Crestwood board won’t oppose sales tax

County sales tax ‘bad deal’ for Crestwood, Miguel says

Jerry Miguel

Jerry Miguel

By Mike Anthony

Crestwood aldermen appear to have no plans to oppose a proposed countywide sales-tax increase for police and public safety that will appear on the April 4 ballot along with the city’s proposed 45-cent tax-rate increase.

Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel contends the proposed countywide sales-tax increase is “a terrible deal for the people of Crestwood” and twice has asked aldermen to adopt a resolution opposing it.

Miguel first raised the issue Dec. 13, but his motion to have City Attorney Lisa Stump draft a resolution opposing the proposed countywide sales tax did not receive a second. Last week, Miguel again called for the Board of Aldermen to adopt a resolution opposing the proposed countywide sales tax.

He also suggested the possibility of aldermen moving the city’s proposed 45-cent tax-rate increase to the August election. Based on the outcome of the countywide sales tax in the April election, aldermen could go with the 45 cents or a lesser amount if voters were to approve the half-cent sales tax.

But other aldermen, including board President Grant Mabie of Ward 3, said they do not see a need to adopt a resolution opposing the county sales-tax proposal.

The board president also said he would be opposed to moving the city’s tax-rate increase proposal to the August ballot.

The countywide sales tax, if approved, 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 $175,000 home, the annual cost of Prop C would be $149.63.

Miguel last week reiterated that he believes the countywide sales-tax proposal to be “a bad deal” for Crestwood citizens, as a family of four would pay an additional $320 annually if it is approved.

“… For every extra sales-tax dollar we pay, we get 62.5 cents in return. So what should we do? After further thought since our December meeting, I’ve narrowed things down to two fairly simple steps. First, as I said in December, I feel this board should pass a resolution against the county’s proposed half-cent sales-tax,” he said. “As elected officials, I feel we should take the lead and voice our objections to, at least what I consider, an unfair tax. I feel each of us owes that to our constituents.

“Second, I think we should wait until August to put our proposed property-tax measure on the ballot. At that time, we can go with the 45-cent rate if the county tax fails or a lesser amount if the county tax passes in April. I feel that that would be the fair way, as well as the right way to move forward.”

Additionally, Miguel said that the combination of the proposed countywide sales tax and the city’s proposed tax-rate increase “is like asking a Crestwood family of four for a $1.25 tax increase.”

Mabie said he has studied the issue since the December meeting, but does not see a need to oppose the countywide sales tax.

“… I don’t think any action is needed with respect to a resolution. I’ve got concerns with the equities of this tax, and I think some of Alderman Miguel’s points on the sales tax are well-taken and I think at this point there would be some unintended consequences there,” he said. “But I think we’ve got enough issues in Crestwood to be working on that I don’t think it’s our place to come out for or against this via resolution. I think it’s something for the voters countywide to make up their minds on.

“With respect to moving our measure until August, I think saying, ‘Well, we need to wait until August and we’ll go with 45 cents if the county measure fails or something less than that if it passes,’ I don’t think that’s appropriate either because the 45 cents I think is eminently justified based on all of our discussions, going back over the last year. And I don’t think were this county tax to pass, the money coming in from it would change our position enough that we would be adjusting our property-tax measure …”

Noting that Prop C revenue would go to the city’s general fund, Mabie said, “Some of the maneuvers we’ve done over the years to reduce the deficit in the general fund have left us with a situation where things that are normally put in a general fund are being paid for out of other funds … One example is quite a few of our parks employees are paid out of our parks and stormwater fund. And the rough numbers from the budget are $654,000 in salary and benefits, which chews up over a third of the fund.

“And this maneuver which was done to reduce the deficit in the general fund, which is where they should be paid out of and what almost every other city pays those salaries out of, is the reason we don’t have money for stormwater projects and can’t fund appropriate park maintenance and capital projects. We have a multi-million-dollar backlog of stormwater projects and having salaries paid out of the parks and stormwater fund is one of the reasons we’re not able to address those …”

Voter approval of Prop C “basically brings us to a slight budget-positive situation rather than a deficit,” Mabie said. “It alone would not allow us to change our current practice of paying the salaries out of the parks and stormwater fund. Were both of these taxes to pass, we could potentially look at doing that …”

Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding asked Miguel how he calculated a Crestwood family of four would pay an additional $320 if the countywide sales tax is approved.

Miguel replied that the proposed sales tax is estimated to generate $80 million, while the county’s population is 1 million.

“That’s $80 per capita. A family of four would be $80 times four. A family of two would be $160,” he added.

Ward 2 Alderman Darryl Wallach later said he was against a resolution opposing the countywide sales tax.

Regarding Miguel’s assertion that residents would pay an additional $320 if the sales tax is approved, he said, “… Alderman Miguel, you’re using figures that are based upon the revenue that St. Louis County receives. However, some of those people that actually contribute to that $80 million are from outside of St. Louis County. So you’re talking not really apples to apples …”