A proposed countywide sales-tax increase for police and public safety is “a terrible deal for the people of Crestwood,” according to Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel.
County voters will consider the half-cent sales-tax increase proposed by County Executive Steve Stenger on Tuesday, April 4 — the same day Crestwood voters will consider a 45-cent tax-rate increase placed on the ballot by the Board of Aldermen.
A motion by Miguel to have City Attorney Lisa Stump draft a resolution opposing the countywide sales tax did not receive a second at the Dec. 13 Board of Aldermen meeting.
Board of Aldermen President Grant Mabie of Ward 3, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Mayor Gregg Roby, noted that Miguel could draft his own resolution for the board to consider.
The County Council voted unanimously Nov. 29 to place the sales-tax increase before voters. If approved, the measure would generate an estimated $80 million annually, with the county receiving roughly $30 million — three-eighths — of the revenue. The remaining $50 million — five-eighths — would go to municipalities and the county on a per-capita basis.
The county would receive an estimated $46 million, while municipalities would split the remaining $34 million.
Aldermen voted Nov. 22 to place the city’s 45-cent tax-rate increase on the ballot. If approved, the increase would generate roughly $1.13 million annually.
That revenue would be used for “general municipal purposes, including paying the increased costs associated with operating a local Police Department, operating a local Fire Department, building and facility maintenance, and other city operational needs,” according to the ballot language.
The city’s 2016 tax rates are 27.8 cents per $100 of assessed value for personal property, 24.8 cents per $100 for residential property and 41.4 cents per $100 for commercial property.
If the tax-rate increase, called Proposition C, is approved, those rates would increase to 72.8 cents for personal property, 69.8 cents for residential property and 86.4 cents for commercial property.
For the owner of a $200,000 home, the cost of Prop C would be less than $15 per month.
Miguel said he has a number of concerns about the county’s proposed sales-tax increase that would generate revenue for police and public safety.
“On the surface, that sounds great. Who’s against public safety? Obviously, no one. To me, this is a big money grab by the county and there’s another one in the making …,” he said, citing St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay’s push to place a sales-tax increase on the April ballot to fund the expansion of MetroLink and a potential future county sales-tax hike for the same purpose.
“So let’s take a closer look at the numbers. An estimated $80 million — county takes three-eighths or $30 million right off the top. That leaves $50 million — $50 million distributed countywide on a per-capita basis, OK? Crestwood has 12,000 residents or 1.2 percent of the county’s 1 million population,” he said.
As a result, Crestwood would receive roughly $600,000 annually from the sales tax. But Miguel noted that 1.2 percent of $80 million equals $960,000.
“So Crestwood winds up contributing another $360,000 to the county, and that’s in addition to the roughly $400,000 that we already give the county. So we give $960,000. We get $600,000 in return,” he said. “In other words, we’re getting 62.5 cents on the dollar.
“Look at the numbers another way — $80 million over a population of 1 million people is $80 per person. A Crestwood family of two would pay $160 per year in additional sales tax. A Crestwood family of four would pay an additional $320 per year in sales tax. Add that $320 to the roughly $180 that we are proposing via a property-tax (increase), and now we’re looking at a family of four with an additional tax increase of $500 per year. Husband and wife, the increase would only be $340.”
Noting that “I’m not the only one that has figured this out,” Miguel said he has spoken to other residents about the impact the proposed county sales-tax increase would have on them.
“… In my view, the county’s sales-tax proposal really puts a damper on what we are trying to do, which is asking residents for a 45-cent property tax. So there’s two major issues here, which I would like for the board to consider. What position do we take on the county’s sales-tax proposal, and what do we do, if anything, regarding the property tax, which we have proposed?” he asked.
The Ward 3 alderman suggested the possibility of the board adopting a resolution opposing the county’s sales-tax hike. As for the city’s proposed tax-rate increase, Miguel cited four possible options.
“We can do nothing. We can reduce the amount we’re asking for. We could possibly do a contingency reduction, based on what happens with the countywide sales tax, or we could delay our tax proposal until August,” he said.
Noting that Roby has voiced his support for the countywide sales tax, Miguel said, “I would hope that he will reconsider when he sees the financial details. To recap — on the surface, it sounds like a great deal. It is a great deal for the county, but in my opinion, it’s a terrible deal for the people of Crestwood …”
Ward 2 Alderman Justin Charboneau said, “The only thing that I’ll add to this would be the simple fact that I would like to see some more clarity from the county on this, just because they’ve tried to pass other measures under public safety. That’s my biggest concern. I think this is kind of being pushed as long as this is for the police officers.
“However, I think that they’ve had a few measures in the last two years where they’ve said, ‘Well, this is a public-safety issue.’ Therefore, the county can deal with it because it’s public health. So I just wanted to point that out …”
Miguel later said, “… I’d like to make a motion then that the (board) ask the city attorney to develop a resolution that Crestwood is in opposition to the county sales tax.”
He added that he wanted the board to consider the resolution at its Jan. 10 meeting, but the motion did not receive a second.
“Is there a second?” Mabie asked. “Seeing none, that motion will die for want of a second.”
Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding asked if the issue could be brought up at a future meeting.
“… That was just a discussion point. It was added to the agenda. It wasn’t an action item,” Mabie said. “It can certainly be brought up if facts, circumstances change, if more details become available one way or another …”