time that residents pay property tax to retire that debt’s interest and principal for those capital projects.

Proposition H asks voters to consider a countywide 1.85-percent use tax on all out-of-state purchases of more than $2,000.

The use tax would be used for “county and municipal public safety, parks and job creation and enhancing local government services,” according to the measure’s ballot language. Half of the revenue would go toward improving county services and half would go to municipal services.

While the Blue Ribbon Commission recommended waiting until April to ask voters to consider the use tax, Dooley persuaded the County Council to approve its placement on the Nov. 4 ballot. The County Council voted 4-3 in September on a party-line vote to place Prop H on the Nov. 4 ballot with the council’s four Democrats in favor and three Republicans voting “no.”

Because the certification deadline for the Nov. 4 ballot was Aug. 26, county officials had to obtain a court order to place the proposed use tax on that ballot.

In an Aug. 15 letter sent to Dooley, the president of the St. Louis County Municipal League — University City Mayor Joseph L. Adams — urged the County Council to place the use tax on the November ballot to address various issues of public safety, particularly an integrated communications system.

County voters also will consider to approve Proposition 1, which would levy a quarter-cent sales tax “for the purpose of establishing a community children’s services fund for the purpose of providing services to protect the well-being and safety of children and youth 19 years of age or less and to strengthen families.”

The fifth proposal county voters will consider is Proposition M, a proposed 20-year, half-cent sales tax that would generate an estimated $80 million per year to be evenly split between MetroLink light-rail expansion to Florissant and Westport and Metro operations.

The County Council voted 4-2 on a party-line vote in August to place Prop M on the ballot. The measure was opposed by 6th District Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, and 7th District Councilman Greg Quinn, R-Ballwin, while 3rd District 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 as more money is proposed for improvement of arterial roads.

Metro officials have said without additional funding from Prop M, the transit agency would be forced to reduce its service for both MetroLink and MetroBus.

The MetroLink light-rail line would see a 42-percent overall service reduction, trains would run every 15 minutes rather than every 10 minutes during peak hours, service would stop after 8 p.m., service in non-rush hours would operate every 20 minutes instead of every 15 minutes and service would run only between Shrewsbury and Forest Park in non-rush hours.

MetroBus would see a 57-percent overall reduction, up to 28 of the 60 existing MetroBus routes would be eliminated, routes outside of Interstate 270 and all-night service would be eliminated and many remaining MetroBus routes would be consolidated.